What is “REST” really all about and a new survey that will help define it

“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it.”  ― Ray Bradbury

Driving home after an evening spent at a group mindfulness meeting, I was listening to the radio and picked up a programme all about “Rest”. Rest you ask? It would appear that there is no clear definition of what rest is and how people define it is unique to each person.

What do I think rest is?  Being able to relax and not worry about other things? Is that it?

I think rest can be anything from stopping entirely to doing something, to do something completely different from you’ve been doing already. Rest is not just a physical thing, it is not just an absence of activity. For me it is taking time out for myself, giving myself space to re-centre and renew myself. Mindfulness helps, as does going for a walk or listening to a podcast or even reading a book. You might think these are activities, but to me they are restful.

The interview was with Dr Felicity Callard from Durham University. She is the Director of Hubbub, a group of people who come from disciplines as diverse as neuroscience, poetry and art. They are in residence at the Wellcome Collection in London, studying the topic of rest and what happens when we rest from relaxation to mind-wandering.  And it turns out that not quite being able to define it is nothing new. They discussed right the way back to medieval monks and the challenge they faced in terms of trying to stop their minds wandering off onto things they shouldn’t be thinking about.

The concept of rest in society sometimes carries connotations of idleness and a person who is idle is viewed very pejoratively by the rest of society. It is rare that being idle is seen as a good thing in western culture, certainly with the protestant work ethic. In fact, being seen as super busy is seen as macho and a positive.

They then posed the following question: “What does rest mean to you?”

They then followed up with the fact that as part of the Wellcome programme, they have set up an online survey that you can take for free.

What is the Rest Test about and what does it involve?

The Rest Test is designed to explore people’s attitudes and opinions towards rest and rest-related experiences. It is made up of two parts. When you have completed the test you’ll be given an instant summary of the results from the first part of survey, which will allow you to see how your responses compare to those who have taken the questionnaire so far.

To take the test, like I did, go to the following:


To listen the Radio 4 programme – All in the Mind – The Rest Test

I leave you with the following quote from my favorite philosopher, writer and speaker :

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”

Alan W. Watts, The Culture of Counter-Culture: Edited Transcripts

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