This morning I walked down to my sit spot, which is a small enclosure by a dry creek bed surrounded by tall Bay trees in my back yard. To be honest, I hadn’t been down there for a while. I had been letting my right brain, ‘gotta get the to-do-list done’ self take over in the mornings, jumping into emails and productivity not too long after waking. I noticed that my energy was becoming more and more frenetic, and I was starting to feel depressed and emotionally congested. This morning, I decided not to listen to the voice that was telling me I had to get going, respond to the world and make it happen. Instead, I walked slowly down to my sit spot.
When I got down there, all I could manage was to lie down on the earth and let myself feel. At first I noticed that my mind still wasn’t totally bought into this idea, but the longer I stayed with the sensations and sights and smells of this little spot of earth my body was touching, something began to shift in me. I began to feel some uncomfortable emotions that I had been pushing away underneath the productivity. As I let myself feel, a cry welled up in me. Feeling held by mother earth, I compassionately allowed my tears to flow.
Letting my emotions move through me relieved a lot of the congestion, and I soon felt myself feeling more at home. I began noticing things that were completely invisible to me when I had first lain down. I noticed the most beautiful skeleton of an old bay leaf that was lying on the ground in front of my nose. I admired the intricate and delicate beauty inherent in its death and decomposition. I noticed several radiantly green bay nuts that had recently fallen from the tree above me. I heard the singing and alarming of the birds that filled the surrounding area. My mind was nowhere but right here, experiencing the unique moment I had finally arrived at.
This was a shift between what is often referred to as the left brain– the analytical, linear, mission-driven mind, and my right brain– the archetypal, present moment, dreaming mind. We are all swimming inside of a cultural mindset that encourages, rewards, and is addicted to left brain functionality. I believe that this was not always the way, but in this age of industrial capitalism and addiction to progress, we have come to see this as “normal,” and right brain activity is reserved for vacations and if we are lucky, sleeping.
Why might it be equally important to spend time in our right brains? And how can we encourage our girls to spend time in their right brains as they grow and inevitably become part of this greater left brain dominant society?
Moon Time: For girls and women, our moon time can be a great indicator of how we are doing in that balance. During our moon time, our consciousness naturally shifts towards less linear thinking. If we align our outer activities with this pull, we can drink from the deep well of dreaming and creativity that is waiting for us under the surface of our left-brain life style. On months when I have been mostly using my left brain, my moon time will come crashing down on me, bringing on slamming headaches, or sudden intense mood swings and grumpiness. Other women experience painful or debilitating cramps, and other symptoms of “PMS.” The remedy of many of these things, for me, is to spend time in nature, let my mind roam, get off the clock, and simply be.
As your daughter grows into a “productive member of society,” and develops towards her menarche (first menstruation or moon time) it is great to have the conversation about what activities, for her, bring her back into her right brain. These are activities that can be utilized at anytime and everyday, and also called upon during that special bleeding time of the month when the oceanic nature of our cyclical bodies asks us to match this non-linear pull.
The natural world: There are many studies being shown that many of the modern diagnoses of neurological, behavioral and mood disorders stem from our lack of time in nature. Beyond the striving towards perfection in school or extra-curriculars, girls are also interfacing with social and media pressures that are infiltrating their very sense of self. The natural world lets the left brain striving, judgmental and comparative mind take a load off. Nature invites the right brain online, which very effectively reminds girls of their innate perfection, simply in their being-ness as a part of the greater web of life. As my time laying on the earth this morning allowed for me, it can also allow for girls to feel their inside emotions and have time for deeper more honest reflection of what is going on underneath the hustle bustle and keeping-it-together of other parts of their life.
Crafting, working with our hands: For much of human history we were spending daily energy engaging with the creation of the tools, food, and necessities of our survival. This built-in time each day, where we were doing a repetitive and creative task, was often nurturing of this right brain connection. At Gaia Girls, we can feel when we have gone from left brain, figuring out how to accomplish a craft or skill, into the right brain engagement, where the hands are weaving or carving or creating on their own and the mind is free to slip away into deeper thoughts or into calm conversations with the other girls.
What activities can be built into your daughter’s life that re-creates this? Perhaps it is helping to make dinner, or weed your garden, or start a knitting or weaving project together, and the list goes on…
Any other unstructured, non-linear activities: Have the conversation with your daughter about right brain vs. left brain, and how you can stay balanced as a family with both. What are activities that she feels bring a sense of presence, imagination, and rest for her more productive parts? For some girls it is drawing, for others it is reading a great book curled up on the couch, for others it is singing, swimming, jogging, cuddling with you or giggling with her favorite friend. Whatever it is, it’s good for them and you to know what those activities are that can help in the moments when it is time to unwind and refill her deeper well.
Media Hygiene: In our media-driven society, the instant access to what’s happening in the world, to our extensive social networks, to our email and phones, is over stimulating and tiring for the brain. How can we support each other in having good media hygiene for ourselves and our families? For girls, having unfettered access to these influences is like giving her a taste of an addictive drug, and then expecting her to regulate herself. Can the modern rite-of-passage into her own instagram account or a personal iPhone be matched with the real conversation on how to develop a healthy and mindful balance of screen time vs. nature or real time?
In conclusion … yes. Yes to that small voice that is calling out from underneath your business, productivity, or screen time. Yes and hello to that little voice that is being ignored and forgotten and devalued in our larger world. When not listened to, we can see and feel the repercussions in the stresses on our body, mind, and relationships. Let us, as women and girls, resolve to reclaim our ancient embodied and right brain wisdom, which in this time, could actually save our world. It is not easy, and none of us can do it alone, and the voices of productivity will often times win out. But, perhaps, each time we or our girls listen to that small voice, we each grow wisdom in the right brain that complements the knowledge in our left brain, and we become a little bit more whole.
By: Sarai Shapiro