Rest is an important part of recovery from most chronic illness. The body needs sleep and good quality rest to heal and build up reserves of energy which have been eroded through dealing with pain and disease. When you are well, resting is often a very pleasurable activity and a respite from periods of work and over activity. Enforced resting can, however, not be so welcome. Although necessary, resting is when a chronically ill person comes face-to-face with how they feel and resting in pain is rarely an enjoyable pastime.
I have found personally, that the transition between activity and rest is a hard one to manage. In Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), adrenal weakness can lead to a feeling of being ’tired but wired’ in that the body is exhausted but high levels of cortical in the body make resting difficult, just as when a healthy person has overindulged in caffeine. I don’t know how rest feels with other chronic illnesses but imagine that those which involve pain to any significant degree make resting something to be less than desirable.
The Buddhist teacher Reginald Ray has developed a ten point practice for a lying down posture which I find helpful to use in this context. It settles me into resting in a way which rarely happens when I just try to go straight from activity to lying down. Using this practice makes adopting a supine posture more mindful and this, for me, makes my body adapt to resting more quickly.
The basic method is as follows. First, lie down. Then become aware of the following ten points in which your body comes into contact with the surface beneath you (usually a bed!):
*your two feet (the heels mostly)
*small of the back
*the back of your head
Reggie Ray himself has produced a guided meditation for the ten points practice. He also suggests following this up with a period of breathing into the earth to further relax the body into the surface. Both of these can be downloaded freely as mp3 files.
All of these techniques are things I have found very helpful to relax my own body and put it into a healing state. Other techniques for relaxation work well too, but this simple approach of starting with the ten points of contact of the body with the surface I find to be excellent, especially when my mind is in no state to remember anything more complicated.
Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Touching Enlightenment by Reginald Ray