Here we are in mid January and I am only just beginning to feel that I am uncurling from the cosy, reflective days of holiday. I have walked unusually slowly and quietly into this new year, with the notion of rest on my mind. Back in the busy-ness of Christmas eve night, I copied a few words into my journal from The Message (a modern language translation of the Bible), because the notion of 'unforced rhythms of grace' resonated so powerfully with me, as well as the idea of activity and work coming from a rested not anxious place. I knew I had to get pen to paper and record it. I knew in that moment that this would be a key inspiration for me in 2016.
2015 had been good to me in very many ways but also, if I am honest, quite stressful as well - two kids doing important public exams (including applying for med school which is not for the faint-hearted!), our second son leaving home (he got into med school, hurrah!), hubby searching for a new job and various other issues that were to varying degrees quite difficult to work through. The last few days of the year seemed permeated with this idea of resting, trusting, laying down old fears and worries and walking 'freely and lightly'. This is far easier to say than to do, or even understand how to do, so I have put in place a few things to make that idea of freedom more real and accessible. I have put aside time at the start of the day to do some stretching, yoga, and prayer - those things really help to start the day from a place of calm for me. 'Yoga with Adrienne' Youtube classes and yoga camp have been fantastic for establishing some kind of routine. I have also signed up for Sas Petherick's #mymindfulyear project - check out her website, I think it is going to be a brilliant way for me to become more intentional and clear sighted and less cluttered mentally. Imagine my surprise and general gobsmacked-ness when her first email proffered the concept of, yup, rest! What her insights have illuminated to me is that our energy on any given day is not infinite, just as breathing requires the in-breath and out-breath, so we need rest as well as activity, pause and imput as well as action and output. So this is the balance I am seeking this year, and there are many wonderful ways of finding it. For me, my faith, my noticing of beauty in simple things, early nights (need to work on that one!), walking and running, my making, relaxing with a book or sketchpad, journal writing, yoga and quiet moments to myself with a cup of tea or glass of wine, are all ways to slow down and rest, to notice the present moment and how I am actually feeling. To breathe slow and long sometimes. To be properly present. The animal world is always really telling in this respect - think of the focus, power and achievements of a leopard or jaguar in full hunting mode, but also the langourous relaxation of a big cat draped over the branches of a tree - every muscle relaxed and stretched out in repose. We need both, but are so often needlessly afraid of what the need for rest says about us, and consequently glorify being busy. Not me any more, I think the potential to give value to rest is important not just for our own wellbeing, but because it has the potential to help us be far better human beings to those around us and have a clearer sense of what we are supposed to be doing with our lives in ways that can positively impact others, not just ourselves.
One way I have often found to be a short cut to a more restful and present mindset is walking - the more wild the place the better. Step by step, the mind re-calibrates priorities and focus. It is so underrated in western culture, but many indigenous people understood it well, the ability of landscape and our connection and veneration of it to ground our minds as well as exercise our bodies. There has been so much dank greyness this winter but the last few days have had some glorious sunshine and golden afternoons, so I have made the most of savouring each drop of winter sunshine, and noticed the achingly beautiful elements outside that even the short days of january can offer. These times offer so much in terms of mental rest and creative inspiration.
Just wondering if you have any fresh ideas as we start this new year, any ways to bring more rest and balance? I'd love to hear. x