Archive for October, 2010

Work Cycles

Human beings have always been aware of cycles; the detailed fabric of nature’s rhythms surround us. There are astronomical cycles: day and night that last for 24 hours; weekly cycles that last for seven days; lunar cycles that last for 29.5 days; and seasonal cycles typically broken into four periods throughout the year. Indeed, we live with these cycles and are affected by them; the daily cycle of light and darkness, the lunar cycle of the tides, the annual cycles of the sun, migrations, floods and drought, and the life cycles of birth, growth, harvest and death.

Too often in today’s modern world, however, we forget about nature and its rhythm, and as a result fall prey to the affects of falling out of sync. Traditional cultures, on the other hand, marked their calendars, particularly the new moon, with names that kept them cognizant of the time at hand and in a perpetual state of harmony and balance.  For instance, to the Dakota Sioux, the moon in October is called the “Moon when Quilling and Beading is Done.” This moon name reflects the shifting energy of the season and is a call for a corresponding shift in daily activities; the work of harvesting is coming to a close, and now it is time to move inside for more solitary and sedentary work. 

Indeed, we might do well to consider ways our productive activities can have seasons as well. Yet, the fact is, many of us have jobs and pursue hobbies which do not change during the course of the year; a routine that lacks cyclical flow and doesn’t seem very skillful when you think of it.  Although it might not be possible to shift focus or tasks at work with each season, perhaps we can make some adjustment, and certainly we can adjust our activities or hobbies with the season. We just need to put our minds to it.  So, I ask you to think: Where can you consciously make a shift in how you spend your time according to what makes sense for this time of year?

To start, I suggest you stop the heavy lifting for now and turn your attention inward.

And, don’t forget to breathe in the cool, clear air of autumn. More importantly, breathe out…let go of some tension and begin to relax.

Mitakuye oyasin,
Michael

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Fall Activities

balanced rocks on whiteThere is a rhythm in nature and we are part of it. Therefore, there is a rhythm in us. If we fight that rhythm or fall off course, almost by definition, we create a state of imbalance. <!– –>

Notwithstanding our historic appreciation for nature’s cycles, our society has gradually drifted from a way of living that is supported by its rhythms. We eat when should be digesting; we are awake when we should be sleeping; we speed up when should be slowing down; and we spend when should be saving. We crave and cultivate wealth, power and privilege. Making more money to buy even more things to acquire “contentment” is a cherished way of life in the west. Industries produce and sell goods and services for enjoyment without relation to need or the quality of life. More goods and services generate more demand for more things; advertisements fuel the demand for things we do not even need. And the more things we feel we need, the more we need to work.  This vicious, manmade cycle is at odds with natural rhythms both in our world and within ourselves.

autumn reflection I am not suggesting that you abandon all modern conveniences and luxuries, even though living a simpler, more authentic existence might move you closer to nature’s rhythms.  Connecting to things that are more inherently fulfilling can move you into a more balanced state. This balance could be attained by a reorganization of priorities and letting go of the accumulation mindset, which keeps many of us stuck in habitual patterns of unskillful behavior.  Or it could begin with being mindful to engage in activities and habits that are seasonally appropriate. Do you rest in the winter? Were you outside during the spring? Are you taking time to reflect in the fall?

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Advice from the Skillful Dog: Seasonal Activities

Question: I stay in shape by jogging nearly every day.  During the summer, I have so much energy and love exercising outside, so I really enjoy going for a run every morning.  But as the weather gets cold, I have to force myself to get out of bed to go running.  As a result, I am not in as good shape as I am during the summer and I beat myself up about it. How can I maintain my willpower to stay in shape even in the winter?

Answer:  To begin, it is important that you redefine what it means to be “in good shape.” Thinking about this in earnest, would you say a person who can run a marathon is in good shape if they come home to a house of turmoil and madness? As just one example, our relationships are a very critical indicator of our health and state of existence. And there are other areas of our lives that deserve similar recognition. Indeed, the changing conditions of the season give us the excuse and opportunity to make the necessary adjustments–an adjustment I would call Skillful Living.

Getting back to your question…running, while appropriate during the times of year that the weather is conducive to the activity seems like a good idea, but perhaps your body, appropriately uncomfortable in the cold with only a sweatsuit on,  is actually trying to guide you to an appreciation of other aspects of your life that need attention as well.

Rather than resist this notion or feel guilty about “inactivity,” I would shift your perspective and look for, if not embrace, a new activity more suitable to the weather outside. I think you might find that when you do a more seasonally appropriate activity you will find more energy for the undertaking. Alternatively, perhaps this is a time to come inside, and pursue something altogether different, such as writing letters to old friends, mending fences inside your home, resting and restoring-collectively this is a time for removing obstacles and preserving your energy, while beginning to collect your thoughts and plans for activities that you might begin in the spring. Relax into it, the time is right for something different. The season for heavy lifting has ended. Ultimately,  when you figure that out and come into the rhythm of nature you will bring yourself closer to the state of health you desire. Running alone will not get you there.

Share how your activities change with the seasons or submit your own question in the comments section.

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