By A-lan Holt, member of the 2013 Emerging Writers Group
For the past three full moons I’ve been trying out a new practice: a project I call Circadian Rhythms. The name, knowingly, comes from the cycle of time observed by plants and animals, a 24-hour period of day and night that recognizes and keeps a metric for activity as well as one for rest. Similarly, this project, seeks to revalue a system of time that is inclusive of human connection, art making, being still and other endogenous acts of sustenance. Simply, it is a tool to help ease and encourage transitions throughout the day; to help build a framework for working and living in a healthy and aware state of being. It is a practice of regeneration.
Circadian Rhythms goes something like this.
Three months ago I started setting up a series of alarms on my phone that would go off throughout the day starting at Dawn (waking) and ending around 11:30pm (dreaming). The day then was broken into seven somewhat equal (2.5 hour) parts that together completed a full cycle or Circadian Rhythm. Each phase was then named based on seven tenets of health that I identified for myself. These tenets were determined based off values, desired areas of improvement, and avenues for nourishment. They include 1. Physical Health 2. Emotional Health 3. Artistic Freedom 4. Financial Freedom 5. Community Building 6. Mental Expansion 7. Dreaming.
The names have since evolved within the practice to become: 1. WAKE (emotional health) 2. WERQ (artistic freedom) 3. MOVE (physical health) 4. WORK (financial freedom) 5. CONNECT (community building) 6. MIND (mental expansion) 7. DREAM. I had two tasks within this project. First, I was to set my intentions and actions in accordance with each passing phase despite where I was in the world. Second, I was to gracefully transition when the time came: reorienting my thoughts and actions into a new space. There were some phases that proved more concrete. WERQ for example, always meant writing, meant being enveloped in the art for a couple hours a day—devoted. MOVE, too, was similar. It was about taking time to activate my body be it with others or by myself. Then there were phases that lent themselves to interpretation. CONNECT, for example, could mean connecting with family or friends, connecting with other artists, connecting with art. MIND could be interpreted as an intellectual conversation, sitting down to read a book, or even thinking theoretically or structurally about a play. No matter the circumstances, the beauty came in that each phase was entrained; it adjusted to the local environment in response to internal and external cues.
After practicing in this way for about a month I began to notice things. I started to feel, everyday, a tiny bit more liberated from this thing called time— this thing that seemed, for a moment, to be taking my spirit. Soon, I didn’t need the alarms these transitions became engrained in my daily operations. This, I found, was something magical.
Circadian Rhythms, unlike other structures in my life, allowed me to build the things that were necessary for my happiness directly into the framework of my everyday. It gave the things I needed a time and space. There was a time and a place for all things, because there was time enough for only a few things: the things that really mattered. This is regeneration: where we shed the baggage that retards our development to make room for that which aids us in our progression. It is a stripping away of all but the essential.
During this time of Circadian Rhythms I have been compelled everyday to better understand, that which is essential to my health. This practice gives me daily a heightened awareness of myself in this world; of the daily diggings, and potential I have during each rhythm. This time has been fulfilling indeed. And by fulfilling, I mean to say, that these days, I am quite utterly filled. This daily practice, has allowed me the space for this self-“werq” and oh, it has changed me, most certainly, for the better.
A-lan Holt is currently developing a new work entitled THE BOTTOM. Her play 8BALL will have its first New York staged reading on August 1st, produced by At Hand Theatre Company.
This post is part of a weekly series from the Emerging Writers Group community of playwrights. The EWG is two-year playwriting fellowship at The Public Theater seeking to target playwrights at the earliest stages of their careers. In so doing, The Public hopes to create an artistic home for a diverse and exceptionally talented group of up-and-coming playwrights.