“Rest is not something that the world gives us. It’s never been a gift. It’s never been something you do when you’ve finished everything else. If you want rest, you have to take it. You have to resist the lure of busyness, make time for rest, take it seriously, and protect it from a world that is intent on stealing it.”
This quote was taken from the book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. After a particularly busy past two weeks, I decided to reflect on rest and how the senses play into it for this Sunday's Senspiration. In the book Rest Pang explores the benefits of intentional rest, showing the scientific research behind it as well as endless stories of highly successful figures throughout history and the present day who were tuned into what their bodies needed in order to maximize their potential. Being rested allows for creativity, clear thinking, good judgment, and higher levels of productivity. It ultimately allows you to be more aware of what you want, recognizing priorities so that you know which challenges to take on and which to let go, leading to a happy and rewarding life.
Pang discusses sleep as a form of rest in great detail, but I especially appreciated that he explained how people can rest and recharge in ways that don’t involve shut-eye. He discusses the benefits of taking breaks and knowing when to stop for the day. He explores how exercise can increase intelligence, energy, and “psychological resilience,” allowing you to take on challenging and creative work. He also talks about the idea of deep play, which is when you are engaged and entirely consumed, often effortlessly, in an activity that is meaningful to you. For example, Winston Churchill pursued his passion of painting, saying “It is not enough merely to switch off the lights which play upon the main and ordinary field of interest. A new field of interest must be illuminated.” This concept was one of my reasons for starting a blog.
Pang also explores the act of taking walks as a way to rest, and this was my favorite part of the book to read, perhaps because the idea is so simple and easy to do. A change of scenery can give you a new perspective if you’re wrestling with an issue, and it can give you more energy when you’re hitting a wall. Taking a casual walk allows for mind-wandering and makes space for new ideas and insights to bubble up from your subconscious.
Thomas Jefferson suggested to his nephew that he should take walks, saying, “Never think of taking a book with you. The object of walking is to relax the mind [and] divert your attention by the objects surrounding you.” When I walk through my Maplewood neighborhood, there is so much that surrounds me, captures my attention, and awakens my senses. Since I read the book back in May, I’ve gotten into the habit of ditching my music and podcasts and simply observing what’s around me in an effort to unwind.
During morning walks I like noticing the natural elements. I hear birds chirping, and I anticipate the smells of honeysuckle or gardenia as walk by certain houses. Many brightly colored flowers bloom in front yard gardens. The mimosa trees with their feathery pink blooms are a favorite of mine.
And of course I love finding eclectic hidden treasures like a peach tree or a prickly pear cactus growing next to a patch of Black Eyed Susans.
As I walk in the evenings, I notice the rhythmic zinging chorus of cicadas coming from the trees. I love seeing the glowing marquees on storefronts and twinkle lights strung across patios. I peer into the closed-up shop windows and instantly relive memories of how the spices smell inside Penzeys or how the sea salt caramels taste at Kakao. I like seeing the brightly colored scarves hanging inside the Bouffant Daddy window and the sea-inspired hues of bath products inside Maven. As I’m walking, I encounter a number of scents—Schlafly beer being brewed, the burnt smell of coffee roasting at La Cosecha, donuts baking at Strange Donuts.
I’ve heard live Irish folk music as I walked past the small music venue The Focal Point, and the very next evening saw couples ballroom dancing in the same space. When I walk past Sutton Loop Park, sometimes it’s quiet and I hear nothing except the soothing trickle of bubbling water from the small fountain, and at other times, I hear someone playing the piano—a brightly painted piano was placed under the pavilion as part of Make Music Day St. Louis, celebrated on the summer solstice.
I pass people walking their dogs, and I see cats lounging on front porches. I especially like to linger outside the Mauhaus Cat Café and Lounge, a unique spot where you can enjoy a treat and relax among felines who are up for adoption. I love the energy of dogs—excited to be out for an adventure and sniff everything in sight, but I especially appreciate the energy of the cats—once in a while some of them are playful, but for the most part they seem endlessly calm as they simply watch what’s going on around them, not worried about a thing.
Since reading the book, I have been taking more walks around my neighborhood, and I feel good knowing that it’s so beneficial to my well-being. Taking a walk and employing my senses to soak up my surroundings is undoubtedly a restful experience for me. How about you? What types of sensory experiences do you have in your neighborhood? What are some of your favorite ways to unwind?