My art teacher used to tell me to look away from my painting every 5 minutes or so. She would have me gaze at the furthest distance my eyes could find from my spot, and then take a deep breath, before returning to the image I was creating. This is a practice in refreshment: renewing our perspective so we can see more clearly what we are working with. This is how sleep functions for the human mind and body. It is in that state that we do most of our processing: the body regenerates and detoxifies on a cellular level as all the day’s experiences are processed mentally.
“When we emerge from sleep, we do so with the dew of that timelessness kissing our experience, we are new.”
When we awake from a good night’s sleep, we are refreshed, and able to live the day with more wisdom and ability than on the previous day. Life demands we deprive ourselves of free motion, and in return, that rest will ensure the freest possible motion the following day. When we emerge from sleep, we do so with the dew of that timelessness kissing our experience, we are new. It acts as a safe zone of pure harmony: a deep well of wellbeing.
The same happens when we experience moments of great artistic presence that arrest our attention; moments that by ‘taking us away,” shift our focus away from our regular modes of being, and clear our thoughts to make way for fresh inspiration. What sleep does for the body and mind, art does for the soul.
I’m sitting in the second row, on the far left, of a sold out show at a jazz club in New York City- so far left that all I can see are occasional gleams of instruments reflecting light through this enormous drum set that is filling the entire left side of the stage-. So, I surrender to my experience, and relax into the music and close my eyes… The artist we are all here for is in full roar, and the room is so attentive that it almost seems we are breathing in tandem with each consecutive musical phrase.
As I open my eyes, a stunning sight strikes me: a full house in complete suspension. Not a single movement detectable. A snapshot of an audience in real time. So I pull out my sketchbook and start scrawling down the faces I see, stacked on top of each other in enthralled stillness. It occurs to me that I’ve never had the pleasure of sketching such impeccably still facial models before. As if by magic, these people are completely transfixed by the performer. A large group of fully-grown free willed adults who had, until recently, been in free motion, have come to a total stand still. They are arrested. This artist has stopped them in their tracks and they have surrendered themselves as willing vessels for the artist to pour their communication into. I think to myself, “they don’t know how still they’re being, they don’t know how completely locked in they are.” The music acts as a stunning spell, and they are completely drinking it. I think to myself, “They are gonna be different when this spell is broken.”
When we witness a performance that captivates us, we are just that: captivated. Willingly. We say, “Sure, come on, arrest us! Save us from our ways! Allow us a respite from life where we can finally STOP- so we can be moved by beauty on the inside, reminded of what’s important, and re-harmonized with life, so that we regain motion facing the right direction- towards our hearts.” Beauty arrests us, and we are grateful.
The gift of sleep affords us a similar opportunity everyday, to take a break from our ways of seeing, and recalibrate so we can refine our movement to more clearly reflect how we choose to live. In this world, free motion is a gift, and choice is a luxury. Our movement through life is the dance that gives us the richness that nurtures our growth, and rest is an essential part of the equation.