I don’t really like the telly (except the late Bake Off and anything involving living in Alaksa)… but I do like David Attenborough. So last Sunday night I was happy to hear him accompanying a screen full of bleary-eyed, itchy bears crawling out from their Rocky mountain hibernation to go and find a good tree to scratch on. There was a groovy little beat playing and everyone was having a fine time. Even the little ones were trying a bit of a face-first tree shimmy.
This got me to thinking.
We are not like bears. (Deep, I know, but stick with me). As well as – hopefully – being less hairy and smelly, we don’t ever slow down. Ever.
Winter comes. The natural world settles back into itself for a little while. We carry on pushing and striving and enduring.
Even when the dark nights make us feel like we want to curl up earlier and get some rest, we look around at what friends and colleagues are doing and allow that to push us into going harder, longer. We get the serious FOMOs (fear of missing out) or worry about falling behind. Professionally, socially… we’re all so prone to putting up goalposts in our head. When I was younger I was convinced that by 30 I’d be happily married with two kids, lots of letters after my name, a mortgage, pension and close to partnership in a vet practice. In reality, I spent so much time achieve, then freaking out that I was still years behind schedule that I didn’t see or acknowledge that what I wanted had completely changed. Instead I ran around like a perennially dissatisfied headless chicken.
I don’t think I’m alone in having spent a lot of time and energy trying really hard to go in the wrong or no direction. We need to stop constantly chasing things, qualifications and lifestyles we’re not sure why we want.
When we look outside ourselves for validation, we get pushed completely out of sync with the ebb and flow of the Earth’s seasons. We go all out, all the time.
Wouldn’t it be better if we could accept the natural lull of winter as an opportunity to meet our need for rest and recuperation? If we could deeply honour the rhythm of our bodies and souls? We could regroup and recharge, ready to pour ourselves into projects we’re genuinely passionate about.
By slowing down and becoming still, we create space to listen to our intuition. Our inner wisdom always available to us, but we’re often so fast and loud we drown it out. A little introspective down time allows us to gauge what we can cut away, what’s weighing us down and holding us back. It gives us clarity. When we have time to really look, we can see the patterns in our actions – the concept of samskaras in yoga – that we don’t have to keep blindly re-living again and again. We set up a fresh start, and continue to grow in a way that’s true to ourselves.
Everything in nature, like every one of us, has its own time to bloom. We can learn a lot from the bears, or even the flowers in our garden when it comes to respecting our own inner rhythms and seasons. Because, despite what we tell ourselves, we don’t have to be producing constantly. And our best work often happens when we’ve had a decent sleep.