Honoring the Natural Cycles in Our Lives
The last couple of months have been an important reminder to me of how we are trained in our culture to ignore our internal and individual cycles.
This training serves the needs of institutions and structures, but rarely does it serve individuals.
Even from birth, children are often put on schedules.
I’m not referring to trying to understand the natural rhythms of a particular individual child.
Instead it is scheduling for the convenience of structures and institutions. It is about meeting cultural expectations of how and when children and babies should sleep, eat, and eliminate.
Children are highly regulated when they are in school and participate in other institutions.
As parents, it is undeniably more convenient if children are on schedules.
Most of us grew up under this kind of regulation. Our bodies were governed by school bells, schedules, and the expectations of adults. We were told what we should learn and in what time frame.
Because of our childhood experiences it can be easy to fall back into the belief that this is a natural and an expected part of childhood.
For those of us who may not easily or more naturally conform to the cycles dictated by others, this can be a challenge. In fact, this may be the majority of us.
When I worked in universities, my rhythms and cycles needed to follow the semester schedule and the typical workday hours.
My ability (anyone’s ability) and energy to be effective and productive were irrelevant. I sought to please others, gain external recognition, and prove that I was worthy and capable of doing my job. So I ignored what I needed to do to take care of myself.
The ability to take time off for reflection, rejuvenation, and self-care were not part of the institutional cultures that I was involved in.
And, in spite of my desire to model balance as an organizational leader, I think I was rarely able to create balance and time for just BEING.
The children in my life have taught me the importance of re-learning how to listen to my body and heart to ensure I get what I need to maintain wholeness and health.
They have done it through their own example.
They both have this amazing ability…
to stay home when they need it, to sleep longer when they need it, to get up early when they need it, to eat and drink when they need it, and to be around people or away from people as they need it.
I still have trouble listening to the messages my body sends me. I still struggle with honoring the natural rhythms in life.
But the body will get what it needs one way or another. I would get sick and struggle to get well.
When I did stop and was willing to hear and see what was really happening I began to see patterns and rhythms. Patterns that seemed to dictate my creativity level, my writing, and my health.
When I honored the rhythms and cycles, I felt whole and healthy.
And sometimes I would judge the cycles and rhythms and ignored them.
Or, if I did honor them I would judge myself as inadequate or lazy because I took a break. Just as I want to honor the rhythms and cycles of the children in my life, I need to honor my own.
I’ve come to realize that I alone am responsible for meeting my needs. That I need to treat myself the way I hope to treat the children in my life.
I would never berate and punish them for not doing enough. For not getting enough done that day. And yet, I will do this to myself without thought. Believing it was what I should do.
I have to believe I’m important enough to get my needs met on a regular basis. I have to give up this belief that someone else is responsible for giving me what I’m not willing to give myself.
What that really means is that if I’m not willing to honor myself and my needs, I can’t expect anyone else too.
If I’m too afraid to ask for what I need before it becomes critical and I’m yelling at everyone in the house, then I can’t expect anyone else to give me permission.
I can rail at everyone around me for how they don’t appreciate me and what I do, and at the same time disregard myself and devalue not only my own contributions, but the cycles, rhythms, and inner voice that are yelling for recognition, acceptance, and love.
I am adept at ignoring that voice and covering it up with should, must, and can’t. All the while blaming those around me for not doing it for me.
We learn as children to look to those outside of us for approval, love, safety, and care. It can be a beautiful thing when we do feel those things in our relationships with the people in our lives.
The downside to looking outside of ourselves is when we don’t get it in the way we expect it AND we are unable to give it to ourselves, we lose touch with who we are.
We question our value and worth.
We turn inward and punish ourselves for not being enough and sometimes we look outward and punish those around us for not giving us what we didn’t get in as children.
Taking care of ourselves is about being the parents we needed in childhood. When we didn’t get our need for unconditional love in childhood, we have to learn to give it to ourselves as adults.
Not only are we trying to give this to the children in our lives now, we must try to be our own unconditionally loving and accepting parents to the child still needing it inside of us.