Deep rest creates deep renewal ( + meet our new feline friend!)

When I was in college, I worked at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago for a while, in a gift shop that was then known as the Koala Shop. The koalas lived there, in circular habitat at the center of the shop. Sometimes, when the shop was slow, I’d go up near the glass and just watch the koalas. They were almost always sleeping. Sometimes zoo patrons asked us if they were alive.

At the time, I pushed myself hard, always. I was anxious, and I didn’t believe it was okay to slow down, ever. (I didn’t yet realize that my inability to allow myself to slow down contributed to my anxiety, not the other way around — though it had become a vicious cycle.)

I found that I looked forward to being around the koala energy, though. When I stood at the register ringing up small plastic animals for a long line of shrill-voiced school kids, I liked to glance over at the furry gray bodies wedged in a thatch of eucalyptus, eyes slit. They reminded me to breathe.

***

As I write this, my cat has been sleeping for four hours under the dresser in the bedroom. When she wants to go into deep sleep, she retreats to one of several lairs around our home, and gives herself full-on permission to full-out sleep. (Actually, she doesn’t “give herself permission.” She doesn’t need it. She’s a cat, and she’s doing what a cat does. It’s we humans who need to give ourselves permission to rest deeply.)

I’ve been busy lately — overscheduled, actually — and I could tell I was reaching my threshold for busy-ness yesterday evening when my partner pointed out that he sensed I was going into “mini meltdown” territory (as opposed to what he calls a “category 5” meltdown, when I have pushed and overwhelmed myself to such an extent that I shut down after a lot of yelling and tears.)

“Mini meltdowns” are, for me, an indicator that it is time to allow myself to access a little bit of koala energy, a little bit (or maybe a lot) of that sumptuous rest my cat dives into each and every day. The sooner I recognize this, the less likely I am to reach category 5 territory.

So I gave myself the gift of deep rest today.

***

I remember a friend of mine from years ago who couldn’t stand waiting around for anyone. Whenever we waited, anywhere, for anyone, she crossed her arms and started tapping her foot. “I can’t be waiting around like this!” she’d snap. “I need to make use of my time!

I thought of her today because, during my intentional period of channeling koala and cat energy, I kept noticing how spacious the day felt — but my mind kept jumping in with “But you should be making use of this time!” (Minds will do this.)

What if we could allow time to support us, rather than believing we must “make use of it,” always? What if we could experience the sumptuous, luxurious hours my cat does when she retreats to her lair for deep, deep sleep? What if we could make deep rest not just an option, but a necessity?

The koalas in that gift shop, I see now, served as guides placed on my path. They possessed the precise energy and orientation to life that I needed to inform me at that time. (Look back over your life, and I guarantee you’ll spot several of these types of “messengers” on your own path.)

We humans are not cats or koalas, obviously — we have a different set of mental, psychological, and biological needs than they do. But they can remind us of our fundamental need for deep rest during some days, some weeks, and, sometimes, longer periods of our lives.

Rest is how we renew ourselves; it supports us in moving from one phase of life to the next, whether that’s into a new day, a new relationship, better health, or a new expression of our creativity.

Because I’d gotten caught up in the cycle of overscheduling, I hadn’t allowed myself this renewal until today. And here I am writing a blog post — not because it’s a “have to” on my list, but because it suddenly felt delicious to do so, in the spaciousness of this day.

***

And by the way, meet Genevieve! We welcomed her into our home quite a while ago now (huge thanks to The Animal Care League!), but I haven’t officially introduced her here.

While my dearly beloved Sullivan, who left us last year, was my CEO of Curiosity and Relaxation, Genevieve brings quite a different energy. We call her the Queen of Mayhem!

But she’s still a cat, a creature who transforms rest into high art. We love her more every day, and it’s fun to see her expanding her territory to the living room windows this spring (where she recently spotted a hawk on the neighbor’s fence!).

How do you allow deep rest into your life when you need it — whether it’s for a few hours, a day, or more? If you need deep rest right now, how can you find ways to give it to yourself? I’d love to hear from you.

***

Are you feeling stuck in overwhelm and longing to live differently? I’ll be continuing to enroll in my Stellar Self-Care One-on-One Coaching Program through May 13, 2019 (or until all spots are filled). I’d love to support you in this journey if it’s right for you. You can find out more, here.

Want to stay connected? You can sign up for my monthly-ish Artist’s Nest Newsletter, here.

Koala photo credits: top photo by Enrico Carcasci; middle photo by David Clode; bottom koala Photo by Mélody P, all on Unsplash

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10 thoughts on “Deep rest creates deep renewal ( + meet our new feline friend!)

  1. Another timely read for me. 🙂 I’ve been batting back and forth inside myself recently during a period where there isn’t much work to be done, and my ‘thrives on busy’ self has been struggling! I kept thinking, I don’t get so much free time usually, I really ought to be making the most of it by doing something fun/different or I’ll regret it when I’m busy again. Sometimes it’s super uncomfortable not having a project! But then I was talking to my mum the other day and remembered that for me, deep rest sometimes doesn’t perhaps look that restful. Sure there are times when I want to slow down, read, waft about the house aimlessly, but sometimes there’s space to do that and I actually want to be doing something that fills the well and is restful in a more engaged way. All this to say I’ve by no means mastered it, but allowing my rest to not necessarily look like being still actually helps me calm down and be a bit more restful. I’d be hopeless as a cat! 😉

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    • Hi Tara! This is so good to notice — and I definitely relate. Resting deeply can look like so many different things! Sometimes we’re resting a “part” of ourselves, too, while other parts are engaged in activities (I’ve been working on a project lately that “rests” that part of me that writes and coaches a bit while engaging other aspects). I think sometimes we can get into a place of “rest should look like this”, but if it doesn’t feel restful or replenishing, as you said, that’s not “it” for us.

      Good to hear from you! 🙂

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      • Oh I like that about resting a part of ourselves. Such a good point! It’s a bit like that ‘self care means a bubble bath or a massage’ thing isn’t it – I never really related to those, but there are so many other ways to take care of yourself that don’t look like ‘obvious’ pampering.

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        • Yes — a friend of mine calls bubble baths, massages, etc. “floofy self-care”. It’s not that those things aren’t helpful or totally what we need at times, just that there’s SO much more to taking care of ourselves well than that — it’s deeper and more foundational, and will look different for each person (and might not be “obvious”, like you said!).

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  2. Oh yes, this is so, so true. It’s hard sometimes to allow this. Experienced that last night, after a very bad day, after a long, difficult week. So exhausted last night, I realized that ruminating about it anymore wan’t going to help, and that what I needed was to go to sleep. And I did. And after a long talk with a caring friend today (I wasn’t going to answer the phone, but then thought maybe it would help, and it did), been reading a cozy kitty mystery, with a snoozing kitty on my lap 🙂 Rest helps. And so do kitties- and you have a tuxedo! Mine is one too, they’re such fun kitties- thank you for the introduction! She’s such a cutie.

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    • Thanks for sharing that, Kathryn! It is definitely challenging to allow the rest sometimes — “pushing through the hard” is much more culturally-approved! (I always notice that when I get into that place of deep rest, I have a better sense of where I have true control and where I don’t, and that in and of itself is so good for the nervous system. As are cats!) I’m so glad you found your way to rest, in some wonderful ways (and I hope the upcoming week is a better one for you!).

      I’ll say hello to Genevieve for you! What is your tuxedo kitty’s name? So fun that you have one, too! ❤

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  3. Great post, Jill. I had shoulder s surgery in mid-January and am just returning to normal again. Unable to drive for 3 months and being in a bulky sling for 12 weeks kept me at home and doing next to nothing. As a result I’m not anxious to go back to what was a crazy schedule. I learned how important rest is and as I age I need to slow down and rest more often.

    Your kitty is beautiful. I have a tuxedo cat named Lilli. She is a crazy one even at age 14. I think all tuxedo cats are a bit crazy and have devilish personalities.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Joan! Good to hear from you, and so glad to hear you are healing from your shoulder surgery. It is definitely interesting how physical issues/limitations change our perspective and can make us more aware of our deeper need for rest (or a different pace, anyway). Sending lots of good vibes for continued healing. 🙂

      So your Lilli is a tuxedo cat, too — how fun! Genevieve is my first tuxedo cat. She definitely has a crazy and devilish aspect to her!

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  4. Jill, my kitty’s name is Lucy 🙂 And she’s a sweet, funny kitty. I love having her in my life. I’ll say hello to her from you too!

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