I woke up not too long ago realizing how much like my pre-show self I feel again – brimming with enthusiasm for new work and the energy to undertake it. I am incredibly honored to have been juried into the ACC/SF show. It was something I have been working towards for many years, and to have made it in was an affirmation that I am on the right track (however slow the train itself may run!). While I still have much to learn about producing a show of this scale, there is no question that it was a resounding success overall.
I took away a lot of practical information from the experience; however, the biggest post-show revelation related to the cyclical nature of creative work and life, and the absolute necessity of honoring the less expansive phases of these cycles. On point: If ever there was a need for a deliberate “completion” ritual, my return from San Francisco was the time to do it! Unfortunately, instead, I continued to work as if nothing had changed; however, I struggled for weeks against an unidentifiable and draining force which I later identified as my body/mind’s demand for genuine rest. Eventually, only “total surrender” made it possible for me to collect and organize my thoughts, analyze my experience, and prepare for a new cycle of work. What follows is a little musing on the topic of work cycles to which I may refer when I find myself once again working way past the “expiration date”( of a work day or a project cycle) without taking rest.
We all know about the cycles of life even if we would sometimes rather they not tug at us the way they do: day yields to night, summer to winter, youth to maturity, life to death. Yoga practitioners know that the breath cycle is the ultimate expression of expansion, contraction and renewal (life, death and rebirth): Inhaling, we fill the well; at the top of the inhalation, we crest and plateau; during exhalation, we intentionally release; and at the bottom of the exhalation, we rest before drawing in a new breath.
Even if we “know” this, it bears repeating that the creative cycle is much like this: a project begins with inspiration – the youthful, energetic and expansive period filled with information gathering and “visioning”; after which we embark on the work of making/manifesting (a process itself replete with expanding and contracting mini cycles). We are riding the crest of the wave and will soon begin the process of completion – a winding down and release of the work into the world. After the “expiration” of the project, there is space, a sort of void, within which to rest and receive new inspiration. And thus the well is filled again for the next creative cycle.
Alas, while this rest, this period of deep contraction, is as essential to creative work as the actual making is, it is also supremely undervalued in our society. Rather than honoring the importance of quiet contemplation and reflection inherent in all creative cycles, we more systematically reward continual, expansive and ever “higher” achievement loops. So is it any wonder we struggle with the contracted side of any cycle? We are programmed to keep working, keep something perpetually in motion, something ready for launch. At any hint of a deceleration, of a contracting of energy, we wind up pushing ourselves even harder, becoming emotionally and physically exhausted in the effort. It is no mere platitude that life is a turning, a constant rotation between motion and rest (and the spaces in between) – it is a universal imperative. We can neither artificially perpetuate the expansive phases any more than we can permanently dissolve, banish, or repress the contracted phases.
So dear self/friend, remember: Pay attention to your inner cues. If you are feeling “out of synch” you may be revving up when you need to be downshifting – you may just need 24 hours (or you may need 24 days)….but know that resisting the natural progression of a creative cycle is detrimental to the creative process and your health. The work becomes hollow and repetitive; the body/mind becomes frayed and tattered. When the time comes, just surrender and turn inward. Reclaim the right to rest and swim in the deep void – you will be rewarded!
Great post Kathy!! This is so true, whether we work a 8-5 job, or work when the spirit moves us! To much work, without breathing in the Life Force around us and letting it sink into our Souls, gets us no where.
Thanks for reading D. It is such a complex dance, especially when making art is the job. At the end of each day, I hope I can look back and see that a balance was struck between all of the important facets of a life – some days I am more successful than others!
Beautiful Kathy. Just reading made me conscious of my breaths, in…out… Our society stresses the always “on” and devalues the need for reflection and contemplation. Just look at how much vacation employers in the US give their employees! Hope to see you soon!