What practices might help us to look away from immediate tasks to stretch into something new and creative?
One of the best concerts I ever attended featured the acclaimed New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Del McCoury Band, an equally renowned bluegrass band. Each band played its own set, in its own style, and delighted the audience.
The magic sparked when the two bands performed together. They combined the best of their unique sounds to create something original, inspiring and wonderful.
Though my technical musical understanding is elementary, I couldn’t help but admire their creative synergy. I knew that they were highlighting each other’s strengths through their own musical skills. They were telling the story of jazz and bluegrass music and simultaneously telling a new story about the musical friendship between the two. In the brackish waters between genres, new styles and new life were created.
Cultivating habits that encourage this kind of cross-pollination is difficult.
The pace of work and ministry often demands our full attention to the daily tasks supporting the institution we serve. So, we become sedentary, isolated and, sometimes, self-destructive.
When I am ultra-focused on my work, I often find myself hunched over my keyboard and leaning forward into the monitor. I forget to stretch and rest my eyes, and I forget that the health of my work depends on the kind of creative energy that can only come from stepping away from my desk and working with people who do things differently.
To improve my physical posture, I’ve taken to setting a timer for 20 minutes to remind me to stand up and stretch when I know I will have long periods of sitting (as I did while writing this post).
Lately, I have been wondering if changing my posture and habits at my desk might offer benefits that extend beyond relief from eye strain and back pain.
My imagination for Christian practice is regularly informed by a local yoga teacher who teaches the importance of personal and corporate practice. My hope for the possibilities of Christian vocation comes from conversation with my friends who are entrepreneurs, scientists and community organizers. My imagination for God’s presence in daily Christian life is deeply informed by reading the writings of Christian women from the medieval era.
And yet I find myself with little time to engage these inspirations. Or rather, I don’t prioritize renewing inspiration as a part of my work.
What kinds of habits and rhythms do I need to put into place to cultivate ministerial creativity and health? What would it look like to set aside a time each week for reading books and articles that speak to our work from different perspectives? For dreaming up side projects with people who intrigue us? For spending time with the local running club, at the ceramics studio, or getting to know the regulars at the coffee shop down the street?
Just as I am learning to set a timer to remember to stand up, look away and stretch, I am asking myself how I might set aside time for creative cross-pollination with differently minded, uniquely gifted peers. Who can help me look away from my immediate tasks and help me stretch into something new? Who will join me in imitating the genre-mixing mash-up of the Del McCoury Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in my work and ministry? What kind of rhythms do I need to appropriately focus on the tasks at hand and push me into new waters?
I may feel too busy today, but my guess is that I will always feel too busy. While writing this post, I marked a time when I will make a list of my dream team of cross-pollinators and get ready to stand up, stretch and learn something new.