Without “Rests,” Music Would just be Noise

Until recently I have always thought about music from the perspective of the notes, the magnificence of a complex score, the blending of voices and instruments in perfect harmony, and the rhythms that move me. I’ve never thought about the importance of “rests.” Without them, music would be bedlam and not beauty.

Today marks the completion of the first week of twelve in my experience with Walking in This World: The Practical Art of Creativity, by Julia Cameron.  I think the book is best summarized by the quote on the inside flap. “In this sequel to her international bestseller The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron presents the next step in her course of discovering and recovering the creative self.  Part Two is an amazing journey toward realizing our human potential.”

The book was a birthday gift from the beautiful artist who owns the home I rent.  I will always associate the vibrant colors of the walls that protect and surround me with the discovery of my ‘artist within’ and the recovery of ‘me.’

There are some basic tools needed for the journey: Morning Pages, The Artist’s Date, and Weekly Walks.  Each tool has a purpose.  Morning Pages are the quiet private place in which you release your worries, fears, hopes and dreams. Three pages of uncensored writing every morning to drain off the negativity, gain insights, and make room for imagination and wonderment.

The Artist’s Date is a once a week solo outing to explore and discover, its “assigned play.”  The assignment is to discover and explore things that are intriguing.  Anything goes; it can be a trip to a museum, a visit to that store with the crazy window display, a flea market or a renaissance fair.

The Weekly Walk is the time to take a break from the hectic pace of living life “on the run,” a time to slow down and “Walk on it.” It’s a commitment of twenty minutes a week to walk, think, and unwind.

In addition to promising to use the tools throughout the course of the book, you commit yourself to excellent self-care, adequate sleep, good food, and gentle companionship.  Naturally it is the author’s hope that these tools extend beyond the twelve weeks and become a part of life.

The first week is entitled Discovering a Sense of Origin, and is based on the premise that “You are the point of origin” and “The willingness to be ourselves gives us the origin in originality.”

From the moment I read the introduction I felt as if Julia had written this book specifically for me and without ever having met me, she somehow knew exactly who I am, what my struggles and fears are, and just how to talk to me.

She spoke of living life as we move, one step at a time, and the importance of savoring what we have been given.  I often spend my time worrying about everything from what my next flatware pattern will be, to what will I do in two years when my lease runs out, whether or not I’ll be able to ‘pull off’ the next assignment at work, and I wonder if people would still like me if they ‘really’ knew me.

Throughout the lesson, the concept of one step at a time was like the steady beat of a snare drum introducing the instruments and driving the orchestra through to the end of a magnificent message. The message delivered through words rather than music was one of self-acceptance and faith.

When we have faith in the Great Creator and believe in ourselves, what we need will come to us.  That’s not to say that we can hide behind closed doors and wish for the financial means to achieve our goals.  It’s saying that we need to commit to our dreams and take action to achieve them and when we do abundance will follow.

Surrounded by the golden Tuscany walls of my bedroom I read. As I read, I recalled the many times in my life that I was ready to throw in the towel, then/and out of nowhere and when I least expected it I received exactly what I needed and usually in an unexpected form. I don’t do well with the unknown; it makes me crazy and sometimes grumpy.  I want to control the outcome and ‘make’ things happen the way I think they should.  I’m slowly realizing that while I think worrying is somehow important, it doesn’t change the outcome, it only takes away from the joy of experiencing today.  Worrying about the future creates a steady and unpleasant noise in my head that prevents me from enjoying the present.

The final task was my favorite and also the most difficult as well as the most releasing.  The task was to “do nothing.” I read the title and immediately thought, “I have no idea how to ‘Do Nothing’.”  Thank goodness Julia realized this and she gave me detailed instructions.

The exercise was to queue up fifteen minutes worth of calming and expansive music, lie down and close your eyes and let your mind wander, giving your thoughts over to the phrase, “I am enough.” Her parting words to me were, “Stop striving to be more and appreciate what it is you already are.” I wept.

I think the exercise was about self-acceptance, but I also think it was about more than that.  She spoke of lessons we can learn from music, and how without “rests” between notes, listening to music would be unbearable. It struck me that life is like a symphony or maybe a rock concert, it’s composed of notes created by laughter and tears, hushed whispers and gregarious greetings, and the touch of a loved one.

We tend to rush from one ‘note’ to the next and let worries fill the spaces between them, and in doing so we feel overwhelmed and lose sight of the beauty of the music that is life.

10 thoughts on “Without “Rests,” Music Would just be Noise

  1. This sounds like an amazing book. I will have to check it out or maybe even start with the first volume. Do you have a recommendation on which? I loved your essay today on your thoughts and reactions so far. Sounds wonderful and difficult at the same time.

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed the essay. I plan to write about each week throughout the course of the book. I haven’t actually read the first, but based on the the conversation I had with my friend (the one who gave me the book) I would recommend this one. The intro includes the introduction to the tools that are introduced and core to The Artist’s Way. I’m sure it’s amazing as well, but my instincts say go with Walking in This World.

      It is an amazing book, and you said it well. It is both wonderful and difficult, but in a good way.


  2. There are so many books that describe the destructiveness of negative self-talk and worry. “Feel the Fear but Do it Anyway” calls it your internal “chatterbox” and you have to learn how to turn it off. Yes, easy to say, a tough chore to do! You make this new book and your living and experiencing it sound very intriguing with your honest writing style. I know that I and all your readers wish you a pleasant journey.

    1. Steve,

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply and kind wishes. “Feel the Fear but Do it Anyway” sounds like a book i need to add to my reading list. The image of an internal ‘chatterbox’ is perfect, I often refer to it as ‘chasing squirrels.’

      I look forward to seeing where this takes me.


  3. Thank you for the suggestion. I read The Artists Way once upon a time. It brought back a good memory for me, so thank you for that as well.

    On another note, (no pun intended) your writing is maturing. I mean that in a really GOOD way. It has depth and I get a sense of you through the words and the proverbial reading between the lines — just as we have the rests in music to allow the music to come through as you write.

    Bravo for a really nice, nice essay. Looking forward to reading the next one.


    1. Lynn,

      Thank you so much! Your comment means a great deal and I feel the change inside as well as what is coming out of my fingers onto ‘paper’ so to speak. I like the analogy you created in comparing reading between the lines to rests in music, very nice.


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