Sometimes you know that you need to withdraw from the world to replenish your energy and re-charge your inspiration. Sometimes too much work, too much creativity, too much stimulation stops buoying you up and becomes obsessive, repetitive. I know it’s too much when the period before sleep becomes clogged. The air and the darkness feel too thick and I wake endlessly with the same looping dream image in my head every time. But still, although you might know it, sometimes you need a little push to slow you down.
For weeks, I’ve been over-stimulated. Preparing for the opening of a major new building at work, weekly blog posts, revising my novel, painting, and so many ideas jostling for attention. I didn’t notice the small signs telling me to slow down because I was caught up in the buzz of activity – at turns feeling both overwhelmed and intoxicated by the pressure of it. And so the day before the Easter weekend came, and there was no more I could do at work to prepare for the opening of the building the following week. I now had four days that I could fill with all the activities I had no time for when I was working. But barely an hour after I got home, full of plans, the flu landed and gave me no choice but to step back from the world for a while.
During my enforced retreat, I’ve been reflecting on the symbol of the Hermit, from the Tarot. A lone robed figure, with a long white beard, he’s an archetypal symbol of the wise man. He carries a staff and a lantern, lit with a six pointed star. He holds the lantern up, as if to light our way, and the expression on his face is calm and content. Generally, The Hermit represents a period of withdrawal from the world, often during a time of transition. The lantern can be said to represent guidance, which can come from an outside teacher, but often represents the inner guidance you receive when you stop your world and listen to your self. To me, the Hermit is a friend and his lantern lights the path I must follow to reach my own spark of insight. I find it a calming, comforting symbol, like a deep, satisfying sigh of relief. Hecate too, often has a lantern to guide us, and although the Tarot most often depicts the Hermit as a man, the Hermit can be a wise person of either sex. The lantern really represents what we already know, if we’d only take the time to listen to ourselves. It’s the wisdom within – not a catch all wisdom for the world, but the wisdom that is right for us and our lives.
It could be said that the writer / artist has a little more of the Hermit in them than most. The creative life is usually a solitary one. Unless working in collaboration, only the individual can do the work necessary to create their work of art, using their own inner reality to create what goes on the paper / canvas. But in this modern world, with the Internet, social media and 24/7 information overload, even if you don’t have an outside job, there’s still a need to get in touch with your inner Hermit now and again. It’s still necessary to disconnect from the outside world and focus just on that glow coming from the lantern that is your creative spark. You may prefer to work with a real Hermit figure that you can personify and ask for guidance, to keep you company on your journey, or you may choose only to focus on the flame itself and the glow of what’s inside it. Either way, it will tell you what you need, and what you need may seem to have nothing to do with your next great creation at all.
My withdrawal from the world was temporary and short, but when not in the throws of the illness, I had time to appreciate the simple pleasures of the weekend, rather than rushing to fill it with yet more projects and activities. Short walks in the first real spring sunshine with the dog, a home-cooked meal, good coffee and sleep. And in the end I did create, working leisurely on a single painting, just for the pure enjoyment of it. I didn’t learn any major life lessons beyond the ones I already know but sometimes forget: that sometimes you need to just slow down and live a simple life and your creativity will be all the stronger for it.