Sometimes, as creatives, we consider sleep an imposition. I learned to view sleep as a deeply restorative time for my body and welcome a rich dream life as an exciting alternative to waking and working. Studies are beginning to persuade us sleep deprivation leads to everything from weight gain to chronic illness. We are coming to understand driving ourselves with stimulants to hyper generation of effort is counterproductive to what we as artists strive to achieve. Taking enough time in our lives to darken the room, settle back and enter sleep is imperative for our health and quality of life. We’re becoming more willing to acknowledge we need sleep.
There’s a difference between sleep and rest and we are not as able to embrace rest in our culture.
Rest is not necessarily a shut your eyes, power down experience. In music, for example, the rest - the distance between the played notes - is as significant, vibrant and necessary as the melody itself to creating the experience we have. One of Webster’s definitions of rest is relief from anything distressing, annoying or tiring and pressure, stress or weight is lifted from us. In the pursuit of our endeavors, a rest becomes as important to us as it is to a symphony performance. The place in our life of doing no thing, of waiting, of being receptive to the Spirit of Becoming is what will move in us to make something out of the richness of no thing that existed before. Everything creates in our soul before it ever becomes art, music, dance or acrhitecture. The manifestation of the arts flow out of the invisible before they become form in our known world. We need to take the time to renew ourselves through rest. To allow our genius a time of arranging, shaping and designing in us before it can birth.
In our Puritan driven ethic we have confused busy-ness with achievement. We are sold on the idea we have to look continually occupied to be socially acceptable or suffer the (often self-imposed) guilty consequences. The bottom line is we convert time into our ally and believe the clock that pushed relentlessly before is now our friend. We woo the instants as a lover and realize to keep the relationship we must sacrifice for it. The offering is simple. We turn inward and connect with the sacredness of ourselves and our abilities. In the paradox - the doing of no thing - the rest - we can create and become everything we imagine to become.
Resting is imperative for people who want to be creative. These are the moments strung together when we do no-thing, then take a break and do more of no-thing to gestate ideas to emerge when we return in creative high gear. We stop and listen to our own breath; we are quiet enough to hear the leaves falling down through the branches in the fall, and sit in the sun to let ourselves be warmed without thought of what we must do to receive the gift. That space cultivates inspiration. The miraculous alchemy is by becoming inactive we manufacture an increase of energy to extend ourselves far past the period of usual physical accomplishment and time itself seems to extend and expand to accommodate our desire to bring forth.
Years ago, when I asked my youngest step-son what he was doing, he would say nothing. “You’re not sleeping?” (It looked to me like he might be sleeping.) “No, I’m doing nothing.” “You’re not watching t.v.?” “No, I’m doing nothing.” On we would dance through the list of options and he would come back to the core of his premise of doing no thing. I think, looking back, he was wiser at eleven than I ever will be about resting and doing no thing. And believe me, he had the energy to prove it.