When I stepped out into the yard for the final time last night, the sun had set and the sky was a beautiful starry dark blue. The shimmery glow of fireflies and echoing whippoorwill calls punctuated the night, and even tho there was relative quiet and stillness, I had the sense that there was still a great deal going on out there.
Lulah did her first ever away-all-day camp this week, right here in Macon County, at a wonderful Theatre Camp put on by some very creative and energetic teachers at the local high school. It’s been a good experience for her, and for us. I won’t sugarcoat it. It’s easier to be with one child all day than with two. I received that lesson in spades this week.
Early Tuesday morning, I’d heard the rooster, but was not quite ready to stir. I rolled toward Levon’s side of the bed and immediately felt that he was HOT. When he woke, a couple hours later, he didn’t act sick, had no runny nose or cough, no complaints of aches or troubles anywhere, so I just watched. He stayed hot to touch, and as the day went on he slowed down. Soon he refused to walk anymore and needed to be carried down the hill from the garden. He sat on the bed with glazed eyes and a flushed face. He slept more, and more. Wednesday he must have taken three or four naps. The rest of the day he sat in bed, sat in the stroller, sat at the table, and was carried around the garden.
I cannot begin to characterize how unusual this behavior was. Levon has, as of late, resisted any form of stillness and quiet. He spends most of his waking moments in movement and in conversation (often with himself). For him to sit still, quietly, was far outside of ‘normal’. He is a boy of action.
And now I get it that he really was busy – he was busy resting. While he was being so still and quiet, his little body was busy on the inside, burning off whatever had attacked him. From outside, it didn’t look like much, but there was a lot going on.
There’s never really nothing going on. In our sleep, our minds are still active, just at a different frequency. It’s when our muscles rest that they grow stronger. I remember working on a long paper in philosophy class, back in college. I had to write on some concepts that were really troubling me to put into order and I wrestled with them all afternoon, trying to untangle my thoughts. I lay down for a moment, exhausted and frustrated with the process. After a brief sleep, I woke with the solution clear as day, fresh at the top of my head.
If we were to only exercise, and never rest, we would probably expire in short order. We’ve put that to the test, here in our gardens, and its true. Continuous cultivation of a field, without giving it a rest, and replenishing the soil, will lead to the poorer and poorer nutrition and yield. Continuous physical exertion on the part of the grower, the worker, the athlete, will eventually lead to some sort of collapse. The best way to avoid that is to voluntarily, and gratefully, take a rest.
Savasana is the last pose we do in a yoga class. The translation is literally ‘corpse pose’. What does a corpse ‘do’? Not much, so it seems, anyway. We lay on the floor, relax as much as possible and do absolutely nothing with our bodies or our breath. Of course, we’re breathing, but not controlling the breath. We’re also not sleeping. Some folks sleep of course, and if they do, then that’s what they needed, but it’s not the intention of the posture. In that quiet, relaxed, alert time, some really precious things happen. I believe that savasana helps fix the practice into our minds and bodies. We may not even know it’s happening, but as we ease into ourselves in that stillness, our minds can softly focus on the sensations in our bodies. Those sensations are in direct relationship to the work we’ve just accomplished in class. So it sinks in, deeper, underneath our ordinary thinking mind. It’s easy to get impatient with a ‘do nothing’ pose. What good is it? Fact is, if we have to ask, then we probably need it more than ever.
The trouble seems to be in the IDEA that resting is doing nothing. I catch myself in the thought that sleep or rest is wasted time. That when I’m tired I should just do something to stimulate myself, instead of heeding the message and taking a break. Goodness knows there’s always something vitally important that must be done – a sink of dishes – a meal to prepare – weeds to hoe. Watching Levon heal gave me a picture of how important resting really is. The best medicines are so simple. Good food, good water, loving thoughts, and rest.
After a restless night with a hot baby and a day of hauling that quiet, resting kiddo around, I was exhausted. A good night’s sleep cured me. After a long day dancing, singing and exercising her theatrical will, Lulah came home so sleepy, saying her nose was hot. Her eyes began to get glazed and her face flushed. Here we go. Off to bed.