Everything we do, every thought we’ve ever had, is produced by the human brain.
But exactly how it operates remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries,
and it seems the more we probe its secrets, the more surprises we find.
– Neil deGrasse Tyson
The Rest of your Life for the Best of your Life
You know you’ve had the rest of your life when you awaken in the morning knowing it is the best day of your life. If within each day the rest of your life is experienced, the best of your life is yet to come. Sleep is where you fall into the rest of your life. The word ‘sleep’ has origins going back to the words ‘slack’ and ‘languid.’ More recently, sleep refers to inactivity. Either way, without some slack and languid time, without some sleep time, activity, the quality of activity itself will wane. Every person knows this from experience; if you don’t get a good night’s sleep, that day is not your best. For the best day of your life, everyday, you need the rest of your life.
The rest of your life has two meanings. One, it is the best rest ever. Two, remaining days. They are related. The best rest ever is very conducive to the quality, and quantity, of remaining days. Anybody seriously interested in top peack performance capabilities must necessarily take into account rest; not just distraction, but genuine, authentic, real, rest. What is ‘rest?’ One of the more perplexing definitions from centuries ago is ‘intermission of labor.’ But, that does not define rest, it only defines what it is not, ie, it is not labor. A modern way of ascertaining rest is observing brain wave patterns during the deepest of sleep. The science of ‘neurofeedback’ helps a person intentionally, and consciously, generate sleep patterns, while awake. This is very restful. Most all cultures, in their own way, will recognize the importance of sleep, of rest.
Rest was of such importance to the Greeks, and Romans, they ascribed godhood to it. The Roman God of Sleep is Somnus. The Greek God of Sleep is Hypnos. Somnabulist (a sleep walker) and Hypnosis (trance induction) are testament to the infiltration of Greek and Roman Cosmology into modern language. Of course, Morpheus and Phantasos, the children of sleep, are the demi-gods of dreams. Every culture will have their insight and understanding about the role of sleep, and dreams, in life. Cosmology aside, it is a direct personal experience that quality of sleep impacts quality, and quantity, of wakeful activities. How to get the best rest of your life, the best possible sleep, every day, or night, is a worthy objective. Although various forms of meditation and relaxation methods, as well as distractions and diversions can be relaxing and refreshing, for the most part, nothing compares to deep dreamless sleep in terms of the best rest ever of your life.
The industrial and technological revolutions have brought upon the brain a radical increase in sensory stimulation. Whereas even just a few hundred years ago, the level of sensory stimulation after dark was minimal, as it had been for a million plus years, with the advent of electricity, the level of neural stimulation exploded as if overnight. The brain and central nervous system have become overwhelmed, over stimulated, and over active which has disrupted the normal rhythms of waking and sleeping, known as the Circadian Rhythm. As a result of this disruption, sleep patterns have altered and a large swath of the modern industrialized population is sleep deprived, and exhausted. Numerous medications attempt to alleviate the problem, but often fail to do so or do so with unintended side effects. When feeling ‘restless’ as the norm, it’s time to rest more.
Rest more does not necessarily mean more sleep; but, it does mean higher quality of sleep. Four hours of deep uninterrupted sleep is better than eight hours of sporadic tossing and turning sleep. But, better yet is optimal sleep which includes the 5 Stages of Sleep. Because sleep occupies about 1/3 of our 24-hour day, understanding how it functions, and how to maximize it’s influence, is a worthwhile investment of time. Even learning a bit about the history of sleep can be fruitful. And, of course, knowing what you can do to prepare for a good night’s sleep is valuable scientific information.
Restlessness and over stimulation can also be soothed through various meditation and relaxation practices which can also aid in better sleep. Outdoor exercise is considered one of the premier antidotes to poor sleep. Learning to regulate one’s own thinking, attitudes, perspectives can also improve the quality of sleep as such regulation can minimize worry, rumination and consternation. One of the more intriguing applications of modern technology to help experience deep profound rest are sleep inducing soundscapes. These soundscapes are engineered to lower brain wave patterns towards those seen in deep sleep. The mind body system, while awake and alert, relaxes into a state of rest commensurate with sleep. This is known as ‘restful alertness’ and somewhat kin to ‘animal idle’ wherein the animal, in the wild, is in repose, relaxed, resting, and yet very alert to their environment, not sleeping, and not ‘restless.’
Below is but one of many audio tracks available which are designed to lower brain wave patterns and help generate this state of restful alertness or animal idle. To experience the effect fully, give yourself an hour of uninterrupted quiet alone time. Get yourself very comfortable in a dimly lit room. Turn on this music. Close your eyes. Let the mind roam freely where it will, unbridled, unrestrained, uncontained. Relax into it. If sleep comes, fine; if the mind wanders, fine; if you become moody, fine; whatever happens is okay. No control. No agenda. No goals. It is a set time of free wandering for the mind, which can be refreshing and safe. It will tend towards settling down, getting calm and quiet, as the intensity of brain wave patterns naturally, organically, decrease. This is a way of assisting yourself in having the rest of your life so you can experience the best of your life.