The Art of Rest

I recently had the opportunity to go away on a retreat for five whole days. It was a week away with some fellow writer friends. The plan was to get away to a cottage and write. No distractions. No other people to worry about and care for. Just us and our writing projects. I had never done anything like it. I was excited for it. The timing was perfect.

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It’s been a couple of busy months. I had had a couple of speaking engagements which was new for me. It was fun but tiring. My creativity was tapped out. My brain tired. I needed a rest with no guilt attached to it. Ever feel that way? We try to rest but our houses need cleaning, laundry is waiting to be folded or dinner time is fast approaching. No rest for the weary or maybe it’s the wicked. Perhaps both.

Whatever, rest is put off or if we do take a few minutes, any enjoyment is strangled by the nagging guilt of something else that needs our attention. So a getaway to a cottage with a couple other writer friends sounded like heaven.

It was. If you are creative, you will appreciate how important it is to give your mind the space to just let it wander and think, imagine. Staring off into space can get you some weird stares sometimes. Not at our little retreat. It was perfectly normal.
It was also a time to engage other creative outlets.

I read. Drank coffee – yes it’s an art form too, especially brewing that perfect cup!  Sketched.

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Went for walks and read cooking mags and PEOPLE. We watched movies at night and I read some more. I sat by the water even though it was a tad chilly. Walked along the beach. Watched the sunset. Took a plethora of photos.

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The one thing I did not do, which I previously would have, was force myself to write the first couple of days. Or feel guilty about it. Was I not at a writing retreat? Why didn’t I write? I’m learning you can’t force it. At least for me the process requires a time to sit. I call it “baking”, it needs to bake in my brain. And sometimes I need to talk it out with someone, which my fellow writers helped me with mid-week. They asked a few key questions and I was able to get back at it. Focused.

In the recent past I would have fretted over the fact I wasn’t writing and felt guilty and basically killed any creativity that was left or was on the verge of returning. Not this time. I let it go. I took the opportunity provided to not just write but rest and give my mind and spirit what it needed. To fill the creative bank with fun things I love. It was highly restorative. And surprise! I did meet my writing goals for the week. This idea that if we work ourselves to the bone we will be more productive is a lie. I took time and rest to rejuvenate and unwind and I still produced and got done what I wanted.

Perhaps the key really is balance. Work, play and rest. Monday-Saturday and then Sabbath. Work all the time certainly does make us dull. It dulls our senses and we forget to engage in life. We miss the signs of love, beauty, and kindness all around us, whether it’s from God or our families and friends. If we give ourselves time to rest, to play, suddenly the world becomes a much livelier place. A more beautiful place. More peaceful.

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We all know this but still, we get sucked into the “we need to work or the world will fall apart” vortex. In reality, if we stop working every once in a while, it actually helps to pull our world together not apart.  Because work, play and rest work together to make us stronger.  When one dominates, it makes us weaker.  What area do you need to work on to have more balance and enjoy life?

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