With my wife out with her regular group of friends, I had the night to myself. It had been easily three years since I really played my guitar with any intentionality, so I dug out a James Taylor CD and played along to one of his songs, “Copperline.” (I always sound much better when accompanied by Mr. Taylor, rather than when I play solo…)
After playing it a few times, I was ready to succumb to the habit of rummaging through the stack of old CDs to sate my aptitude for something new. Instead, I hit “auto replay” on Copperline — and stayed there for the next two hours.
Each time, I found myself really leaning in, refining, experimenting — one time making sure each string rang out clearly, or trying some slides, or different chord shapes, harmonics. All things I never would have even thought of doing if I had not committed myself to that single experience for that period of time. Fending off distraction and investing deeply into that one exercise, opened up a world to me.
Most of us would say we had a nice “break” over the holidays. It is as if to say that quiet, rest, simple activities serve the purpose of simply bolstering us for the activity ahead. We place the real value, that sense of productivity and purpose, on activity, not rest.
I would suggest that such a view misses — even undervalues — the purpose of quiet, focused, simple activity.
Space, silence, quiet is not the absence of activity. It has substance all in of itself. Residing in that place, often for longer than we might indulge ourselves, is part of living, not a refuge from it. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has said that his best ideas for guitar licks often came when he was asleep, or nearly so. Quiet minds create space for something new.
“Quiet time” is not just restorative. We don’t just go there because we are tired. It is a different space, a different place, a deeply personal venue where the other side of us can find voice. Within it resides, creativity, exploration, even mastery.