What I Learn From Reading
It’s no secret I love to read.
My monthly newsletter always includes a book recommendation, I share my “what I read list” on Instagram every month, and many of the “small joys” photos I share include a book (with a cat or coffee always close by). I could spend hours in bookstores just browsing and thinking about what to read next.
The title of this blog might seem transparent - there’s clearly lots to be learned from reading. In fact, I had to learn so much via textbook in school that for the years I was enrolled in higher education I hardly ever read for fun.
As I reflect on another year of reading though, I’m aware that my hobby of reading has become about so much more than collecting “book smarts.”
These are the things I learn from reading:
Make Room for Rest
In this day and age, rest often means mindlessly scrolling or bingeing Netflix. Don’t get me wrong, both of those activities really can help us decompress…but there’s a limit. Sitting down to read means I am setting aside the possibility of noticing a new email or notification on my phone. I am consciously tucking in with my lunch, or on the couch to end the evening. Allowing myself the option to doze off in the most gentle of ways, somewhere in the passages of a good book, is its own kind of permission to rest (and beats falling asleep to blue light any day).
Be Gentle with Yourself
None of us are strangers to the feeling that we must be accomplishing something, and at all times, to be good or useful. Reading in this way is like a mini rebellion. Maybe I’m learning, or maybe I’m not, but for the time I’m holding the book it doesn’t matter.
Enjoyment Belongs In Every Day of our Everyday Life
Do you ever catch yourself escaping into your phone or Netflix? That nagging feeling of not completing something important is there, and yet you slink off into blissful scrolling oblivion anyway? It might not be a bad thing to allow yourself those moments of respite - although not if you catch yourself picking your phone up or checking your notifications right in the middle of an important task, and I do think they’re better spent with a book…
Ideas Take Time to Come Together
I love to read for pleasure, but I also enjoy reading about subjects that fascinate me. I go through phases of both each year, but am always struck by how much space I need for information to start to knit together into new ideas. It could be days or weeks after I finish something interesting and I will find myself struck with how it relates to teaching or performing. Suddenly, and almost out of nowhere, a very clear idea will pop up tying all sorts of seemingly random but relevant information together.
Pausing is Not a Reward, Not Everything Needs a Purpose
If I’m being honest, I initially “allowed” myself my reading habit because although I loved it, it was also productive. It had purpose, and heaven forbid that I do anything simply because I love it. Even my outlets had to be well, outlets. They were a relief from something, meant to get me back on track with my responsible and acceptable goals. (I’m rolling my eyes at myself as I type). I still struggle with that mindset, but no matter what our hustle culture tells you, pausing for fun and leisure is not something we have to earn somehow.
I could learn these lessons from any hobby or pastime, it just happens that one of my favorites is reading. I have others that bring me joy, and I would guess that you do, too. Maybe like me you resurrected them during the pandemic. Did you set them aside when you went back to work, though? Maybe those pandemic projects deserve a cherished spot in your regular life, too.
I chose to use “learn” instead of “learned” in the title of this blog because reading, for me, isn’t about what new info I walk away from each book with, although that’s an obvious benefit. At its core, reading has come to represent how we intertwine work, pleasure, and the demands of every day life in a way that is fulfilling and enriching. It points out that we never know what’s ahead, and I want to end each day with a balance of effort and joy that feels good.
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Hi, I'm Morgann! A flutist, teacher, meditator, aspiring yogini, and life long learner figuring out how to create my way through life one crazy idea at a time.