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Natural Awakenings Richmond

Publisher Letter, November/December 2019

I love the holiday season and all that comes with it—the hustle and bustle, the festivities, the smells of cinnamon and pine, the music and lights… it’s fun and joyous, and it can also be a lot to take in. The overwhelm usually forces me take some time to stop, pause and go inward. These are holy-days, after all—a time to slow down along with Mother Nature and reflect on all we have to be thankful for. To fully partake in all the season has to offer, I must create some space for innerwork and self-care. In doing so, I try to carve out time each day to meditate and exercise; I seek out bodywork practitioners to help reduce stress and tension (see our special bodywork section in this issue) and I do my best to eat well and get enough sleep. It can be hard to maintain balance as our schedules fill up with commitments, but rest is essential for our overall health and well-being. Our feature article shares ways to deal with insomnia, and Marlaina Donato encourages us to defy “our cultural habit of constantly being on the go” through “The Art of the Nap”:

Happy Reading,

The Art of the Nap

Unplugging From Life Without Apology

by Marlaina Donato

Children, four-legged family members, Thanksgiving overeaters and the occasional squirrel on a branch have mastered an art that eludes most of us, and they engage in it without a shred of guilt.

Defying our cultural habit of constantly being on the go and embracing the respite can be an active meditation, an invitation to cultivate uncommon stillness. Answering the siren’s call of a nap might very well be one of the most beneficial acts of self-care we can give ourselves. Both body and psyche crave chill-out times for good reasons. Using study subjects ranging from NASA pilots to emergency room staff, curling up for a 20- to 30-minute siesta has been clinically proven to lower blood pressure, boost immunity, improve motor skills and enhance job performance and creativity.

Power naps—the short-but-sweet kind—give us the opportunity to nourish the most neglected part of life, the inner life. Rest-fueled “me-time” can be a daily ritual punctuated with both practical and aesthetic inspiration. Choosing a spot drenched in inviting natural light or close-curtained tranquility and reserving a favored pillow, chair or luxurious coverlet can usher in blissful time-out. Adding the presence of aromatherapeutic essential oils like lavender, Roman chamomile or tangerine or a vase of simple fresh flowers can signal the ever-diligent sympathetic nervous system to cut back on overtime. Dropping down into unhurriedness like an anchor into port can prompt deeper and longer breaths and offer us the shameless chance to invest in quality daydreaming. Playing recorded sounds from nature—ocean waves, soft rain or gentle wind in the trees—can set the stage for a satisfying nap. Inviting the resident cat or pooch for a sleep-spell can also effect release of beneficial endorphins.

Scheduling a nap into the day like any other appointment not only ensures follow-through, but presents a succulent slice of something to look forward to. Putting the computer on sleep mode and turning off the phone signals the brain that it’s time to recharge. Social media interaction and phone chats can wait. The pursuit of well-being does not need explanation, apology or, most of all, guilt. Pleasant dreams.

Marlaina Donato is the author of several books. She is also a composer of healing and inspiring music. Connect with her at

Happy Reading, Happy Resting and Happy Holidays,