“I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought or thoughtfulness.”
That’s Rebecca Solnit’s explanation for why she likes walking. It brings your mind in sync with the world. Life isn’t just flying by. What you see, hear, and feel, is in line with how much you can actually perceive.
Walking is a form of active rest. It’s what athletes do when they’re injured, and what many creatives, like Rebecca Solnit, use to produce their best work. In his book Rest, Alex Pang explains why lying on the couch, motionless, is just one form of recovery:
“For a surprising number of creative people, strenuous, physically challenging, even life-threatening exercise is an essential part of their routine. Some walk miles every day or spend weekends working in their gardens. Some are always in training for the next marathon; others rock climb or scale mountains. Their idea of rest is more vigorous than our idea of exercise.
So why is this restful? Serious exercise helps keep their bodies operating at their peak, which in turn keeps their minds sharp and gives them the energy to do difficult work.”
Pang also says these activities allow them to connect with their own pasts, because they often choose childhood interests. It’s a way of unifying all aspects of their lives.
“Such choices are part of a bigger, conscious strategy of building a life in which work, play, labor, and leisure all have their place and are all linked together.”
Of course, active rest doesn’t have to be extreme.
I stayed at home today. I slept in. But I still wrote a to-do list of 12 things. I did my laundry, then I wrote something. I cleaned my apartment, then I recorded a video. I also watched 1.5 hrs of a TV show and called my mom.
In the end, I gave up two things on my list in favor of relaxing - but I still did ten. It wasn’t a list of chores. It was a mixed bag of items for an active rest day.
I slowed down, but I didn’t stop moving. That’s what recreation is about.
Rest isn’t accelerating on Friday night and staying at the bar till 3 AM, pounding one drink after another, only to croak on the couch all day on Saturday. Rest is slowing down without becoming static.
If we do it right, our lives will be more in sync with the world. Just like a walk at three miles an hour.
About Slow Down Sunday: Life is fast. If we don’t stop and turn around once in a while, we might miss it. So on Sunday, let’s stop and turn around.
Let’s slow down so we can experience all of life - not just parts of it.
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