• Sara Ream

The Meaning of Downtime

What does it mean to have downtime? To recharge? To give yourself a rest? I’ve been asking myself this question for a long time now. At first I thought it meant binge watching Netflix after a long day. Then I thought it was wiping my calendar for days in row just to be sure I had the amount of quiet time I needed. Then I moved along to meditation as a way to find the mental space I was so intently craving.

What I found was that my Netflix gorge left me researching the cast online and wondering what it would take to become a tv producer, because wouldn’t that be an interesting job? When I wiped my calendar, I’d arrive at my unscheduled free time and realize I couldn’t allow myself the pleasure of having nothing to do. So I’d fill it with hiking, calling a friend, exercising, working on my business, researching retreats, hunting for a deal to travel to Iceland to see the Northern Lights, or fashioning leashes to our two indoor cats and taking them outside for a twisted and comical adventure. When I’d sit for meditation, my mind would finally quiet enough to be present for the cushion and the altar, but as soon as the bell rang, I’d pop up and run to the next thing on my long list of downtime activities.

I was barely enjoying the space I was allowing myself because I was constantly questioning if it was valid or not. Was I truly relaxing or just running from the thought of blank space? Was I stuck on the idea that I needed absolute nothingness in my mind in order to have it qualify as freedom from thought and action?

After working myself into a frenzy of absolutes about what downtime was, I found myself unwinding from them. I went back to my original intent for creating more space in my life. It was to feel more, ponder more, be in nature more, delve into meditation, expand my friendships, move my body, climb into the pages of a book, create a business that can change the world, and bring more balance to the busy pace that I’d grown accustomed to. 

Relaxation or downtime or calm isn’t one thing, rather, it's all the things. We are expansive beings and we need every single experience we’re creating for ourselves. I had to climb over my own mental mountain to realize that there is no wrong way to bring freedom and creativity to my life. I had to realize that the peace and mental space I was searching for is always surrounding me. The crux is that it’s my choice to allow it in and make a spot for it, whether I’m sitting still, hiking towards a peak, or coaxing a leashed cat into the yard.