Work, work, work; push, push, push, rush, rush, rush —  that’s just what we middle-class Americans tend to do.

And after extended bouts of work, it’s hard to come down, even when we get a holiday break. I’ve been jittery lately — too many dead lines, shopping trips, meetings, duties and self-imposed, others-imposed, high flying, hard-driving expectations.

Yesterday, after weeks of working too hard, I went and sat in my backyard, with tea, and looked, at my pond, the sky, my plants, at nothing. I also took a nap, and wrote a new batch of proverbs that flowed out of my reflections.

I needed this kind of seeing and doing little, or nothing.

We all need deep rest. What is deep rest? It’s like deep sleep.

Deep sleep, also called slow sleep or wave sleep, alternates with REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in a regular pattern of 3–5 cycles each night.

During deep, body-calming sleep, good stuff happens — the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, appears to strengthen the immune system, consolidate new memories and secrete growth hormones.

We need deep sleep. We also need deep rest — rest while we are awake. Deep rest is found in wakeful but quiet, comfortable body postures, in cessation of activity, in relaxed observation of the environment, in quiet reflection, in quiet conversation, in rumination, in meditation and perhaps for some of us in reading, writing or prayer. 

Yesterday I read in the Psalms, took a few minutes to let those wise words soak in and felt appreciative. Later, I went out to the front yard and gardened, and then, slowing time with my hands at my sides. I stood back and looked over my work. I laid-back on time, and with a deep-drawling, pause-pleasing, slow-slipping, soft-shoeing satisfaction, I rested.

Cats sleep 16 hours a day, or five years out of seven. We might do well to emulate our cats more, to cat nap, to cat rest, to cat-live, to slow-blink life softly down. After all, the domestic cats lead the good life.

To deep rest is to slow life down, not to stop life. It means to cook slower, eat slower, talk slower, think slower, react slower. It means to pick a slower wave, found in each life-washed moment, and to ride it gently and patiently all the way to time’s softly-lapping shore.

Rest — deep rest — it’s regenerative;  it’s good.

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