When I close my eyes and think of rest, I see myself lying down somewhere soft, like on a bed or a couch, preferably with the texture of a marshmallow, something to sink into. There are cushions around me, propping me so I can read, including resting my elbows on cushions so that I can plow through some weighty tome. Sunlight filters in, there’s a soft breeze, some floaty curtains gently billow about and a candle flickers. A cup of tea is not too far out of reach.
Such is the dream.
This week, I’ve had to rest in a very different way: struck by some awful, non-Covid lurgy, I’ve had bedrest forced upon me and, damn it, the necessity to live with my own personality. In some stroke of universal cruelty, I embarked on a period of ‘reading deprivation’ this week, just before I fell ill. This is with thanks to Julia Cameron and her book, The Artist’s Way. In Week 4 of the 12-week program, she prescribes a week without reading – and without the other brain fillers that we’re all drawn to, like podcasts and crappy TV.
Such was my luck that I found myself forced to rest and not read at the same time.
It is not my intention to put anyone off embarking on The Artist’s Way because Ms Cameron is a genius and I place my trust in her method. It’s just that it’s really hard to not read, or watch Netflix, when you’re sick.
It turns out that, even when I rest, I need to be doing something. I’m always achieving, even when I’m sitting still. I read in bed, on the couch, in the bath, at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and in any place that demands a few minutes of solitude or waiting time. My brain is constantly on the go.
I love that Julia Cameron is forcing me to look at myself and my habitual behaviours. And I wonder how this reading deprivation will play out for me once the week is up – will I binge-read to catch up? Or will I actually relax and learn to just sit, quietly, with myself?
Some of you may know that I’m a big fan of meditation. I love it in fact. But I see now that, for me, this isn’t quiet time either. Instead, my meditation time is usually a guided flight of fancy, where I get to engage my imagination, fly around the cosmos and grasp at insights and trippy experiences, just like I grasp at books on a shelf.
I now see that – despite appearances – none of this is the pathway to peace.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog for a year now. What started out as a journey toward being, not doing, is a year old. It turns out that, while I’m not working as much as I used to, I’m still trying just as hard as ever to achieve. I’m still doing instead of being. I’m just doing it at a different pace.
Does this mean I failed? I don’t think so. It’s a journey after all. And it’s not over. There’s still a long, long way to go.
I want to thank all of you who’ve been reading with me as I’ve rambled along through so many ups and downs this year. Knowing that you’re there motivates me so. And I hope that, through it all, you’ve found some little gems of connection, some sense that we’re all in this together, making life up as we go.
I’m going to take a break from blogging over the holidays. This will be time for me to really, truly have a rest, especially now that I understand I need to rest without an agenda. I hope that you get a rest too, whatever form it takes for you, and that it restores both your body and your soul. Enjoy the festive season, wherever you are in the world, and I look forward to connecting again in 2023.