My laptop is my life. I use it more than I use my motorcycle and smartphone put together. I work for clients and for myself, read and write emails, watch videos, read articles… an open laptop implies pending work.
But the one thing I cannot do on it — no matter how hard I try — is reading an ebook or a long PDF. Each time I try, my mind rebels. I barely make it through ten pages before I lose the war against distractions and walk away from the desk. I kept wondering why. After all, what better way to read than by sitting at a work desk?
But here’s what I realized.
The laptop is where my work resides, most of which is transactional. Reading on a laptop feels like work, or like lunch with work colleagues — hurried, bombarded with distractions, and formal. But reading — especially a book — is not work. It’s not transactional either.
Reading a book is a conversation I hold with the author. Reading, like meditation, is a pause.
On most mornings, I place my chair directly in the path of sunlight, grab a cup of tea, and open a book. Pencil in hand, I leaf through the pages. I mark sections I find powerful with the pencil, reflect on them, and scribble marginalia.
When I read a particularly striking section, I put down the book, open my black diary, and write notes. My mind swings from thinking into work mode. It rummages through its shelves to identify a similar previously-stored thought. Then it combines that thought with the new one and lets the warm sunrays bake them together.
The result is a delicious “Aha!” moment — a refined, developed perspective which my mind returns to the shelf. On the other hand, if a raw, new thought springs out at me from the book, my mind makes space on a shelf to accommodate it.
Each time I read something I intuitively knew but couldn’t articulate, or a book gives me a new lens to see the world and myself through, energy gushes through my veins. I feel like screaming and telling the world what I discovered. Keeping myself rooted to the chair takes tremendous control.
Sometimes, reading makes me stare out the window wonder how much better this world rushing around me would be if everyone read and understood a particular book. At other times, I wonder why the author wasted paper to print millions of copies when a blog post was enough.
On yet other instances, I return to re-read books that impacted me a year or two ago. They don’t feel like the same books… because I’m not the same person.
Reading isn’t an outcome-oriented task or part of a routine. It’s a learning experience, one that teaches me to detach from the world while being present in it.
You can enjoy this too.
Pick up a book. Give your exhausted senses a break. Flood them with deep, intellectual thoughts for a few moments. Most thoughts will flow away when you put the book down.
But some will stay. They’ll unlock something inside you. They’ll make you feel a distinct shift within. You’ll see a door open to a path that turns you into the person you want to be, or into the person you didn’t know you could be.
“Books are mirrors,” Carlos Ruiz Zafón wrote. “You only see in them what you already have inside you.”
I read to not feel lonely. I read to discover new ideas and feel as excited as a toddler. I read to feel intelligent and ignorant at the same time — intelligent because I understand the world better; ignorant because each time I get reminded of how much I don’t know, and that I don’t know what I don’t know.
Read to do something for yourself. Read to make your head beat like your heart. Read to go to a new place while staying where you are. Read to learn or to feel amused.
Read, just because. Read…