The True Nature of Rest

For most people, rest is a state of lowered consciousness in which we recuperate from the fatigue generated through our various activities. If we reflect on how we respond to fatigue, we find that we have different modes depending on whether it is mental fatigue, vital exhaustion or physical tiredness. The usual responses for mental fatigue include distraction of the mind through various light activities, such as game-playing, watching television, or reading light literature, such as mysteries, romance novels, or other ‘page-turner’ fare, etc. Vital, nervous or emotional exhaustion is frequently addressed through ‘self-medication’ using drugs or alcohol, or through partying or through sexual activity. Physical tiredness usually leads to deep, dull slumber.

All of these are forms of lowering the consciousness and represent a tamasic (or in some cases a rajasic) reaction to a receding of rajasic energy. There is however another way and that is through application of sattwic energy to refine, uplift, and harmonize the consciousness. This can be accomplished through practices such as meditation, yoga nidra, hatha yoga, spending time in nature, pranayama, listening to uplifting music, and taking rest in a quiet and peaceful state, among others.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The real rest is in the inner life founded in peace and silence and absence of desire. There is no other rest — for without that the machine goes on whether one is interested in it or not. The inner mukti is the only remedy.”

The Mother observes: “The rest must not be one which goes down into the inconscience and tamas. The rest must be an ascent into the Light, into perfect Peace, total Silence, a rest which rises up out of the darkness. Then it is true rest, a rest which is an ascent.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, General Methods and Principles, Rest and Relaxation, pp. 9-11