Photo credit: Ivana Cajina on Unsplash
2020 - what a tumultuous year!
If you’re anything like me, you may be feeling pretty exhausted and weary with the relentlessness of it all. You know: the pandemic, political mayhem, climate crisis, social and racial injustices. And that’s just the background to the relentlessness of our personal lives: doing our best to stay safe and well, trying to earn a living during an economic meltdown, maintaining our relationships - with little or no in-person contact, spending hours and hours and HOURS on Zoom.
Was there ever a better time to take a rest, recharge our energy and reflect on the lessons of the year?
Winter Solstice, Midwinter, or Yule, is a time when many parts of the more-than-human world are still and silent. It’s the time when the sun pauses for a few days at its lowest point in the (Northern Hemisphere) sky, resulting in the shortest day and longest night of the year.
While we observe signs of dormancy in the natural world around us, this time of year also calls us in to rest. We might not fully hibernate (though the longing to do so is strong in me at times), but we could perhaps let go of some of our ‘doings’.
However, for many of us, regardless of our faith (or lack thereof), the winter festive season, can be a very busy and demanding time. Whatever level of lockdown you’re currently experiencing, you may be gathering with another household, or two, for celebrations and much longed-for connection. You might also be working, for at least some of the time.
How then can we cultivate some of the qualities of restfulness that the season invites us to drop into?
In my last two blog posts I explored how resting supports and sustains our energy levels. Far from being counter-productive, rest is highly beneficial for our work, health and wellbeing.In those posts I offered some tips for practising rest. And here’s another simple idea that I invite you to play with:
Instead of writing yet another ‘to do’ list, write yourself an ‘undo’ list ~ write down things you can stop doing (and restful practices you can begin instead) and then enjoy crossing them off your list.
Here’s my undo list for mid-December to mid-January:
Switch off the laptop and put it away
No Zoom meetings (friends and family chats by video are the only exception to this)
Set out-of-office messages on all of my email accounts
Post ‘taking a break’ messages on my social media accounts and remove the apps from my phone for a couple of weeks
Delete any unfinished tasks in my calendar. If they’re important enough to need doing next year, I trust I’ll remember to add them to a new task list then
And then let go of the idea of tidying up ‘loose ends’ just because we’re nearing the end of a year. There’s no such thing as being fully ‘caught up’ with everything that needs doing!
Have a break from cooking fresh food all the time and use up what’s in the freezer and store cupboard
Better still, have a festive break from so much healthy eating and enjoy nibbles, grazing and snacks, along with a festive tipple
Make this my last list of the year and go with the flow!
Now, I confess I don’t feel entirely at ease when I look at my undo list.
Much as I long to align myself with the winter rhythms of hedgehog, tree and sun, I keep re-discovering that I’m a ‘human doing’ who has an ingrained habit of generating ‘to do’ lists. And keeping on keeping on.
‘We are always doing something….talking, reading, listening to the radio, planning what next. The mind is kept naggingly busy on some easy, unimportant, external thing all day’ ~ Brenda Ueland
At times when I’ve been unwell, even bed-ridden, I’ve continued to write, read, research on the ‘net and generally keep the wheels of my ‘doing too much’ habit turning. I have filled every nook and cranny in my life with some kind of distraction from simply being, or resting.
And I’m really tired of that old pattern, so I’m doing my best to gently unravel it now.
What else helps me in this process of leaning into rest?
I read something astonishing today:
‘Recent estimates on the rate of information processing tell us that every few minutes we process more information than was processed in a lifetime by those living in the Middle Ages...Feeling overwhelmed feels like a normal reaction’ ~ Anne Wilson Schaef
This stopped me in my tracks. Yes, there is so much information coming in every day, every hour in fact, by email, text, messaging and social media notifications. And that’s in addition to what I’m actively reading, or listening to on the radio, or finding on the World Wide Web.
And so I return, over and over again, to the soothing and solace of Mother Nature. My daily Sit-Spot practice is the best remedy I’ve found so far for ‘rest resistance’.
As I begin to reflect on this extraordinary year, I realise that ‘Being in Nature’ is more than my offering to the world; it’s also what brings me most alive and where I find peace.
However you’re spending the Midwinter break, and whoever you spend it with, I wish you some moments of peace and rest among the activity .
The woods are quiet
and Nature watches
as the seeds of ourselves
deepen in the fertile soil
of what is possible
knowing we will finally unfurl
and sprout above ground
as someone more like ourselves
- Edveeje Fairchild