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30 Days of Rest: Day 30

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This weekend we finally moved everything out of our storage facility. Sorting through all of that was terrible. If you have ever kept stuff in storage then you know as long it is out of your sight, you could care less if you ever see it again. But then you see it and you realize your wedding album is in there, your babies first shoes are in there, the letters you wrote everyday to your best friend in middle school are in there.

It was like being in a personalized junk yard, a dusty version of “This is Your Life.” Every item we touched was like a portal to another time, one out of every twenty things we found was a keeper. We did yet another round of throw away/give away/store away. We have about twelve boxes that are going up in the attic-mostly keepsakes and holiday decorations. Then we had a car full of stuff that we both determined we wanted in our house, our tiny house with few walls and no cabinet space. These treasures rescued from our junk yard have made it through six moves. They are the little pieces of gold and rubies that you find after sifting through piles and piles of dirt.

After all that work and all this time, what did we decide to keep? Games, children’s books, art and personalized gifts. We could have lived without them. We have for the past two years. They are not essentials by any means, but when they found their spot at our new house, it felt like this part of my life I was prepared to surrender found its way back to me.

I promised you that we would talk about what it means to do work that is your passion. I asked you to revisit a definition of work you must do to make a living (essentials) from the work you must do to be fully alive (passions). I challenged you during these 30 days to let yourself explore if the work you are doing is actually working.

My best friend from middle school is staying with us right now (which is why I didn’t send out Day 29 until after midnight) and we were talking about the greatest myths of our generation (because that’s what we do). We believe that one of those myths is that you aren’t doing the “right thing” unless you are making a living doing something you are passionate about.

Sometimes these two things can and will be the same thing. Sometimes there is someone out there making millions doing what they love to do. It does happen. But it also puts a lot of pressure on us to know what we are passionate about and a lot of pressure on our passions to perform for us. It is easy to lose the freedom to write, create, cook, explore, learn and share what we love when we have to check in with how that will or will not “sell.” It is not something we are allowed to give away because we need it to take care of us.

When we work to take care of our essentials, including rest, we set up a foundation that supports creation, generosity, care, contribution, even passion.

But passion does not do the dishes. No, she doesn’t.

Last year, it felt like I gave up everything. I let go of dreams, hopes, plans, obligations, the ideas I had of how I thought things were supposed to be, and who I thought I was going to be.

It was sad and painful and a huge relief. For the first time ever, I let myself just be the not so new, definitely not improved version of me.

Here I am, in all of my glory…emptying the dishwasher.

From my humbled place in the universe, I began to repair. All of the sudden (it did feel that way, like nothing happened forever and then it all happened), I could hardly sleep at night because of the ideas, dreams, visions and passion that were bubbling up from deep in side of me. I wasn’t trying to be passionate. I wasn’t digging deep to discover my life’s purpose. It just happened. And it wasn’t anything amazing. It was just amazing to notice, practice and experience life moving like that inside of me again.

Tiny little pieces of gold remained after all that sifting.

It is different now. Before, my idea of passion contained tremendous energy driven by a lot of fear of failure and inadequacy and it was regularly interrupted by the annoying and often boring problems of real life. I needed life to leave me alone so I could follow my passion.

Now it all feels pretty even. Emptying the dishwasher feels as important as having coffee with new and old friends on the front porch. It used to feel like everything was too loud or off, now the volume is at a level we can listen to all of the time, the sounds of home. Nothing feels like the end of the world or the answer to all of our problems.

When you rest, you are able to be you in this world (that really needs you to be you, by the way). Not manufactured, manipulated, striving, trying to be you in world–actually bringing your vulnerability, talent, human kindness, abilities, compassion, structure, care, humor…and yes, even passions to our planet.

Well, this is the end. Day 30. Getting to do this with you is the kind of work that makes me feel alive. It was beyond fun to take pictures, come up with little phrases, and figure out what I was going to write to you each day. To wake up in the middle of the night to write or choose to take pictures instead of taking a nap is the best evidence I can give you that the passions, the energy and the clarity of “what you should be doing with your life” will come…in the right way, in the right time, but maybe just a little slower, a bit quieter than you were expecting.

May your life overflow with purpose and passion that energizes you and generously spills over onto others.

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30 Days of Rest: Day 29

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At a high school graduation party last May, I was visiting with my daughter and a few of her friends while distractedly craning my neck to look around the room and see who else I knew at the party. I didn’t know that many people so I kept looking around to see who I was going to visit with next. My attention was brought back to the adorable/funny/wise/honest conversation happening between the girls all around me.

“Oh my gosh,” I told the girls, “I was looking around this room to see who else I wanted to talk to and then I realized there is no one I would rather be visiting with then you guys and I almost missed my chance.”

One of the girls said, “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”

Then I told her that the nicest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about her is when my daughter said, “Sometimes I get so scared and worried about my generation running the world and then I remember Willa and I know we are going to be okay.”

These. Girls.

Before my sabbatical, I was out looking, working, seeking, fixing, improving, pursuing, striving for what was next. I thought I could name what I wanted and that it was up to me to go out and get it.

This concept of labeling the way my needs should be met is possibly one of the most subtle and powerful enemies of rest.

When I get this…
As long as I still have this…
If only she would say this…
If only he hadn’t done this..
My life would be perfect if this…
I could be happy if this…
If only I was better at this…
If only I had done this differently…
If only they thought like this…

There wasn’t any space between the awareness of my needs and my attempts to meet those needs. Imagine that feeling you get when you want to know what the weather will be like this week or who that actress is that you can’t quite place. You check your phone, right? You google the answer. We aren’t used to not getting the relief of the instant solution. That is the tension I stayed in last year. I would have the almost primal urge to get my fix, to scratch that itch and yet, I knew that scratching would only make it itch more.

Sometimes I can tell what I need and it is up to me to meet that need. I am hungry so I eat. I am tired so I take a nap. I am overwhelmed so I take a walk. I need a clean towel so I do laundry.

But if I say I am hungry and the only thing that will satisfy me is a steak dinner then I miss everything in my life that could nourish me because it isn’t what I labeled as the thing that would meet my need.

This is also true with relationships, success, wealth, and community. When we determine that something outside of ourselves is the only missing piece to our complete puzzle, we give it power that it can’t deliver.

Assigning who will meet our needs and how those needs will be met makes us feel like we are in control. Like we could be better, happier, at peace if only someone else would do their part. I spent decades of my life living that way. I could fill in the blanks about and tell you each of the things that I have believed at one time or another would complete me. I got a lot of them. They never quite did the trick. They might have brought some good things into my life but they also brought hard things and left me wanting for new things each time.

But the real point of this post is not about about what you label why you shouldn’t label (its human nature, we are all going to do it) it is about what you miss when you label.

The next time you find yourself thinking, “If only this,” consider looking around and seeing if there is any other way or form your need might be getting met and setting that label free.

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30 Days of Rest: Days 28

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The little beeper on the coffee maker just announced a fresh pot. Its 3:22 am and my body and brain have decided its time to wake up. This week I have been at the lake on my first vacation since I began my sabbatical last year. My husband and I have been away–away from responsibilities, away from our kids, away from our dog, away from our jobs.

Just the two of us and a whole lot of nothing planned.

We have been here enough days in a row to find a routine.

Morning: We start with coffee and a little visit, then I go out to the back porch and journal before it gets too warm to be cozied up in a blanket. Journaling usually morphs into morning reading and then writing.

Afternoon: We go for a walk around the lake, visit with our neighbors and come back home to read some more, get some lunch in town, buy a few groceries, hook up to the internet at a local coffee shop and get some business done.

Evening: We turn on music, start a fire, pour a glass of wine, create something simple for dinner, watch the sunset, read some more, watch a movie. Wait to fall asleep until we know our kids are safe at home.

Having a routine here has highlighted my lack of routine at home. Since moving into a new house, adjusting to a new part of town, my kids beginning a new and challenging year of school and sharing a car with them, I have not found a new normal. My responsibilities have been overwhelming and everything on my to-do list seems vague, like that dream where you are trying to read something but it keeps blurring.

As I was journaling one morning, an outline of my week started to come into focus. It became clear what I had committed to, what those commitments require of me, when I can run errands, workout, or schedule an appointment. It became obvious what I could give and what I could not.

I can only give what I have.

“We are not exhausted because we give away too much. We are exhausted because we give away what we do not possess” (Muller, Sabbath).

This invitation to rest is also an invitation to humility.

Muller writes about of us taking our “relatively unimportant” seat at the table of life. I thought I had more to give than I did. I’m not as generous as I want to be. I get tired too easily. I run out of steam early in the race. I bite off more than I can chew. I want to do more than I can, be more than I am, because just being me can look and feel kind of pathetic…

I am learning.

At first its scary to admit our limitations, to join the forces of nature in our relative unimportance.

Then, one day while you are watching the birds, listening to the trees, visiting with your partner, you realize you are happy, deeply truly humbled to be living in this world that seems to be obsessed with giving you all the goodness it possesses.

May you receive all of the goodness life has for you today.

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30 Days of Rest: Day 27

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This is an exciting post for me because these are my husband’s thoughts about rest. My sister-in-law asked how Adam and I got on the same page about prioritizing rest and simplicity in our life. She asks the best questions. Adam doesn’t have the same need for rest that I do. He has so much energy and as you will see in his answers below, his idea of rest is full of productivity.

As I write this, I am realizing we are and we are not on the same page when it comes to rest. It’s kind of amazing that we have learned how to respect the way the other person rests. I like to sleep in and take naps, he likes to wake up early and get caught up on emails and news. I can’t imagine relaxing with a smart phone near me, he finds great peace in knowing he is accessible to anyone who might need him. We both love not having anything planned and we work hard to keep our evenings and weekends open for connection with each other and with our kids.

Here are his answers:

How do you define rest?

I like days when nothing is planned but I have a list of things I can do like minor home projects, work and play that I can do on my own timetable. I have to be more intentional about play-like going to see movies, do non-competitive activities. That all feels like rest to me. Love eating out with my family or doing any kind of together activity like going to the bookstore, riding bikes or walking to the park.

Do you need more rest in your life?

There are times when I over schedule myself and I need to prioritize rest but, if I don’t have enough to do, I get antsy. Right now I have a lot of down time. I would prefer to balance this better. Right now I can accelerate/remove things from my life as necessary. My work is project based so I can delegate when I need but my inclination is to work really hard to get to a finish line and then rest.

Do you set aside time to rest?

Never. Rest occurres when work is done and that happens at the latest by 5pm. It feels restful to me to start my day early, catch up on emails, learn a new chess move and listen to Bird Note on the radio. I have about a 30 minute drive to work and I don’t listen to music or anything, I just let my mind settle and organize. In the evenings I workout, shower and make myself available for my family. Good days always end with cookies and milk. My routine is restful to me.

What are obstacles to rest?

My to do list, certainly work, anything that is required by anyone else.

How do you prepare for rest?

I have to make sure no one needs me for anything or if they might need me that they know how to reach me. I want to know everyone else is okay first-especially Jenny and my kids.

Adam and I have been married for 22 years. I am an object at rest, he is an object in motion. We have learned to appreciate and enjoy what the other person brings to our family and somewhere in there we find a rhythm that works. As different as our approach to rest may be, we both find the sweetest rest when we are together.

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30 Days of Rest: Day 26

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My good friend, who is also a master craftsman, built a fence for our new tiny backyard. I could not believe how much space we had once the boundaries were visible. My friend said, “Once you define a space it becomes useful.”

The concept of boundaries is hard to explain, hard to learn and hard to clarify, so my little ears perked up at his educated observation. When we do not have clear boundaries for work, for play, for me, for you, for beginnings and for endings, we aren’t really sure how to use our space. We only have a vague sense of what to give, what to keep, what to share, what to finish or what to start.

Over the past few decades, the concept of emotional boundaries has revolutionized the realm of psychology. With the interconnectedness of all of our lives, physical and mental boundaries are the new challenge of our generation. I am especially sensitive to this because of the two teenagers who live in my house. The texts, group messages, updated snapchats and whatever else was invented yesterday NEVER STOPS. We have a goal (or I have a dream?) that our rooms will be a sacred space. That we can put our heads on the pillow and be with our own thoughts for just a little while. This isn’t something we’ve ever had to be intentional about before.

Cal Newport has a shutdown ritual that he performs at the end of every work day. It could also be employed to create a boundary between your virtual life and your real life. If you think that your virtual life is your real life, I get it. We would not be able to make a living without our virtual life. What I am distinguishing here is the work/play/connection that happens in a separate portal from your reality-the people you are with, the food you need to cook or eat, the bathroom break you need to take, your workout, your shower…the physical and emotional needs of being a human. You can’t change a baby’s diaper with an app, or connect those tiny places in their brains by rocking them to sleep with an educational show on Netflix. Human connection, human touch, meeting human needs and having those needs met is still just as essential as it’s ever been.

Now, back to that shutdown ritual. Hopefully, you can design a personalized version for yourself. Here is what our pal, Cal, does:

1. Take a final look at my email/inbox to see if anything requires an urgent response before the day ends.

2. Transfer any new tasks that are on my mind or were scribbled down earlier in the day into my official task list.

3. Skim every task in the list and look at the next few days on my calendar to take notice of upcoming deadlines or appointments.

4. Make a rough plan for the next day.

5. Once the plan is created, I say, “Shutdown complete.”

(From Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport)

When we are flooded with incomplete tasks, never ending text threads, another breaking story popping up like infinite kleenex, we give over our focus to what someone else has said we should think about. Most importantly we forget to think for ourselves, we forget to dream, we forget how to use what belongs to us.

The great irony is that technology has opened up a world of opportunity for us which is often impossible to access because of the world technology has opened up to us. Sometimes, when I want to use the magical world wide web, I will use my husband’s computer or my daughter’s phone so that I can choose what to explore without the distractions of my personal devises.

Consider creating some shut down rituals for yourself and start brainstorming again about what you want to do with this freshly defined space.

Do you want to make music?
Do you want to become an expert in sea turtles?
Do you want to take a photography class?
Do you want to explore your neighborhood?
Do you want to host a gathering?
Do you want to read a classic novel? A mystery? A memoir?
Do you want to write a letter?
Do you want to visit your grandmother?
Do you want to make sun tea?

You have more room in your life than you think you do. I promise.

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30 Days of Rest: Day 25

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Once upon a time, a workout was intrinsic to our work. In order to gather food, build shelter, or travel from one place to another, we had to use our bodies. Without scheduling it in our day, we were strengthening our muscles, burning fat, and gaining flexibility.

Then, we realized our minds could get that work done for us. Machines were invented and we didn’t have to physically demand so much from our bodies. It probably took a couple of generations for us to notice that with the relief of not having to physically work so hard to survive, we also lost the benefits.

Enter the exercise industry.

We eventually invented machines where we could run in place without going anywhere. We made more machines that mimic lifting giant heavy things without lifting anything at all because our muscles crave the resistance. Now, we schedule time in our days to go to the gym and workout, to go for a run.

We know that our bodies will give up on us if we do not give them the attention they require.

You see where this is going, right?

With all of the benefits to work, to play, to connect, and to share by means of the tiny worlds in our pocket, we have lost, among other things, the generous gifts of quiet.

In my favorite book of the year, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, the author tells the story of a NYTimes essayist who flees to an undisclosed offline location in order to become better at his job:

In his time away he quickly learned to appreciate that, “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets…it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done” (Tim Kreider).

“When he talks of getting work done, of course, he’s not referencing shallow tasks. For the most part, the more time you can spend immersed in shallow work the more of it that gets accomplished. As a writer and artist, however, Kreider is instead concerned with deep work–the serious efforts that produce things the world values. These efforts, he’s convinced, need the support of a mind regularly released to leisure” (Cal Newport).

When we lost quiet, we lost our ability to focus, to be present, to prioritize, to feel, to settle, to be deeply productive, to soak it all in.

And it is not just about time. We might think we only spent five minutes checking this or responding to that, but the place we activate in our brain for those few miniatures keeps us from accessing deeper places of restoration.

“If you interrupt your evening to check and respond to email, or put aside a few hours after dinner to catch up on an approaching deadline, you’re robbing your directed attention centers of the uninterrupted rest they need for restoration. Even if these work dashes consume only a small amount of time, they prevent you from reaching the levels of deeper relaxation in which attention restoration can occur” (Newport).

We don’t just exercise because we need something else to do with our free time. We exercise because of the benefits. Setting aside time each day for quiet (which is it’s own reward) is also one of the simplistic ways to decrease stress, increase relaxation, enhance relationships and be better at your job.

And it’s free, y’all! So, if you find yourself starting to think you can’t afford to set aside quiet time, in all seriousness, you can’t afford not to.

May you find quiet reservoirs today and soak in all of the benefits.

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30 Days of Rest: Day 24

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We have entered Stage 4 of our 30 Days of Rest, the time for dreams, deep work, consolidation and integration.

What happens in Stage 4 of our sleep cycle?

Finally, we enter REM sleep, where things start to get even weirder. Our breathing becomes shallow and irregular, and our limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed. Our eyes begin to jerk in various directions. This is also the stage where the dreams we actually remember tend to take place.

REM sleep is very important, and the brain will often deploy “safety measures” to ensure it isn’t disrupted. For example, the sound of an alarm clock or phone may be incorporated into the dream and transformed into something else. A similar phenomenon is false awakening, in which the dreamer will dream that she is awake — a “dream within a dream.”

Psychologists and neuroscientists are not sure why the brain goes to such lengths in preserving REM sleep. Sigmund Freud famously claimed that the dreams we now associate with REM allow us to resolve unconscious urges we suppress when we’re awake. A more recent theory holds that these dreams reflect the new memories that are consolidated and integrated into the mind during earlier stages.

http://www.medicaldaily.com/rem-dreams-and-brain-waves-explained-what-happens-brain-when-we-sleep-272580

What are the therapeutic benefits of REM?

EMDR therapy is a type of therapy that employs the process of REM during waking hours for the purposes of transforming trauma.

Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings.

In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.” Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR therapy result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes.

The net effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once debased them. Their wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution—all without speaking in detail or doing homework used in other therapies.

https://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

In this stage of sleep we are not only dreaming, filtering and organizing information, we are also giving our minds and bodies an opportunity to find new meaning in the stories of our wounds.

This is going to be a fun week.

May you dream new dreams and find new meaning from your story.

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30 Days of Rest: Day 23

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“You have been a seeker for so long, I said. “Why not become a finder? At this stage in your life, what if you imagined you were ready to let go of seeking, and begin finding?” She remained silent for a time, a look of deep confusion on her face, her head slightly tilted, as if she were trying to hear a sound far away. Then, suddenly a laugh exploded from deep in her belly. A finder! What a delight! How could she have never imagined it before? She had always been so focused on the search, she had never taken time to rejoice in the blessing, the gift of finding.”

~Müller, Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest

What are you seeking?

What drives you?

Keeps you going?

Checking?

Ruminating?

Energized?

Motivated?

Inspired?

When we slow down, the energy that fills our tank and fuels our engine doesn’t really know what where to go. When we are ready, we will learn from the discomfort that surfaces.

Have you had this experience yet?

We are not all driven by the same things but we do tend to be driven by the same types of things.* My husband is driven by a need to be valued, I am driven by a need to be loved, my daughter is driven by a need to be special and my son is driven by a need to be significant.

Aren’t they beautiful?

When I can see these needs as intrinsic to being human, I can see why God would look at creation and say, “It is good.”

When I admit my needs (to myself or to another) I immediately feel vulnerable. Which is funny because I am vulnerable regardless if I admit it or not. When I pretend I don’t need love or it is up to me to make sure I get love, I begin operating from a place of fear.

Not only do I need love but I am scared that I will not be loved so I must hustle to earn it. Deep down inside, we know if all of the love we have is earned it is not really love at all.

This lesson is as old as the hills, it is as familiar as Dorothy and her ruby red slippers.

You already have what you need.

You are loved.
You are special.
You are valued.
You are significant.
You are good.
You belong.

A day of rest is a time to remember that your work is not only seeking, but it is also about finding what you have been looking for and letting those truths guide your next steps.

*The Enneagram is a great tool for learning more about what motivates you.
For more information visit: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/

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30 Days of Rest: Day 22

IMG_0258.PNGI have about five minutes to write you today, so I will not be as thoughtful this as I wish I could. Today is my birthday and my precious family has spent every waking moment making me feel special. I MUST get back to enjoying what they have planned for me.

One of my friends asked me this morning what I am most looking forward to this year. I told her that I woke up thinking how very lucky I am to be alive. As each year passes, I know someone else that did not get to live to be the age that I am.

This winter I went to a dance class where the instructor asked us to dedicate our dance to someone. I danced for someone who was in the hospital, someone who would not ever dance again, who would not see her 41st birthday.

Today you are alive.

You are here.

It might be a terrible day.

It might be the best day ever.

But you are here.

I’m really glad you are.

Thank you for letting me share all of this with you. It really means the world to me.

❤️❤️❤️

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30 Days of Rest: Day 21

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My little neighbor was trying to save up some money for a new toy. She didn’t have much to work with but when you are five years old you don’t need much. She put a sign on her front porch that said, “Rest Stand: Open.” Anyone was welcome (for a small fee) to come sit on her porch and rest. We had so much fun taking turns on the porch swing, talking and laughing that we forgot to pay her and she forgot we were supposed to.

In The Crossroads of Should and Must, Ella Luna writes, “Will choosing MUST make me rich? Yes. The wealthiest people I know have days and nights filled with life’s most priceless items: watching the sunrise, smelling rain, kissing, having belly laughs with a friend, taking a pointless bike ride, walking the long way home.”

Before I started this journey, I would attempt to capture these priceless moments with my phone and post them to catalog them for myself and share those moments with my loved ones. When I made the choice to prioritize rest, realized the extent of my exhaustion and started to see what we really needed each day, social media didn’t make the cut.

And my life became my life again. It was that big of a deal.

Again, I wish I had a professional to quote about this, but in my experience-taking the picture, writing something about it, and sharing it had become second nature, I think I forgot to receive it first. It would look wonderful but it wasn’t really wonderful for me. What I know now is that that whole process took me out of the moment I was in and my moments became something to show someone else.

One of the distinguishing features of a Montessori teacher is that when a child comes to show the teacher his or her accomplishment, instead of saying, “Good job!” or “I am so proud of you!” The teacher asks them if they are proud of themselves or if they had fun or learned something new while they were doing the work. The purpose of this method is to help the child find satisfaction and reward in the work itself instead of the teacher’s response to their work.

Of course, it is natural and beneficial to praise a child, but the Montessori method is highlighting that once a child becomes attached to a teacher’s response they leave the deep process of learning and mastering the lessons for the quick fix of the teacher’s approval.

That is me and social media. It is embarrassingly easy for me to leave the deep, priceless work of my own life and get caught up in checking who said what about things that have nothing to do with me.

It was a thoughtful choice to re-engage in social for these 30 Days of Rest. It has been fun. But I have also been distracted, pre-occupied, and connected elsewhere which is reminiscent of my old life. It’s not a good long term plan for me.

Consider re-evaluating your own use of technology. So many tools and resources that absolutely bring good things to our life also take good things away, or more accurately, taking us away from good things. Pay attention to the trade offs you are making and ask yourself if it is worth the cost.

In the meantime, spend a few minutes or a few hours at your nearest Rest Stand and enjoy what it feels like to be one of the wealthiest people in the world.