As the weather starts to cool, the mornings are darker and the skies are crisp and clear, signs of autumn are all around. Nature is slowing down; her energy is turning inward – the growing season is over. It’s time to start resting, replenishing and building up her energy stores once again.
And so it is in Nature. Seasons turn. Life slows down. Energy goes to ground. Winter is not a glamorous time. There is a stark beauty about Winter but Nature is working for herself and not for us. She’s not on show. And Autumn is a preparation for this time. A gradual “going to ground”.
All around us there are cycles. The cycle of the seasons. The cycle of the moon. The cycle of day and night. For women, our menstrual cycles. Though we’re often not in touch with what phase we are in during our menstrual cycles, and how these cycles tie in so perfectly with the cycles of the moon, and because of this, even with the tides! There’s so much in Nature to keep us connected and conscious and yet in our modern world we’ve found ways of overriding and ignoring those cycles. We don’t have to go to bed earlier because it’s dark earlier. We have electricity and connectivity so we can be on the go at all times. We can keep building, keep growing, keep going.
And yet this is against every natural law. Nowhere in Nature do we see constant growth. Nowhere do we see constant production. Nowhere do we see constant energy output. But here in the Western world we’ve been told we can do this. Companies can have constant growth and expansion, year on year. Athletes and sports teams can stay at the top, can just continue to get better. We can continually be productive, energetic, achieving. There is no room for Winter for us. No time for rest, regeneration, renewal. No time to reflect, to start building up for another cycle of growth. Just continuous energy output.
And then we wonder why we all feel so overwhelmed. Why there’s never enough time. Why our bodies start to break down. Why we’re frazzled, burnt out, depleted, angry, resentful and overwhelmed. We wonder why it’s all too much. It’s because we’ve been sold a lie.
What if we acknowledged that we were not above the laws of Nature? That the laws that govern the moon, the oceans, the trees, the animals may apply to us as well. What if, instead of fighting against these laws, we took wisdom and guidance from them? What if we tuned into Nature’s cycles a bit more?
What if, as we turn towards Winter, we allow ourselves to slow down a little? Commit to less? Go to bed a bit earlier? What if we embraced more restorative practices rather than the high energy exercise that makes us feel so good in Summer? A relaxed walk, gentle restorative yoga or stretching, a long bath at the end of the day, curling up with a book and a cup of tea on a Saturday afternoon instead of being “out and about” every weekend. What about cozy conversations with a close friend, listening to music, getting a massage, doing something that you love – a hobby, cooking, gardening? Mindfulness and breathwork are incredible and accessible tools we can embrace which really help us to ground, to become present and to restore our energy.
What if we took more note of our menstrual cycles, and instead of fighting them or ignoring them, we embraced the wisdom that comes with them? A time of growth and high energy output in the first half of our cycles and then a time of “Autumn”, a time of turning inwards, towards the end of our cycles. Using our time of menstruation as a time for more self care, and for nurturing and supporting ourselves, as opposed to constantly nurturing and supporting everyone else.
As I reflected on this it, made me wonder what restorative practices men are drawn to? What do they do to replenish? It feels very “un-macho” and “un-masculine” to be talking about resting and restoring, not something men are generally encouraged to do. Perhaps that’s why men die younger? It’s definitely time to change this paradigm and for men to learn constructive restorative practices. As Dr Emma Sepällä, who teaches about the science of happiness in her book, The Happiness Track, recently wrote “Another thing I find surprising is that when Americans are faced with particularly unpleasant high-intensity negative emotions like stress or anger, we’re more likely to counter with more high intensity—such as running, to “blow off some steam”. But we should be careful: a new study shows that we are three times more likely to have a heart attack if we opt for exercise during high-stress moments. In other words, in terms of our nervous system and health, it’s probably not a good idea to counter high-stress emotions with high-stress physical activity.”
And if you’re not convinced, consider Roger Federer’s recent come back from injury. In 2016 he took 6 months off to heal and recover from his knee injury. He usually plays between 70 and 100 matches a year and 2016 saw him play very little. He dropped down to 16th ranked in the ATP tour – the first time he’d been out of the top 10 since 2001. Many felt he would never be able to claw his way back to his previous level, and certainly not be able to do better. Yet 2017 saw him have his most successful season in over a decade and it’s regarded to be “one of the greatest comeback seasons of all time”. A wonderful example of a “Winter” of rest and renewal leading to a high energy and achievement “Summer”.
So it’s time for all of us, men and women, to be more conscious of the cycles in Nature and in our lives, and to look for ways of restoring and replenishing as Nature does. I’ll be delving into this more in a women’s workshop I’ll be hosting in Jo’burg on Saturday 12 May with Australian chiropractor Bronwyn Lakay. There’ll be an invitation going out very soon and I hope you’ll join us as we look at many empowering, practical and accessible tools to help us in our self-care and to help us Flourish in life!
And if you’re looking for a deeper renewal why not consider a retreat? Friend and UK based yoga teacher, Polly Mason, is hosting a wonderful yoga retreat in the South African bush. She’s offering special rates for South African “locals” and it sounds like it’s going to be an amazing few days! You can find out more here and contact her directly to find out about the local rates!
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