December 31, 2022 1 Comment
Reflection is an important and natural part of life. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the time when we choose to reflect is also around the darkest time of year. Often, we feel like darkness is the reason that we feel so awful at this time of year but I would like to propose another theory, which is that feeling can lead us somewhere good, if we let it.
Remember, there can be no darkness without light. The very existence of darkness is proof that there is light, interacting on something and casting a shadow. The existence of darkness and light is just another example of the duality of life on this planet. When we work on our shadow spaces, we make room for light to come in.
Where I live, in the Boreal forest, we feel winter in a strong way. We are gripped by the great frosts and deep freeze temperatures that break anything which tries to rebel against the period of rest. We can also be broken by the cold, when we push past our own natural instincts to pause and instead proceed at all costs.
As humans, we are inseparable from nature. We drink the water held in ancient aquifers, we eat the foods from mother nature and every day we witness the changes in her great cycles. We also feel the changes inside of our bodies as they respond to the cues from Mother Nature. You see, our bodies are in it for the long game they don’t have quarterly quotas or hourly social media insights to track, they are looking to keep us alive in the long term, like for millennia.
In periods of great cold, we rest. Staying inside during extreme temperatures keeps us safe. Even the animals hunker down trying to keep warm, making them even harder to find. So, our ancient ancestors learned that there was no point expending extra energy just to risk hurting yourself. We needed to conserve energy, so in times of great cold we rested as well. During this time, we would tell stories, dream and play. Nearly all of our northern ancestors did this and these instincts are still in us today.
Now, we have increased pressure to be working. We push against our natural instincts and are inundated with messages like ‘there’s no excuse’, 'push yourself', 'no time for rest', ‘don’t be lazy’ or ‘deliver at all costs’. It’s no wonder we struggle so hard and ignore all of our cues during these times of natural rest. Our bodies know we need to slow down and when we don’t, our mind struggles as well.
In the long-term game of life, we aren’t sprinting, or even marathoning. We’re existing in the ancient heartbeat of mother earth. It’s one with no beginning and no end. It began long before we took our first breath and it will continue long after we take our last breath. We are here, not to achieve the quotas of a short-term life, we are here to experience the ebb and flow of life over and over and over.
When we can connect to the ebb and flow of mother earth’s heartbeat and listen to what this period is telling us, we’ll actually survive longer. The breaks that we take will give us energy for the times when we work hard. Expending energy will give us a sense of satisfaction that we’ll take into our breaks, allowing us to rest more deeply. The cycle of rest and action are ones that we will repeat endlessly. Our life is one of the inhales and exhales in the great cycle of the earth.
I’m beginning to see these cycles in my own life. The inhale of inspiration and the exhale of creation. I used to think that if I just had an experience and came home to create the painting, that would be enough. I could feel inside of myself that something wasn’t right. There’s something missing in a much deeper place.
This year, I felt like I listened to other people more than myself. In a way, listening to someone else is nice because you can get rid of the feelings of insecurity and work only on the idea. There’s an energy exchange and there’s something for you to bounce your energy off of.
However, I came out of this year feeling like I didn’t know my own voice anymore. I struggled and I felt awful but I didn’t understand why. The needs of other people were coming at the expense of my own.
In November, I felt like I couldn’t paint. I wanted to quit. I wrote an unreleased blog called 'You Should Quit'. It's pretty bleak. By December that feeling had only intensified. I was feeling low and I felt like I had nothing left to give.
However, the pressure of living in a capitalist society keeps us pushing even when we have nothing left to give. Capitalism wants everything from us and it does not care what it takes: our sleep, physical health, mental health, friendships, our children and their health. There is no boundary that it will not cross and we as a society perpetuate this.
We ask the unreasonable of people. We demand that they are answerable to us 24/7 and that their needs are to be placed last. We do this to each other, to the land, and we can feel it being done to ourselves. Though we may not even know that it's happening.
I eventually gave up even pressuring myself to paint. I took it off the table completely. I told myself that I don’t have to do anything other than what I absolutely need to do. Then the feelings in my heart showed me that I still had a lot of unnecessary crap masquerading as important remaining. I took everything off the table.
I was left with caring for my daughter and my own self-care. I set some very small goals, like shower every day and I’ve since added exercise. Sometimes I’d bead, or dream a new life into reality, play with my daughter or clean the house. Sometimes I’d do absolutely none of that.
It took a few weeks, some meditation, time outside and a lot of quiet. I slowly started to hear the heartbeat of the earth. I could hear the subtle rhythm that I had drown out with all of the noise that I thought I needed.
I began to realize how noisy my life had become. I had no ability to hear my own voice because it was just so damn loud all the time, and I’m not just talking about my screaming toddler. I’m talking about social media, TV, reading, other people’s voices. I began to see that I was literally listening to EVERYONE else other than myself. No wonder I felt anxious. There was nowhere in my life where I could just be without someone else telling me what to do.
This coming year will be one where I spend more time in silence. It will be one where I watch, listen and feel the great cycles of the earth and myself. I will look closely at the earth and observe her changes and how that mirrors the changes in me. I’m setting some strong boundaries, but boundaries are also flexible. They can come and go as needed and they answer only to me.
Just by giving myself this space, I can feel this wildness and fire return to my spirit. She feels ancient, fierce but tender and loving. It is rebellious, to go against the grain, to see the expectations of society and to buck the tradition.
It can be challenging and upsetting to others, who have lived in the capitalist machine and expect you to adhere to it’s rules, the rules which ask for every bit of you in the name of a few more dollars. The very rules that measure your worth in likes, dollars and views.
But, that’s not what we’re here for. We’re not here so we can have a great Instagram feed. We’re here to feel the wind in our hair, the bite of cold air on our cheeks. We’re here to make tea and to laugh with friends. We’re here to run and feel our feet leave the ground. We’re here to fucking live.
So, this year I’ll be doing just that. I’m going to shake some things up. I’m going to exist in my own world and I’m going to bond strongly with my loved ones. I'm going to enjoy my life.
In this time of reflection, I invite you to spend time in your own method of contemplation. Reflections can show us a mirrored version of the reality that we’ve already lived. They can allow us to gain new perspective.
But reflections can only be really seen when the water is calm, quiet and resting. When you take your reflections, remember that if you are doing it from a place of anxiety, you’re going to see ripples and distortions in your reflections. Allow your water to come to a rest, and for the winds and ripples to cease. Then take your long, hard look and see what new perspective you can gain.
I'll see you in the new year.