Lookback: School of Rest: Self Destructing Book Club

How much do we really know about rest? How many times a week do we allow ourselves to be still and let natural processes happen in our body and mind, without any pressure and enforcement? Without any judgment, without the fear of not having enough time, without the rush. It seems like we are always chasing something. This race makes us forget about the essential thing. The need to slow down and recharge.

The versatility of our characters and our lifestyles doesn’t change the fact we all live in a society ruled by the same mechanisms. A society ruled by a capitalist, success-driven mindset. Through our lifetimes we are exposed to societal standards about what it means to be a successful person. That often involves competing, fighting for a place in the sun (due to the imposed idea of scarcity of desirable objects or society’s goals), and working hard to achieve more and more; without taking an actual time to step back, relax, and celebrate your achievements.

The concept of Self Destructing Book Club was to get together and to create a safe space for sharing favourite rest-related texts and the participants’ personal experiences related to rest. If you ever watched the movie called ‘Dead Poets Society’ and saw the secret gatherings the teacher and students had, where they read literature and got to the very core of its meaning and encouraged free thinking stemming from that reading – that’s how I would describe the event. Except instead of a cave we had the cozy WORM S/ash Gallery space, and the guru of the evening was Myriam Meret – artist, dancer and yogini. Her gentle approach, as well as the openness of all the participants, created a great atmosphere that resulted in a meaningful discussion. Here’s what travelling through depths of understanding rest led us to.

A great finding of the evening was Tricia Hersey’s interview and her Nap Ministry blog articles. Nap Ministry is “a community organization that examines the liberating power of naps.” Tricia is an activist, poet, and artist and she explains rest as an important tool for resistance against oppression. She also presents a black citizen’s perspective on how colonization distorted rest in the past and how capitalism is still doing it, up to this day, perceiving human bodies as “production machines” for the economy.

“When we’re rested, our brain is at its peak height to be able to receive information to create, to invent, to imagine. Invention, imagination, creativity, disruption, coming up with on the fly subversive ideas to make stuff happen, this radical way of thinking that we need to really support a whole new system is not going to come from an exhaustive state.” Nap Ministry is a good channel to examine rest through ideas, experiences, and performance art.

We continued by listening to an audio experience, a relaxing sound with layered vocal affirmations that one of the participants, Mohammed, showed us was his way to calm the mind. Emotional rest is what is very important and personal to him, and affirmations sometimes work for him and give the feeling of tranquillity and grounding. As we listened, you could feel the smoothing effect the right words have on people, how they can touch us. As the voice repeated some words: “secure”, “comfortable”, “easy”, “real”, consciously they were just words, but unconsciously when we accept them they can become a part of who we are. Our brain works in a way that it gets used to the patterns, sometimes these patterns can be destructive. And what it takes to break it and reset the brain is to tune into a new wavelength.

A beautiful finale for our gathering was June Jordan’s poem ‘The New Physicality of Long Distance Love’, read by the participant named Djuna. As all June Jordan’s poems, calming and uniting, It will speak for itself.

“There is no chance that we will fall apart
There is no chance
There are no parts.”

As the world was changed by the pandemic, many of our obligations and regular activities stopped, many of us found ourselves uncomfortable with owning our own time. Now is the time to start exploring rest, to take care of ourselves, and be more introspective. So we come out of the pandemic renewed and full of inspiration, holding our heads up high.