The year ahead is alight with promise and possibility.
I spent a lot of time with family during Christmas break, eating more, exercising less and for the last week going on a vacation from reading. Surely, not your typical winter vacation done south of the border snowbird-style. What would possess me to do something like this? What could the merits possibly be of such madness?
In the mid-90s, I worked in Switzerland as an advisor to high level financial risk managers. I was living the good life, making great money, traveling to different countries on weekends, and skiing regularly in the Alps. The work was interesting and so were my colleagues and clients. It was a rare environment - the kind of place where we all had 3 course lunches together prepared by our in-house Italian chef, where a California software engineer brought his Alaskan malamute to the office everyday and where the hiring process included a handwriting analysis done by a company coach. Rare, unusual. Sometimes rather unreal, especially when the TV cameras rolled in, writers from the premium high tech and business news publications visited or Benoit Mandelbrot, the genius behind fractal theory strolled in to meet with our company founder.
Around this time, I discovered Julia Cameron's book, "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Creativity", a 12 week course in discovering and recovering my creative self. I recall that this book was a catalyst for me. Amidst reading it, I ended up doing a workshop in decorative finishing and gilding at a resplendent 400 year old home in Ireland followed by traveling around the country on a solo journey following where my heart would lead me. When I got back to the office, the company founder (I won't call him my boss as we didn't have those) sensed that I was changed and was resigning. He was right. That's exactly what I did. Followed by a sailing trip to Greece and a move back to Canada. I did end up working with him again a couple years later after having my daughter, but that's another story.
Fast forward a couple decades to a month ago when a series of synchronicities led me back to my copy of The Artist's Way sitting on the same bookshelf I had taken across the ocean, across the country and back. I had returned off and on over the years to the morning pages, 3 pages of longhand stream of consciousness pages of writing, done first thing every morning. However, I had abandoned after rereading some of what I wrote, looking for pearls and instead finding a whole lot of bitching and moaning. I had totally forgotten that the morning pages are a place for us to show up with whatever is going on in the moment, to hear ourselves and to provide a space for such outbursts!
Thus, I have faithfully been doing the morning pages again. Every week of The Artist's Way marks a new phase of creative self-discovery and suggests different exercises and processes along the way. Week 4 is designed to create productive introspection and integration of new self-awareness. Reading deprivation is the key tool employed.
Being true to the "no reading" ethos, I kept my time online to a minimum as posting on Facebook or writing email would inevitably provoke responses to read. In the same vein, I told my Mom with whom I usually exchange text messages with several times a day to call if she wanted to communicate. I wasn't obsessive about it, but I didn't go online to look up and collect information. I also kept texting to a bare minimum to allay any concerns that something had happened to me.
The reading abstinence felt uncomfortable as it necessitated a drastic change to the rhythm of my daily activities. I resisted and binge-watched Netflix at night when it seemed the only way to redirect my busy mind into relaxation mode. Instead of pouring over allrecipes, I relied on my own creative culinary instincts for inspiration. I collected images from magazines that appealed to me and made a sort of collage/vision board. I spent quality time with my family. I led my daughter through a kick-ass session which created a major shift in her. I played board games. I learned to knit! And, I wondered, why in the heck I hadn't done that before.
I took stock of other things I've wanted to do for years and haven't done. Things waiting for "some day". Could starting them be as simple as making a conscious decision not to read? Seriously??!
After a week of not reading, I was quietly more content. Nothing in my environment had altered really. It was just me choosing how to spend my time. Trusting myself. According to my partner, I was more "present" which felt like an accurate description. For when the mind isn't looking for all sorts of information to fill it and make sense out of, the present moment becomes more real and important.
I never realized how reading can be such an effective method of avoidance and blocking out one's inner knowing and how many different situations in life create a need to read response. After being back into reading at will mode for a day, I can honestly say that I started to feel disconnected from myself again. That doesn't mean I won't read. However, I will be more conscious in my choices to read or not, especially when I'm feeling stuck and looking for answers. Maybe then, I will pick up the funky new yarn I bought and start knitting.
I believe we can rise to our personal and societal challenges by embracing the spirit of adventure and the enduring wisdom of nature.