The Undeniably Right Way to Rest and Relax (The Sensitivity Cycle Part 5)
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth of a five-part series examining the Sensitivity Cycle, and how to use the cycle to overcome resistance and the dreaded feeling of being stuck. Click here to read Part 1, here for Part 2, click here for Part 3 and here for Part 4.
The last phase of the Sensitivity Cycle we’ll examine is the Rest + Relaxation phase.
Most of us think we know what Rest + Relaxation is but it can manifest differently for everyone. For some, it’s a vacation. For others, it’s a brisk run around the neighborhood. It can also be as simple as five minutes of conscious breathing.
If you remember from the previous article, Rest + Relaxation follows Nourishment, which is the ability to process the satisfaction (or toxicity) of an action. Rest + Relaxation and Nourishment potentially have some crossover, but Rest + Relaxation is more about making space from the action – it’s the “letting-go” phase of one’s doings, letting them end – while Nourishment happens more in the moment as the action is happening.
The Rest + Relaxation phase gives your mind the space to integrate the experience, make connections, and learn from what you’ve done. It’s about giving yourself time to process.
I mentioned earlier that Rest + Relaxation can manifest in different ways for everyone. Two important aspects exist though for the Cycle to actually complete, giving you the ability to begin anew from the learning you’ve done along the way.
First – and this can be a tricky one for industrious or competitive people that struggle with Rest – there’s an end to the Action you’ve undertaken. A point comes when you know you’ve done all you can do, there’s no more tinkering to be done, and you let anything else just go. A great example here is simply letting yourself turn in that project even though you “know” you could probably do something more with it.
Secondly, you allow some spaciousness, a “letting-down” from the experience, and your thoughts and actions become more generalized. You’re not chasing the same task anymore so the action just generally slows down, and the tension and focus of the activity can subside. This could be the time after a big presentation when you and the team just relax and hang out a bit, and connect in a relaxed way (not the official debrief, that’s more like the assessment of the Nourishment phase).
When you stop the busyness and the doing, your system can reorient. When you rest, you create a healthy foundation to learn and integrate new information, giving your system the ability to skillfully move forward into the Insight phase of your next cycle.
Rest + Relaxation should be free of an agenda, and instead have a free-flowing structure. This allows the space your mind and body need to complete the Sensitivity Cycle. It can even feel broad and unknown.
Historically I’ve struggled with the Rest + Relaxation phase myself, and so often I work with clients with the same challenge. And so, in my work, one of the things we often practice is how to skillfully rest.
Recently I worked with a client who was a father, husband, and entrepreneur leading a company with several employees. He’d been successful and stable in his work, but for years had struggled with an ‘itch’ to connect to what was next for him; what he could offer the world from a more heart-centered, authentic place within. Despite his efforts he’d been unable to break into clarity about what his deeper purpose was for his next phase of life.
Working together we discovered that his strength within the Sensitivity Cycle was in the Action phase – he was working hard to figure out his next steps after all; it was a habit. He was focused, purposeful, structured, and effective in his day-to-day, like many successful entrepreneurs, but we found he struggled with Rest. His system simply didn’t orient to it as an option.
As we dug deeper, we determined that the constant impulse to be in Action mode was breaking down the rest of his cycle – it was nearly impossible to connect with Rest; he wasn’t feeling satisfaction with his work (the Nourishment phase) because of the constant activity; and so his ability to get into the Insight phase to find out clearly what was meant to come next was suffering as well.
So, we constructed an experiment in a session around Rest, simply making the space during our time for him to rest, relax, and not have a specific agenda. The key of course was mindfulness – could we track together what arose when we tried “purposeful rest”?
What arose was significant emotion. Sadness and exhaustion to be exact. The feeling of the “burden” of his various roles, which were a significant source of his drive to Action, became really apparent. As did the overwhelm that went with it. While it was an uncomfortable space for him, there was a natural cycle to the emotion and he left in a calm, relaxed, easy state.
What happened next was outstanding.
In our next session, a week or two later, he was finally able to tap into the early glimpses of Insight into what lay ahead for him next. It wasn’t yet 100% clear, but it was a tremendous shift forward!
Our efforts to consciously help him make space for a missing piece of the Cycle resulted in a simple but massive shift forward for his system that he’d been unable to unlock for years. We simply had to remove the obstacle that was keeping his cycle from moving forward – his inability to be in the Rest phase – and then the cycle could re-establish itself and he could move forward naturally and easily.
As I conclude this series exploring the Sensitivity Cycle, I want to reinforce a few points as you begin to develop awareness around your own cycle and areas of blockage. The Sensitivity Cycle is a skill-building tool and a practice you can return to again and again. If you keep it top of mind, understanding where you are and how you tend to get in the way of its forward movement (which we all do!), you can experiment with what works for you and your life, and play, pivot or reflect as needed.
Remember, the Sensitivity Cycle represents our body and mind’s natural way of processing. As long as we don’t get in the way of it, it’ll happen naturally. It’s us, as human beings, who interrupt one or more of the phases for a variety of reasons. When you bring awareness to it and practice with it throughout your life, you can fully use it as a mastery and wisdom tool to gain deeper skillfulness as a human.
Do you want to explore your own Sensitivity Cycle, or the ways you might be creating stopping points within it, in a way that is specific to you? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, tell me about what you’re going through and I’ll gladly give you guidance on a path forward.