The topic of this post will be how to move into a state of mind I call Rest.
What is Rest?
Rest is a state of mind. You have probably experienced it before, after a good cry, after a sudden release, after seeing something profound or beautiful, or through a technique like yoga or meditation. It goes by other names in other systems: the still point, calm abiding (Tibetan Buddhism), samatha, don't-know mind (Zen) Rest is the goal of every mystical system I've surveyed, though some such as Buddhism go a step farther. There isn't just one way to develop this state of mind, and you could say that every moment has a slightly different "key" for entering this state. But there are some general methods we can use to develop it.
In all people and even in some animals, Rest has the same characteristics. On the outside, the body and nervous system are relaxed. The breath is smooth and steady. The shoulders are relaxed. The back is upright but not rigid or tense. The eyes are relaxed and soft, as if the person was reflecting, but on no particular thing.
Psychologically, the mind is quiet and still. The familiar sense of desperation and immediacy--the psychological force that makes you think at a million miles an hour -- is muted. There is a greater gap between stimulus (something in the environment, a thought) and response (action, decision, or more thoughts). In other words, instead of reacting automatically, you have time to consider your response. Your attention is collected. Honesty and strength begin to grow inside you and you develop the courage to acknowledge what's going on inside you--your secret thoughts, your suppressed feelings, and any residual pain you might be feeling. Your courage continues to grow as you separate yourself from the stream of thoughts that normally commands your attention. Peace and wisdom begin to develop.
Rest is happiness, and you'll notice that it's independent of whatever situation you're in. It's independent of money, sex, fame, and the other things we typically associate with happiness. Rest is a solution to existential loneliness; it doesn't provide meaning...it is meaning. It's a source of intuition--information you can trust that can't be negated by your mind. Decisions that are made while at Rest are always correct because they promote more Rest. You can't tell someone how to proceed with their life, but if they practice Resting, they'll know exactly what they need to do: how to diffuse complicated situations and make them harmonious. It's an incredible tool for closure. When your mind is calm, you can get in touch with your real needs and make wise decisions in your life.
How do I get there?
The key is that Rest isn't somewhere that you're getting. You're not actually going anywhere. Rather than traveling forward, you're actually stopping where you are and turning around to face yourself just as you are in this moment. There is no correct way to "be". If you try to stop and look at yourself and think you're doing something wrong or not seeing yourself the right way, forget that.
You can design your own techniques for achieving Rest, but if you're like me and 1) you think too much, and 2) you have habitual thoughts about accessing some state, then I'd suggest focusing on the body. Forget about the mind for a minute and make a connection to your body. It doesn't matter where (the breathe, the chest, the throat, the back) and it doesn't even matter how. You're just listening and experiencing.
Simulated Rest: An Alternative Strategy
Another thing you can do is practice simulating Rest. Simulated Rest means you're creating an environment for Rest to develop but not messing with mind at all. This is a good strategy for the control-freaks (like me).
There are really 2 levels to Simulated Rest: your body and your environment.
1. Environment: Keep your environment clean, tidy, and simple. Organize your bedroom, your living room, and your office so that you have minimal clutter. Make your bed. That's it. Simple and clean.
2a. Outer-Body: Like your environment, keep it clean and tidy. Shave, get hair cuts, and keep your nails trimmed and clean.
2b. Inner-Body: What you're going to do is systematically slow down the body's reactions. We'll do that in two ways, first, by relaxing, and second, by slowing down our pace.
(1) Relaxation: Relax your shoulders. Relax your back. If you're sitting, scoot up a little in your chair. You don't have to sit like a deer in headlights. It's okay to relax and smile. Just try and sit up. If you're focusing on it too much and your back feels tense and you're starting to obsess about it, then just forget it for now. If you're walking, try and walk with decent posture. Next, we're going to relax your eyes. To do this, blink slowly. Not so slowly that you can drink a whole can of soda, but slow enough so that it's gentle and done with care. It takes me about one second to complete a slow blink. Next, relax the tone of your voice. Talk softly and gently but clearly and loud enough so people can hear you.
(2) Pace: Next, slow your breath down. Again, you don't have to try too hard. There's no "correct" way to do this and there's no real goal. Just slow it down a bit to a comfortable, chill pace. When you move your body (to brush your teeth, grab your cell phone, close a door) do it gracefully, rather than hurriedly. Again, you don't have to do it super-slow. (I'm picturing a whole line of people behind you, waiting 2 minutes for you to open the door to Starbucks.) Just do it a bit slower than usual, without rushing. No rushing! Finally, try to slow down the pace of your verbal responses. If someone asks you a question, wait just a little bit more than normal, even a split-second, before responding.
My mind is going fucking nuts. What should I do?
Don't worry about it. It's okay to have thoughts. Rest doesn't require that your mind is blank. Just keep contact with your body.
Am I doing it right?
Just kidding. Yes.
Is this what meditation is?
Pretty much, except meditation is done in private where you can focus more. This technique is great for daily life (talking to people, eating, walking) but you can easily adapt it to suit your meditation practice.
How am I supposed to feel?
You're not "supposed" to feel any specific way. Your experience is where ever it's currently at. Trying to measure it against some ideal state will only push you further away from it. In fact, if you wonder about this, I would encourage you to NOT smile while they're doing this. Keep your face as plain as vegan food.
Are there other techniques?
Yes, tons. Kindness (preferably, but not necessarily genuine) is a great tool, but I don't want to overload y'all.
If you have more questions, leave them under this post and I'll do my best to answer them by editing this article.