Conoscere bene : To know well. This is the literal translation; it is entirely possible that with my somewhat limited grasp of Italian, this phrase is used idiomatically and has an entirely deeper meaning. But there I am (or, at least, there are my feet), standing above these words in my purple Birkenstocks (purchased last summer in Italy), the Italian words catching my attention in an immediate way.

Some people go to Italy to eat, to see famous sites, to view Renaissance art, to walk the ruins.

I go to rest.

It has taken me a long time to embrace that. The inner critic voices that it’s ridiculously self-indulgent, that I should figure out some way of resting that doesn’t involve a trans-continental airline ticket, have been loud. But the truth is that every year since I’ve been an adult, I’ve gone on some kind of prolonged rest, whether it’s to New Mexico, to a Zen Center, to Paris, to Italy. I take a few weeks out of the year to drop everything and just BE with no agenda.

I’m not alone in needing rest; in fact, most people are even more in need of it than I am. We are a culture that spins ourselves into a flurry of comparisons and one-upmanship and trying to keep up with something that I’m not even entirely sure is defined for most people.

Here are the signs:

1.) Constantly taking on projects, telling yourself you’ll feel really great once you finish them, then not feeling particularly celebratory upon completing them, and then taking on yet another project.

2.) Yoga, meditation, and other “relaxing activities feel like more to-do list items.

2.) You’re getting sick..


How to know yourself

We’ve got to honor ourselves and our needs, in order to know ourselves intimately. No one really gets to know “who” they are when they’re subverting play, rest, down time, rejuvenation, or pushing their physical and emotional hungers to the back-burner.

When you realize that you’ve gone overboard and burn-out is fizzling you out, fast, it’s time to do the following:

1.) Go back to the drawing board with examining (or clarifying, if you’ve never done it before) your values. Values-clarification is a huge part of The Courageous Living Program, precisely because as you start to practice courage, you’re going to make tough choices. As you’re making those tough choices, there will inevitably be pros and cons to any choice. It won’t be as black-and-white as “one is bad and the other is good.”

Values clarification is an important tool for making stronger decisions. It takes you out of externalizing your happiness and making choices because of money or social approval, and puts you straight into making a choice based on whether or not it honors who you are.

Do you take on that new project? Does it honor your personal values?
Do you continue with that relationship? Does it honor your personal values?
Do you start now, or wait a year? Does it honor your personal values?

2.)Examine where you can start practicing more acceptance. How many of us get pissed when things don’t go the way we want them to, and let defeat/discouragement follow on its heels? Even when you clarify your personal values, there are going to be things that you can’t control. Trying to get more control will just tie you up in knots.

What freedom will come from practicing acceptance?


Rest is an action step

When you’ve been working too hard for awhile, you need rest.

That’s it.

No two ways around it. If you don’t take the time that you need to rest, you are officially bullshitting yourself.

I now have three levels of rest that I bring into my life. Yours might look a little bit different, but I share my own as a jumping off place for you to start.

Level One: I take time to breathe, every day, and I make time to read most days. These are ways of slowing down that are simple and easy to integrate. I do this even if it’s only five minutes. We all have five minutes.

Level Two: Short, cheap getaways. My husband and I have made this an art form. Sometimes it’s driving away on a day trip. Sometimes it’s spending a night elsewhere. They’re cheap and inexpensive and often spontaneous. Sometimes just going to a new neighborhood in San Francisco with my camera is enough. Whatever it is, I am convinced that all of us need a visual break from our day-to-day settings.

Level Three: Once a year, I get out of town completely for at least a week. Again, this need not be particularly expensive, and when I have prioritized saving up and making the time, doors open. Someone once told me, “Always pay for experiences, not things.” A significant portion of my budget each year goes towards taking this time away.

How are you making it a point to create stillness in your life? Where are you giving yourself the gift of getting away? How might that sort of investment pay rich rewards in your life?

Know someone who could use some encouragement to rest? Click to tweet: Rest is an Action Step.