We’re in the season of summer camp and there’s been a lot of yelling in the morning. Well, I’m the one yelling. My daughter is blissfully unaware of any need other than what she feels like in the moment. Like rolling around on the floor with a big smile as I gritted my teeth and wrangled her into the dress she just had to wear. The same dress that she informed me she was no longer going to wear as we pulled up to camp. Grrrrrrrrr…… mama couldn’t wait to shove the precious little one out of the car and go get a coffee.
So my energy and focus stays all spun up on the fact that things aren’t going the way I think they should. I get stuck and then I wonder why I can’t seem to find the motivation to anything besides check out Instagram. I’ve lost sight of my vision for my life.
What if I stopped and embraced the moment? What my daughter gets is that it’s summer camp. It doesn’t matter if we take a little extra time in the morning to play and stretch our bodies and connect as a family. It’s actually sacred time, the slowness of these mornings. In a year we’ll enter the season of KINDERGARTEN (yikes!). Now is the time to soak in all the wonderful toddler love and toddler rolling around, to not push so much. After all, is my vision for my family that we are all rushing to get to our individual activities or is it that we spend as much time as possible connecting? Why is it so hard to act in alignment with this vision?
This month we’ve been exploring the concept of harmony and using visual art as a tool for understanding it. Harmony is achieved through the careful application of the various elements of art. I think the element most relevant to this conversation is movement, the tool artists use to guide the eye, to focus our vision.
Vincent Van Gogh, Road with Cypress and Star, 1890. Image courtesy of artchive.com
In the image above Van Gogh achieves a high level of movement through aggressive, well-defined brushstrokes, as well as the through the upward movement of the tree, the path moving into the distance, and the circular forms in the sky. There are several places for our eyes to rest, to explore and deepen our experience of the images, to imagine our own journey. The movement is highly energizing, just on the border of too much. What keeps it in control is the repetition of brushstrokes that add a rhythm to the movement.
Rhythm is an interesting concept. Movement without rhythm feels chaotic, lacking in order. Add rhythm and you’ve immediately added organization. Think of other forms of expression – physical movement with rhythm becomes dance, noise with rhythm becomes music. I frequently make the mistake of thinking that routine and rhythm are the same thing. My attempts to impose order through routines always fail. What Van Gogh got is that it’s no use fight the energy that is being expressed; rather if one hopes to achieve harmony, one needs to flow with what’s present and offer it a framework so that it’s inherent rhythm can be seen.
Rhythm respects the natural energy ebb and flow of the day; it allows for the changes in seasons; it teaches us to crave what really nourishes us, right now versus what will nourish us tomorrow. Rhythm provides order by following the natural expression of the moment, offering gentle shaping towards the direction of it’s highest vision.
Routines aren’t bad, but they can sometimes be disconnected from the actual need of the moment. Think about a routine you have and ask yourself
- does this fit in the flow of my life, as it is right now?
- am I using this routine to control something, especially something that feels uncomfortable?
- does life feel like a struggle more often than not?
- do I feel disconnected from my family or, on the flip-side do I feel the need to disconnect from them more often than I like to admit?
- do I spend a lot of time on social media, reading trashy magazines, or eating without having an overall sense of well-being, enjoyment or pleasure from these activities?
Toddler naps are a perfect example of the difference between routines and rhythm. It makes sense, in the rhythm of the day to take rest. It even makes sense to have a general idea of when that rest time should happen and making plenty of space for it in your daily schedule. What doesn’t make sense is imposing a routine on your toddler that is disconnected from the rhythm of the day, and disconnected from the rest of the family’s need to also take rest. Of course, depending on the season in which each family member is, rest can take many forms. But rather than thinking of nap time as a time to disconnect from the energy of your toddler, what if you started to think about it as the necessary rest and reset that everyone in the family needs to take as part of the natural rhythm of the day. How would that shift the tension around nap time (I’m not the only that struggles with this, right?)?
Rhythm that is energizing and harmonizing also needs to have enough variety and contrast. Without these elements it can feel controlling and stifling – hello, routines. If this is resonating with you there are a few antidotes you can start to explore.
- When you feel the impulse to disconnect, ask yourself “What do I REALLY NEED right now?” Most likely it’s rest, hydration or a true connecting moment with someone who loves you.
- Explore what Lisa Grace Byrne calls “joyful movement.” Exactly what it sounds like, shift that stuck energy by first moving it in a way that feels good to you, then explore adding a framework to it such as an organizing yoga pose, feeling the rhythm of your feet hitting the ground at a lovely pace, or simply dancing.
- Acknowledge in which season of life you are. Parenting young children can have a rhythm of sameness which can feel stifling. Look for places you can inject variety and contrast, e.g. have your child help with the chores, always an adventure; complete tasks while listening to music; talk in a funny voice or sing instead of talking; take a moment to become truly present with whatever you are doing.
- In contrast, your life may have too much variety because everyone is going in different directions. What are the rituals that will add an organizing rhythm to this season of life?
- Take some time to get clarity on your vision for your family and yourself. All movement and rhythms of your life should anchor back to the vision, keep you on the path of experiencing that vision more often than not. Remember, artists use movement to guide our focus. If you don’t know your focus it’s worth spending time exploring it deeper. (p.s. next month’s big idea is all about this, so stay tuned for more tools and tips!)
Mamas who get flowing with the natural rhythms of their family’s needs seem to do it so effortlessly; for the rest of us this can be a nuanced and difficult to grasp concept, especially if we are managing a tight schedule and a bunch of kids who need to be in a bunch of different places at the same time. Be patient with yourself. Most of us live in a culture that highly values making things happen and having something to show for it. This might feel like a very different approach. Start with learning your own needs and rhythms. Meet those and the rest will flow. Remember the goal is to add what is nourishing, and to let what’s no longer needs fall away naturally.
How will you explore rhythm this week? What areas of your life are calling out for some attention? Where have you lost focus on your vision for yourself and your family? Share in the comments below and on Instagram. Be well, mamas!