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Taking rest intentionally

Liane Al Ghusain (Nuqat)
Liane Al Ghusain (Nuqat)

Be willing to ‘not know’, to be empty so that you may be filled with expanded consciousness.

— Mayan Wisdom

Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

— Bertrand Russell

We are a culture that is familiar with idleness. The heat of our summers finds us prone on couches, beds, beaches and floors – cushy with colorful diwaniya seating, of course. We often judge ourselves for our inactivity, saying “I’m too lazy” when it comes to doing what is good for us.

And it gets worse in Ramadan. We all of a sudden go from needing 6-8 hours of sleep a night to sleeping so much that we need wakefulness more than we need sleep. From taking a nap before iftar, to becoming so food comatose after iftar that you don’t really count as conscious. From nodding off before suhoor only to bludgeon yourself in the face with a burger at sunrise so that you can sleep in before work, at work, and heck, in traffic on the way to work, without hunger pangs.

What if laziness had a purpose? What if we called it ‘rest’ instead of ‘laziness’ and in doing so, gave it a time limit? It could be a lot more productive to gift ourselves with rest, knowing that when it’s over we will spring back into action — like when that third snooze alarm goes off and it’s really time to get up and get ready for work.

Whilst sleeping too much can cause diabetes, obesity and depression, sleeping too little is linked to heart problems, memory loss and aging. The key is to strike a balance. The question to ask oneself in Ramadan is, “how can I turn my laziness into intentional rest?” i.e. “how can I make my fatigue work for me?”

Rest is Part of the Creative Process

The value of our rest is proven — sleep is just as important as wakefulness. It’s the time that our bodies grow and metabolize, and our mind digests our unconscious thoughts in the form of dreams. More than that, rest makes us creative.

Yes, that’s right! Sleep and relaxation are part of the creative process. At Nuqat this year we’ve been looking at how inspiration is sparked, and in doing our research we have discovered some important facts about how eureka! moments are fostered.

In the ‘Creative Thinking’ chapter of the book How Designers Think, author Bryan Lawson outlines different theorists and scientists formulations of how people solve problems and come to great ideas. He outlines the five phases of creativity which are “first insight’, ‘preparation’, ‘incubation’, ‘illumination’, and ‘verification.’”

We are most interested, for the purposes of Ramadan, in this period of rest, or ‘incubation.’ Many great artists find that they have their greatest ideas when they are sleeping or resting:

“Mozart wrote in a letter: ‘When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer – say travelling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep; it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly.’ The poet, Stephen Spender, talks of a ‘stream of words passing through my mind’ when half asleep. Famously Samuel Taylor Coleridge reported having the vision which led to the extraordinary images of Xanadu in Kubla Khan, after having taken opium. So it goes on.”

Is this why we think artists are lazy, when really they have integrated rest into their lives more seamlessly than the rest of us?

Keys to Moving Forward in Ramadan

So how can we structure our rest in Ramadan? First of all, goal-setting and making a limit for your rest time is a major key.

Decide for yourself — are you going to give yourself the entirety of Ramadan as a break? If so, you should work very hard on outlining the problems you would like to solve before your rest begins. That way, even if it seems like you are doing nothing, your brain is unconsciously working during Ramadan on how to solve your most pressing problems at work and at home once the month is over.

Second of all, multi-tasking or having multiple projects can actually help you overcome laziness or lack of inspiration. If you are working during Ramadan, you’ll probably feel scattered and unfocused. Though this seems counterintuitive, it actually helps to give yourself more to do. When you feel stuck on one question or problem, often it helps to focus on another. This doesn’t mean you abandon your projects and move on – it means that many creatives “need several things to work on in order not to waste time while one ‘incubates’.”

Brigid Schulte, in her book Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love and Play When No-one Has the Time writes, “Time is murky. Porous. It has no sharp edges. What often matters more than the activity we’re doing at a moment in time…is how we feel about it. Our perception of time is, indeed, our reality.” So when time is dragging in Ramadan, don’t try and swim against the current. Give in, lay on your back and float away as you give yourself some intentional rest, trusting that it will feed the creativity in the bigger picture of your life.

By Liane Al Ghusain (Nuqat)

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