“If you’re rested and relaxed, all living beings will profit from your relaxation and energy. This is the most basic kind of peace work.” —Thich Nhat Hanh, How to Relax
Over the weekend, we celebrated a tremendous growth step in our household: Little One slept through the entire night TWO nights in a row and even waited for me to wake up, simply resting in her bed, eyes open, but not a peep, which sits along the side of my bed. The entire night, clean crate, snug as a bug in a rug. Growth! And deep sleep for all ?.
I share this because while I slept deeply and well this weekend, I didn’t realize how much more rest I needed after two weeks of interrupted sleep, so after we pottered about in the shade garden yesterday, the pups supervising as they napped and played, played and napped under the pine tree and forsythia bushes, upon heading inside with Little One in my arms and Norman walking alongside up to the front porch, the porch swing beckoned, and I plopped down, putting my feet up and closing my eyes without a second thought. Placing Little One on my lap, Norman laying on the rug just below, near enough I could rest my hand on his back, and we all napped for a good hour as the birds chatted away at the bird cafes, on what was a gentle autumn day in a quiet neighborhood.
Relaxing commenced, and I let the present moment guide me to what I needed, and we all appreciated.
This may seem a too simple example of what relaxing can look like, and you may ask how could such relaxing contribute to what Zen and mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh writes about above? But the truth is, relaxing need not be anything contrived or fancied or cost a penny, but it does need to happen in our lives regularly not only for the benefit to be experienced in our lives, but for the world to breathe more deeply and compassionately as well.
At the start of this year, I wrote about Thich Nhat Hanh’s book How to Love, and recommended it with high praise, and just recently picked up another book he wrote, How to Relax which as I was reading each entry, I was reminded how simple, and also how necessary prioritizing relaxing into our lives is if we are to live a life of true contentment.
As we begin a new week, a short list of inspiration to nudge you into incorporating more regular moments of relaxation into your everyday life, what relaxing can look like and how to feel truly relaxed and thus rejuvenated.
Simply stop. Just stop.
“If we can’t rest, it’s because we haven’ stopped running.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
Hanh’s directive encompasses the idea that we errantly, yet all too often, live in the future rather than the present. We are frequently conditioned to be in pursuit rather than savoring and appreciating all that is going well, that is full of love, that is working, etc., etc. Even if something in your life is not going as you might hope, if you stop, you will be able to find and see and appreciate what is going well, and often there is faaaaaaar more than you realized or acknowledged because you were giving all of your energy and focus to something down the road, to fix something that wasn’t as you wish it would be, but in so doing you toss away the now that needs your full attention for tomorrow to be an awesome new day.
Take care of the present moment
In other words, step out of the past, and pull away from the future. Hold your thoughts, your attention in the now, and you are already a step closer to deep relaxation.
Trust yourself, settle into contentment
“As you learn how to be in the present moment, you’ll gain faith and trust in your ability to handle [any situation]. You learn how to take care of your feelings and what’s happening around you. That makes you confident; and as your confidence grows, you’re no longer the victim of your worries [which reflected you were living in the future or dwelling in the past].” —Thich Nhat Hanh
Take a nap on the porch swing or hammock
A puppy on your lap never fails to hold you in this resting space a wee bit longer than you might naturally, but you are doing yourself a favor. Permit yourself to relax.
Hanh reminds us that animals have a wisdom we humans seem to have forgotten – resting to heal ourselves. “The wisdom of stopping and healing is still alive in animals, but we human beings have lost the capacity to rest.” Become a human being who regains this lost wisdom and find a “very quiet place and just stay there without moving for many days [if necessary].” Let yourself heal. Let yourself rest. Rediscover the power of regular relaxation so you no longer need to heal from deep pain and injury and make more sound decisions moving forward.
Be Peace, Sit There and Exemplify Peace
In a recent A Cuppa Moments chat, a reader shared this wise quote to ponder, “Don’t just do something, sit there”, which plays on the more oft and commonly heard saying encouraging us to do something as if to imply by simply being, we are wasting our life. No, we are not wasting our life by just ‘being’; rather we are sharing and demonstrating how to rest peacefully with our own company and this brings calm to others. Hanh referenced the former quote to remind, “The world needs joyous and loving people who are capable of just being.”
Plan a ‘lazy day’ without any scheduled activities
Hanh advises to permit ourselves to enjoy such a day and most importantly, to “let the day unfold naturally”. Let your body and mind wander and follow where they need and want. Such a day, when welcomed into your life regularly, trains you to become more comfortable with doing nothing, and to just be.
Create a relaxing space in your sanctuary
This is all the more important if you share your home with others, but even if you, like me, live alone, having designated spaces where you just relax – no work, no eating, no technology, just deep breaths, resting the mind and unwinding. “We need a small space where we can take care of our nervous system and restore our tranquility and peace.” If you are unable at this point in your life to find a relaxing space in your home, maybe instead your relaxing space is your favorite spot in the local library, or a quiet corner in a café where you sit and watch the view that brings you calm – rainy day beauty, trees changing color, a lively pedestrian corner with no shortage of sartorial inspiration, you get the idea. Find and designate a space that is your ‘relaxing space’, and honor your time to do only what helps you to relax when you step into this space.
Mindfulness breathing – deep, thoughtful breaths
“We human beings have lost confidence in the body just knowing what to do. If we have time alone with ourselves, we panic and try to do many different things. Mindful breathing helps us to relearn the art of resting.”
In episode #336 of the podcast, it was shared that deep breathing actually calms the Vagus nerve, a nerve that runs throughout the entirety of our body and consequently, has the physical power to calm you. Simply by deeply and intentionally breathing, the nervous system begins to relax.
Meditate to create healing energy for both you and the world
“Even if nobody else knows you are meditating, the energy you produce is very beneficial for you and for the world.”
Let go of what decreases your calm
“We’re not happy and joyful, because we haven’t been able to let go.”
Even if you let go temporarily, such as walking away from the office on Friday and refraining from looking at your email until Monday, let go and make this choice to enable yourself to relax. Another temporary letting go might be putting your phone out of sight for the entire day or weekend or week! Yes, and letting go, so you can ground yourself, think clearly and return to using your phone with a clear mind, and a rested being.
More permanent letting go (something we have talked about often on the blog), may be letting go of another person’s life problem or dilemma (a friend, family member or colleague), and carrying it as our own. No. Let go. Don’t carry someone else’s burden when it isn’t yours to carry. Another example is to let go of unkind internal chatter, whether about yourself or others, because whether you never say it outloud, negative and judgmental internal chatter is destructive to your energy, your focus and the quality of your life as what you focus on grows. Grow what you wish to see and experience, and that begins with your thoughts.
Relaxing can often be presented as a luxury, but au contraire, it is a necessity. Regular, intentional relaxing, and the components are simple, and the effects on our lives and those around us and the world, profoundly constructive. Wishing you a relaxing moment of deep restoration that surpasses your expectations both while you are relaxing and how you are able to engage with others whether in your personal life or work following your period of deep rest and relaxation.
A petite but powerful book, How to Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh
Wishing you a wonderful start to the new week. Bonne journée.
EXPLORE MORE MONDAY MOTIVATIONAL POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES
36 thoughts on “Let’s Relax, A Simple 10-Step How-To Guide”
Thank you for this Shannon, it’s exactly what I needed to hear today. Wishing you a wonderful Monday and week ahead.
Thank you Victoria and you are most welcome. Thank you for stopping by ?
Thank you for stopping by Victoria and happy to share a post that spoke to you. Wishing you a wonderful week and may today be a great day. 🙂
Once again your post resonates with me. It is so easy for me to fall back into the trap of busyness. I have taken to keeping track of my downtime each day, and it is harder than I anticipated. When I am in my place of sanctuary in my home, my mind will race with things that need to be done or memories of things I should have done differently. It is a learning process to release that mindset and not let it creep back into my life. When I start feeling like I messed up again I have started talking to myself as if I were talking to my dear friend. Encouraging, calm words to myself make a tremendous difference and I throughly recommend trying it if you struggle like I do.
I love the new addition to your family and I know you will all fall into the rhythm of life with each other and life will be sweeter than anything imaginable. Also, sitting still a little longer when a sweet pup is on your lap is pure bliss! Now that my dogs are in the autumn of their lives I find myself not wanting to move them when they are on my lap. It has taught me another way to savor the moment when I realize my time like this is limited.
You share a powerful truth that busyness awaits for our return should we live unconsciously, but it is not a helpful place to reside, and when the healthy habit of regular relaxing becomes part of our routine, the benefits are so powerfully positive, we can resist the cultures pull to be busy constantly. As you have shared, it is a learning process to release the conditioned mindset. Your awareness is keen and I appreciate you sharing all that you have as you no doubt validated how so many others feel and demonstrate it is possible to ebb and flow in between these states that is okay to as the learning process takes time.
Wishing you much time with your pups to savor the companionship and love. What a special time and grateful you have them and they you. 🙂
Thank you for stopping by today. 🙂
Little One is so adorable! And Norman is as handsome as ever of course.
Thank you for this timely reminder to pause and relax Shannon. I hope you are able to get some more restful evenings in the near future. When I had my first baby, our 10 year old dog would stay alongside the baby and myself in the middle of the night for feeds, but after two weeks he would leave the room and find a couch out of earshot of the baby crying so he could get some well deserved shut-eye! I think my husband even followed him out there once too! 🙂 Enjoy every minute of your Little One’s puppy days.
Thank you for sharing Sarah. 🙂 Norman is my dapper gent. So grateful for him. He is training her as much as I am even though it is not expected, but truly she follows his lead and model of behavior already in so many ways which is why I want to make sure he has his time with me one-on-one as a way to say thank you. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your journey with your first child and your sweet pup. 🙂
Very nice! I am happy to learn of their progress and mutual understanding. I am sure Norman is a great role model to have around. 🙂
This post was so needed. I just had a baby, and during his naps I’m always so tempted to “get things done,” but lately I’ve been trying to just sit still or lie down because I need the mental and physical rest. The ideas here reenforce that approach, so I am going to favorite this and return to it when I find myself straying. Thanks Shannon!
First, let me say congratulations on your new baby and family member. What a joyous new chapter and so happy to hear you and your little one are healthy. ? And happy to hear this post spoke to you so you can care well for yourself. Indeed, your mental and physical well-being are a priority, yes, for those you love, but just as importantly, for yourself so you can enjoy your time when you are moving through your days. Thank you for your comment. Have a wonderful start to the week. ?
A new baby, how wonderful, congratulations. Yes, do take some time to rest when you are able. A rested Mum is the best Mum. I always found it interesting to see how our pups always bonded with the babies. The bond was one of guardian and friend. Best wishes.
Thanks Lucy! I definitely feel that I am giving my better self to the baby when I am well rested. And while we don’t have any four legged friends at the moment, I am hoping to add one to the mix in a few years. Dogs are the best – for all of us!
Many congratulations Laurie. A new baby . How lovely. Yes the temptation is there to get stuff done but your rest in the early days is vital. There’s lots of time to get things done. They don’t stay babies for long so you both deserve to take as much rest together. Best wishes . Kameela ?
Thanks Kameela! ☺️
It’s been 31 years since my son was born and I remember well that drive to “get things accomplished.” Everyone says, “When the baby rests you must rest,” which is all well and good except it’s easier said than done! You could make it a goal to have the tallest pile of laundry your house has ever seen and work toward it diligently and with determination? Consider this silly encouragement to get the mental and physical rest you need, because a not-totally-exhausted and healing mama is what your baby needs too.
What an excellent idea, the tallest pile of laundry! 😉
I had a good laugh – thanks, Deborah!
I should go now and check my own pile… – I might have been working hard towards it lately… hmm… 🙂
It’s important to set goals. ????????
Ha – I concur with Weisserose. Great idea – and I look forward to working on it 😉
Many congratulations! 🙂
Nah, don’t fall for the lure of “get things done” – the only thing that really needs to be done, here and now, is for you to get as much rest/ relaxation as necessary for your mental and physical well-being. For sure, there will be in the future other times, other seasons of life, when you will have the opportunity to get plenty of things done. Today, just be – and enjoy your baby! 🙂
Thanks for the advice to “just be,” Weisserose! I have been letting myself enjoy walks in the park and time in the play gym with my baby, and I am thoroughly loving soaking up the moments where he observes and learns. It feels good to give myself permission to just be – and I intend to continue! Cheers.
Great post, relaxing is truly something we all need to be a part of our lives. I grew up with my parents and extended family members, a daily changing cast, coming together for afternoon coffee. It’s a tradition my husband and I do daily. I also enjoy seeing my grown children doing the same in their homes .
Wanda, What a lovely and restful ritual. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. 🙂
Shannon you made me smile. I tried to imagine you “plopping'” down on the swing.I remembered so well the broken mights when we had our puppy many years ago. The little one seems to be finding her routine. Great reminder of what we should do to take time out for ourselves. Having animals around does help to take a few minutes out in the day to spend time with them. For me its the smaller animals in the household. Our cat and chickens. Would you believe our chickens like to be stroked ?. Of course lots of cuddles with our cat. I rarely miss my daily teatime break.
Relaxation and rest is vital to our well being ,yet not many of us carve out time for this. In our busy lives. Many see this as time wasted. But it’s not. Time taken to smell the roses is time well spent. Love that set of four little books of Thich Nhat Hanh
Have a wonderful week. Kameela xx?
I loved reading that your chickens as well as your cats enjoy their snuggle and petting time. Such a wonderful reminder and they can teach us so much. Thank you for your comment today and wishing you a lovely week. 🙂
Dear Kameela, another vision to lighten my spirit today. I just finished reading an article about raising chickens and this particular lady keeps 12 to 15 for eggs. She names them all and some of them come upon call. How entertaining that must be. Even when I am overwhelmed in my studio, I stop for tea in the afternoon most days. It is a break for me, a time to just “be.” Most times I go outside when the weather permits or when it doesn’t you will find me surrounded by fabric, sketches, machines, and tea selection just because. I have never stroked a chicken; I will add that to my to-do list.
Lucy. We had chickens when I was little but never stroked them they were just yard chickens.
We only started 4 years ago when we moved permanently to France. They are very entertaining. They all have names and what’s more they recognise their names when.you call them. They are very curious and like to listen to my chat. Of course I only get click.cluck.back. They follow us everywhere and they are very curious about painted toe nails. They will peck and scrutinise my toes??. Maybe they would like a pedicure Sewing is a lovely skill to.have as It’s very relaxing. I wish I could sew better. I only do basic sewing but I love darning I find that relaxing. I wasn’t allowed to do sewing at school as I was concentrating on my academic subjects to work towards the national scholarship. Guess we can’t be good at everything. A Tea break is very restorative I cannot live without my tea break. I can get quite grumpy if I miss it?. Enjoy the rest of the week Lucy. Kameela xx?
What a great reminder to stop. Several years ago when I was up at the cottage in Nova Scotia, a friend called in the afternoon to see what I was up to. I said, “I’ve done nothing but stare off into space all morning. Totally unproductive.” Her answer was, “You know, some people call that vacation!”
I’ve never forgotten it. We are really fighting the culture and (for so many of us) our upbringing to do what you’ve reminded us is so vital.
Always grateful for your words,
Oh Deborah, a little vacation for the mind, in the mind. You are correct, we are always resisting our natural life rhythms for the pressing sense that our culture gives us if we have the audacity to stop. I smile a lot at social gatherings when others discuss this project, that deadline, or irritating co-workers. I smile because I have left that conversation and am lying on a beach in St. John.
Oh Shannon, your darling Little One and Norman have provided a reason and a situation for you to rest, to relax, and to find a great story to share with us. I vividly remember the day, the afternoon, and the circumstance when I actually relaxed as an adult. It may sound silly, but the effect was so profound, that it changed my life. I often recall or try to recall the feelings invoked that day. We have so many opportunities to rest like this if only we take the time to see them.
Lovely post, great topic and great reminder! Puppy or cat on the lap, is the best nap-inducing recipe I know of. From practical experience, of course… 😉
At this point in my life, I am really diligent on keeping my relaxing times during the day and week: middle of the morning tea break – this is what I am doing now, with cat napping in her basket -, afternoon tea break, meditation twice daily, sometimes a “lazy day”, etc. Mind you, it wasn’t always like this, not at all – me, being from the “multitasking efficient persuasion” (!!!!) -, so the point that I am trying to emphasize here is that this is a process which will not happen naturally, as ours are the times of “do something” culture. So, it will take a while to remove all the conditioning and it will take some willpower to keep the relaxing moments, shorter or longer that they might be, happening, as they are the first thing to go as life gets hectic.Totally worth and necessary they are, though, and I am very “ferocious” about defending my relaxing moments. 🙂
“The world needs joyous and loving people who are capable of just being.” This is a beautiful call and I hope I am one of these people, as I work daily in life to be so. 🙂
How I needed this today. I am recovering from surgery and a two-week stay in the hospital and instead of taking this time to heal, I have been thinking all morning about the things I should be doing. Not that there is anything that really needs to be done, but the thought of just resting seems like a guilty pleasure instead of a necessity. So, I shall sit here in my snug, with my pup and maybe catch up on TSLL Kitchen.
Thanks for the much-needed wisdom.
Good Day Michelle. Sorry to hear of your prolonged recovery. Yes, do take the time you need to heal. You cannot skip that step. Sunggle up with your pup and use this time to relax and rest.
I really enjoyed this post Shannon. Much needed to hear as well as I have been unwell (full of a head cold) this weekend and needed to step back from usual weekend business. But then of course the guilt sets in.. reading this reminded me it’s ok to step back and heal for a day or two or even more!
Wishing you well and bravo for taking the needed time to rest and relax. 🙂