December 1, 2022

Rest, ritual and attunement

As we move into the darker months and head towards the festive period, I am aware of the turning of the season since my last blog post in the summer.

A theme that feels ripe to talk about in relation to this is that of attunement and rest. A big part of my own self-care and wellness has been moving into greater harmony with life’s natural rhythms both internally and externally, which interplay. This has significantly helped me to attune better to myself and in turn those around me.

One of the many causes of sickness in our modern society I believe is not being attuned to the ebbs and flows of life and losing connection to ourselves and the world around us.

We are trained very early on into productivity which robs us of this natural ability, an innate instinct which for the majority has become dull and atrophied.

Ritual has always been embedded in our human lives and plays a vital part in this.  It provides a means and a container to honour the turning of the seasons and life events, to come together both in celebration and in grief and to connect with the earth we walk upon. Indeed, coming to therapy can be seen as a form of ritual.

However, in our modern world the meaning has often been eked out of these rituals and they have become husks of themselves.  A recent ritual is that of Halloween or Samhain as it is known in the Pagan tradition. Originally this was a time to honour our ancestors and to sow seeds of intention to germinate in the winter months before blossoming in spring. It was also the final harvest of the year and an opportunity to give thanks and reflect before slowing down and moving into darkness. The modern expression of Halloween is a far cry from this, but I feel we could learn a lot from these ancestral practices to help us to reconnect.

What I especially value about them is that they prioritise rest. This is fundamental to a sense of attunement and wellness and is something which is sorely lacking in our society. Stress has become the currency by which we are coerced into a feeling of validation and worthiness.We are a society that has become hyper focused on the yang and forgotten about the yin, we are off balance.

There is often a sense of guilt that comes in prioritising rest, the distorted association of it somehow being self-indulgent or a sign of laziness. We are collectively suffering from a long and painful post-industrial hangover, where productivity is revered above all else. This lack of rest is making us unwell and unattuned and is forcing us into a feedback loop where we become unaccustomed to our own company and come to fear it.

All other animals on our planet know very well how to rest, I watch my cat doing it for hours unapologetically! And there will be many of our woodland friends moving into hibernation as I type, whom no doubt at times we wish we could join!

Rest needs a serious re-brand and as we move into these darker months, I would encourage you to challenge those post-industrial associations and reclaim rest as a birth right. I am aware that for many this is a luxury that is not available to them but for many it is much more available than the mind allows them to entertain. I often quote the analogy of an arrow needing to come to a point of stillness in order to hit its target. We are those arrows and rather than spending inordinate energy misfiring we would do much better having a moment of still.

And as the festive period draws near, finding ways to make these winter rituals more meaningful and life bringing where possible rather than a source of stress would be a great act of self-care this season.

Wishing everyone a peaceful and restorative winter, filled with rest and attunement.