As I was sitting in the woods by our house the other day, enjoying the stillness, I began to notice that even in the relative quiet of this space, there’s lots of activity going on: birds singing, bees buzzing, squirrels scampering and insects crawling around in the leaf litter at my feet.
It got me thinking about balance – as I so often do.
I had become aware of the activity of these other creatures because I was taking time to be quiet. And perhaps they felt safe to be out and about because of my stillness. If I’d been busy and making noise, they’d probably have been scurrying away to hide.
Something similar is actually being seen on a larger scale in many places at this time. As humans have entered a state of ‘lockdown’ in countries across the globe, animals are coming out of their more hidden spaces and entering towns and cities, because of the reduction in our activity:
- Fish and dolphins have been seen swimming in the Venice canals
- Wild goats have been eating garden hedges in a village in Wales
- Deer have been resting in a housing estate in London
- You can see further examples from around the world here
It reminded me of how our bodies work.
The ‘cycle of wellbeing’ includes periods of activity, which need to be balanced out by ‘rest and repair’. A certain amount of ‘stress’ is necessary for our activity, in order to motivate us and get us moving. That’s ok, as long as we then make time to be quiet and still and to allow our body to recharge and to engage in any necessary maintenance.
However, the further we swing into stress, the further we need to push into rest in order to regain our balance.
The tissues of the body can only be in either stress or rest at any one time. We therefore need to make time for quality times of peace and quiet in order to allow the necessary repair activity to take place.
It’s also worth noting that the further into stress we go, the more our body is having to make adaptations in order to cope, leaving more for us to undo through ‘rest and repair’.
Higher levels of stress can lead to issues such as high blood pressure, sleeplessness and obsessive thinking.
When the body shifts into rest and repair it can then experience what we often refer to as symptoms of dis-ease – such as inflammation and pain – as it undoes the adaptations from the stress phase, eliminating anything that is no longer needed, and working to restore balance. It’s not that something has gone ‘wrong’, or that the body has made a mistake of some kind, it’s actually doing exactly what it’s designed to do!
The body is, in fact, working in synergy with bacteria, viruses and fungi, using them to help with this elimination and restoration process. (You can read a little more about this here.)
It’s all about balance, and the closer we can stay to this, the healthier we will feel.
Stress in itself isn’t the problem, as long as its short term. It’s when it lasts over a period of time, or even becomes chronic, that it can seriously impact on our health.
So, it’s good practice to tune in to your body on a regular basis to check in with how you’re feeling. Listen to any little niggles of tension, tightness or physical or emotional discomfort and take steps to address these. The earlier you can do this, the less effort it will take.
But if you realise there are issues that you’ve been carrying for a while, don’t worry. It’s still possible to address these effectively. It might take a little longer, but every step along the way will bring valuable learning and growth, and will help you to develop tools that will last you a lifetime.
If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact me:
Below, I have included a beautiful poem by Nadine Anne Hura of New Zealand. It touched me deeply and so I thought I’d share it here. I hope it resonates for you too.
Breathe easy and settle
Right here where you are
We’ll not move upon you
We’ll stop, we’ll cease
We’ll slow down and stay home
Draw each other close and be kind
Kinder than we’ve ever been.
I wish we could say we were doing it for you
as much as ourselves
But hei aha
We’re doing it anyway
It’s right. It’s time.
Time to return
Time to remember
Time to listen and forgive
Time to withhold judgment
Time to cry
Time to think
Remove our shoes
Press hands to soil
Sift grains between fingers
Time to plant
Time to wait
Time to notice
To whom we belong
For now it’s just you
And the winds
And the forests and the oceans and the sky full of rain
Finally, it’s raining!
Ka turuturu te wai kamo o angi ki runga i a koe
This sacrifice of solitude we have carved out for you
He iti noaiho – a small offering
People always said it wasn’t possible
To ground flights and stay home and stop our habits of consumption
But it was
It always was.
We were just afraid of how much it was going to hurt
– and it IS hurting and it will hurt and continue to hurt
But not as much as you have been hurt.
So be still now
Wrap your hills around our absence
Loosen the concrete belt cinched tight at your waist
And we will do the same.Nadine Anne Hura
Mother Earth (the addition of the “e” in front signals the words are addressed or spoken directly to her.)
Ka turuturu te wai kamo o Rangi ki runga i a koe –
means something like, “tears from the eyes of Ranginui drip down on you” (Ranginui is our sky father, it is common to refer to rain as the tears of Rangi for his beloved, from whom he was separated at the beginning of time in order that there could be light in the world). Not long after the announcement we were moving to level 3, it poured with rain in Porirua after many months of hot and dry weather. I could feel my garden rejoicing.
Hei aha –
This can be translated in many ways, but I meant it like the English “oh well, whatever”
He iti noaiho –
“something small”. Because our sacrifice feels enormous but in reality I think it is not sufficient to truly see Papatūānuku recover. However, in Māori, we often talk about the significance of small actions or gestures. We say “ahakoa he iti, he pounamu.” Although it is small, it is a treasure.