I’ve been thinking a lot about rhythm lately. “Rhythm” may be one of the most talked about concepts in Waldorf circles, and one which, as my friend Becca talked about on her blog recently, can induce some serious “Waldorf guilt”. There are webinars and audio classes to help mamas find their rhythm, inner work programs to mentor you in staying in your rhythm, and plenty of examples of other mamas’ rhythms in the Waldorf blog world to inspire you (at best! Sometimes they just make you feel like you are a big mess, haha!). These are all helpful in their own way, but doesn’t the best inspiration come from the balance and cyclical order of nature around us? Nothing awakens our intuition and awareness of what we and those in our care need most like a good night’s sleep and a walk outside. That is what I come back to when I need more rhythm in my life- when housework and routines seem to become tyrants which have gotten the best of me, rather than serving me.
When I think of rhythm, I think of…
…the planets in their orbits, each with its own trajectory, each finding their own way to make their path through the universe, some slower, some faster in their orbit ’round the sun.
…the moon, now filling, now emptying; pulling us close and letting us go.
…the colors of the rainbow. Within the spectrum of light we find a sevenfold order, soothing to our souls. It reminds me of the seven days of creation, and how our very existence was ordered and brought into being.
…the stars. The constellations which serve as markers, like twelve cosmic nodes on the clock of our galaxy.
…the way a small child imitates the breathing of her mother as she falls asleep next to her, so that they come to inhale and exhale in sync. I hope my rhythm is a reflection of the breath of mother earth, as she daily walks her cosmic journey around the shining sun, doing her work with steady hand and bright face.
How do I catch a piece of all this and allow order, beauty, and Divine thought to form our days and nights?
Examining each inspiration above, I see that…
- Every planet has its own “year”, its own unique time frame for accomplishing its sun-circle. We can gain inspiration from and delight in the dance of another planet, but we don’t copy it… we must find our own path. We begin our journey to rhythm with a calendar and look at the year, noting the seasons and their influence, the holidays and their spiritual meaning. What celebrations will we choose to be the foundation of our family and community life?
- The moon gives us a picture of our month. In a perfect scenario, a woman holds the rhythm of the moon within her body as she shares in its cycle (see my post about that here)- and for me this is a very guiding force as I move from a general outline of those things which are essential in my year, to a more bite-sized chunk of what I would like to accomplish each month. Beyond those yearly celebrations, I consider the season and what themes I would like to explore. Which part of the house would I like to organize this month? What fruit of the spirit will be our theme as we focus on character? When will we open our home up in hospitality, or visit grandparents? Which day will I make some time for myself to have 4-6 hours *alone*, with the help of a spouse, family member, or babysitter? How about a date? Perhaps some of these things seem like they should be on a weekly basis, but realistically I know that it is only within the days of the month I will be able to schedule them in. And if I didn’t schedule them in, they might not happen at all!
- The rainbow is a picture of our week. I like to begin with Sunday being white- pure, spirit-centered, and light- through which the beautiful spectrum of color falls, pouring red on my Monday, orange on my Tuesday, yellow on my Wednesday, green on my Thursday, blue on my Friday, and purple on my Saturday. This feels very fitting because Sunday tends to be restful, clear, and calm; Monday we ramp up our energy to tackle the week, and as the week goes on I tend to go from high energy to “cool-down” mode as my energy fades and I again look towards the weekend, with purple- the nurturing color- tending to be for Saturday when we do those things that really need to get done but were not able to fit in during the week. I think the out-of-home work schedule of family members might play a big part in influencing how you might perceive your own “rainbow”. Our weekly tasks include cleaning, errands, laundry, baking, planning, and yardwork/outside tasks. I think with young children we need to do a little bit of cleaning and laundry each day, but perhaps we have more focus on them a certain day of the week.
- Singing in eternal ecstasy the stars help us organize our day, the constellations arranged like twelve places on the clock. Each hour, the stars move 15 degrees across the sky, appearing to make one revolution around the earth in twenty four hours. In planning my day, I think of the things I would feel distressed about if they were left unattended. I think of the things I love to do. These are the building blocks of life- the magical work we are ordained to do. When will we work, grow, rest, play? I like to think of these activities as relating to the four elements- fire, earth, air, water. In biodynamic gardening, each constellation is related to one of these elements. With young children, life seems to flow smoothly for me following this cycle of an hour each of work, growing (learning for spiritual growth, meeating physical needs like eating, hygiene, etc.), playing, and resting. Certainly we can strive to blend them- we can make work playful, and play restful. We complete it four times, and by the last “rest” the children are asleep, and mama can “play”. ;) Older children have longer attention spans, and can often busy themselves at tasks for several hours. For younger children, it will be less (I remember thinking my 18-month old child had about a 20 minute attention span). However you day flows, the important thing is to balance these elements of working, growing, playing, and resting- and I’m sure every family will have their own picture of what balance looks like.
A little more about the stars…
In the study of biodynamic gardening they have become so dear to me, celestial maps showing the influence of the cosmos on my day to day life. It is not only the seasons they proclaim with their nightly position in the sky, but they are the rhythm-lovers’ ethos! I often wonder where in the history of Christianity the stars seemed to fall in such disfavor, confined to the realm of the astrologer or fortune teller… and yet it was a star, shining so brightly in a time of darkness, which led wise men to discover the Gift of God. I too look to the skies, searching for “signs” and “seasons” (Genesis 1) of my life. The sun dances through the stars once a year, spending about a month in each constellation, or “Star House”. The moon too journeys through them, but in just a month, spending two or three days per house. It is the journey of the moon through the starry houses which informs biodynamic gardening, telling us when we are most influenced by the elements of earth, air, water, and fire which describe the properties of the constellations. Earth signs favor root vegetables, air favors flowers, water favors leaves, and fire favors fruits. If you were to plant a radish seed each day, you would note the elemental effect; planted in a root sign, the bulbs would be round and full. Planted in a leaf sign, they would tend to be more elongated and skinny, with a fuller set of leaves.
- Our most basic rhythm, the minutes and seconds of our day, is our breath. We can work with our breath to achieve our sense of balance and enliven our work. I am reading a book now, The Tao of Natural Breathing, and it is wonderful… the cornerstone of imitating our orderly mother earth as she expands and contracts with cold and warm, day and night. Her lungs fill and empty like the trees as they fill with foliage, then loose their leaves; tall and proud, yet humble enough to fall in line with us and except our outbreath (carbon dioxide) as their inbreath, so that they may offer us purified, delicious oxygen… When tension starts to hold you in an expanded state, or lethargy keeps you stuck in cold, hard, contraction- just breathe. When you feel your emotions putting a dizzying spin in your mind, notice them, separate yourself from them, and begin to shift from feeling the inner life to the outer life, using your breath as a catalyst, a bridge between your inner and your outer.
Here are favorite posts on rhythm…
Share a link if you have one you love!