Rest and Creativity
Rest is hard for me. I think rest is hard for a lot of us, really. It is cliche at this point to note the pace of modern life, the impossible pressures many of us face, to keep going, to be doing more. But it has become so common a refrain for a reason. We are only valued when we are producing. We are only given space to breathe fully when we have “earned” it, gasping and exhausted at the end of yet another mad dash for a finish line that seems to always be receding off into the distance. And because we only know how to rest when we are exhausted or debilitated, we begin to associate even the desire to rest with some kind of disorder, a sense that if we have a need or simple want to rest, to breathe, to sleep, to relax with those we love, then we must be bordering on sick, broken, or emotionally unwell.
There are deeper causes at work here, in terms of our social values, our economic structures, and our sense of presence and belonging in our daily lives. But I cannot change those in just this moment, not through blog post, nor even through an acupuncture treatment or herbal medicines. To heal our individual wounds sometimes we will have to look beyond to the situations that produce them for each of us, and I believe that doing so can help us find freedom for ourselves and others, but today, I am thinking about what acupuncture and herbal medicine can do. The most important thing when applying effort to help anyone or any situation is to know the scope of our ability, with the tools we have available.
Creativity, in some schools of Chinese medical thought, is based in the capacity of the Heart to be open to receive inspiration, and to be strong enough to transform the inspiration into something manifest in reality. It is the continuum of Heart Yin on through to Heart Yang. Heart Yin is the receptive capacity, the ability to be open, to see the world with eyes that allow for its dynamism to show clearly through, for the unexpected and the brilliant or the sorrowful and poignant and every other really alive moment we experience to be seen clearly, recognized, and in some ways, welcomed, whatever it might bring. This is the moment of inspiration. Heart Yang then, born of that inspiration deep within the receptiveness of Yin, arises and makes manifest the dynamic unfolding of inspiration. We breathe in and out, and life lives through us, in many ways, life becoming life becoming life.
Rest and Creativity
It is just this aspect of Heart Yin though that brings us back to a discussion of rest. Yin is the quiet, the still, the calm space in which we can breathe, in which we can relax, in which we can see ourselves as something other than machines made to produce. We have a chance to remember ourselves, to remember what it feels like to take a barefoot step on grass and soil, what it is like to lie in the sun, or listen to the rain, in these Yin moments. We imagine that creativity is a struggle to invent something from nothing, that we must strain and strive and exhaust ourselves. Sometimes that can work, but only because, I believe, we finally let go, get out of our own way, and see clearly in such moments. It is possible to cultivate clarity without such struggle. It is possible to learn to be open to inspiration by allowing ourselves to rest, to simply be where and as we are, and see what is in front of us, clearly.
It is our thought that we are separate, I believe, that drives us to feel that we must struggle so hard to generate something creatively. That there is some “out there” that we must strive against or with, to grapple and wrestle and wrangle until it submits to our creative will. That was never true. It was no more “out there” than we are “in here” in the end, and inspiration to a creative act is as natural as breathing, ours like a birthright, as easy as opening the eye or shrugging our shoulders or talking a walk. Our misperception of separation is exacerbated by our social and economic systems that value productivity over human connection, that value commodities and consumption over insight, companionship, and joy.
And so to stir our creative selves, our first step must be to allow space for stillness, for clarity, and for rest. Whatever the efforts to make a thing manifest, whatever the force of Heart Yang that must come to turn inspiration to reality, it will never be divorced from, and always grounded in and returning to, the peace and power that underlies that more expressive movement.