In an interview I recently read, a French furniture designer referred to life in close proximity to nature as being a necessary part of his work. ‘Once nourished by contemplation, then comes the creation’ he said.
It is a source of much amusement in our family that if I ask my husband what he wants to do at the weekend, his most common reply is ‘Think’. Aside from not being much of a spectator sport, it doesn’t feel especially inclusive or active. As a result it is often only ever bemoaned and then hastily ignored as we fill our days and evenings to the brim. And yet perhaps he is on to something.
Our attention is often focussed on the ‘doing’ aspect of not just our lives but our own well being. The activities, the social engagements, the workloads. We revel in measures of productivity, humble brag about our busyness and take anything less as signs that we might be lacking the necessary ambition or ability to succeed in the world. This can and often spills over into our approach to our own well being too. It is not at all uncommon to see people approaching what is meant to be good for them with the same intensity and freneticism as they do other aspects of their lives. We prioritise all the movement, the meditations, the nutrition, and the pills; everything that is tangible and capable of being ticked off and measured. But rarely, if ever, do we prioritise or even acknowledge the softer side of our lives; the ’not doing’, the pauses, the rest, the reflection. And yet one entirely supports the other. And is arguably even essential to it.
A good yoga practice is one that is interspersed with pauses, time to absorb the changes our movements and attention have provoked. And as it is on the mat, so it is in life.
We need inaction to support the action, the silence to counter the noise, the undoing to balance the doing, the contemplation to feed the creativity. And very often, it is our summers that remind us of this. In Europe the tradition to take a proper break over the summer is fiercely guarded. My cousin who works with a lot of French magazines told me that she once sent an email over the holy holiday grail that is the start of August and was met with an auto response that put it plainly. ‘I will be away from my desk from 16th July until the 16th August and I will not be checking emails’.
Most of us will not have not had the French luxury of a full month off and any breaks we do have are often paid for in a tsunami of emails and admin on our return. September’s call can be a loud one and can even provide what can feel like the relief of some structure. But it can also reignite- all too quickly- the freneticism that we needed the summer to rest from and steal- if we aren’t careful -its benefits. But the contrast need not be so stark.
Rather than lurch from one extreme to the other, perhaps the task is to find that liminal space, where things stay, for a time at least, a little more blurred. Summer so often reminds us of all that is good in life. We could guard its glory by insistently weaving a few of its luxuries into our more routined lives; breakfast outside in any late summer sunshine, a ten-minute doze before the school run or the gift of a deliberately quiet and spontaneous weekend when you know a given week will ask a lot of you. In this way, we might bring a little of August with us, as we launch wholeheartedly into September.
Words & imagery by Nicole Croft.
Nicole Croft is a yoga teacher and a writer whose work is dedicated to the art of living well. For both her writing and her teaching she draws on the natural world, Eastern mysticism and Western philosophy to explore how we might seek to live in better balance with the rhythms of nature and of ourselves. She teaches popular weekly classes, both local to where she lives and on Zoom and runs several sell-out retreats a year in beautiful locations.