Naomi Bulger: Rhythms & Rituals
Welcome to 2018 and the second in our guest blog series with slow living guru Naomi Bulger. Naomi shares the small rhythms and rituals that help her and her family live in the moment and create a more mindful life. I hope you find some inspiration and a few ideas that your family can use – I know I did! To find out more about Naomi, read her wonderful blog here.
Something our family discovered early on that helped us in our goal to slow down and live more mindfully was to create, recognise and value the small rituals and rhythms that occur in our days and weeks.
They are the checkpoints or important moments that we can build into our routines that encourage mindfulness, or gratitude, or just help us be “present” in what we are doing and who we are with. Spiritual and social slowing-down activities that are structured into the rest of our week as habits, and that can be done no matter how busy our lives are, and no matter how many Hot-Wheels cars or Sylvanian Families pieces roll and crunch underfoot on the way to the bathroom.
These are what some of our rhythms and rituals look like:
Early morning tea
I get up early, while everybody in the house still sleeps, and enjoy a quiet cup of tea in my favourite mug. My early mornings-with-tea are a deliberate pause before the whirlwind of the day begins, like a galvanising hand on my shoulder and a little voice that I trust, saying, “you got this.”
Every Sunday we have tacos for dinner. The children help make it so we all cook together, and then sit around the table with little self-serve bowls of taco-filling in the middle to pass to one another, while we crunch and chat. The tacos aren’t fancy: we get the probably-very-unhealthy versions that you can buy in a kit. But they are quick and easy to make (so easy that two pre-schoolers can do it). Nutrition isn’t the priority of this particular meal, it’s family.
Making the beds
There are all kinds of research studies about the benefits of making the bed, and I know for me the day feels more “under control” once my bed is made, and I get genuine pleasure from seeing it all nicely made up (nerd alert). Recently my kids moved from their cots into “big beds,” so now they are learning to make their beds every day too.
“Mummy magic” is our word for a kind of Reiki-style meditation that I do over the children last thing at night. It is calming, and loving, and sets them up for sleep. I pat my heart then hover my hands over their hearts, focusing my mind on just how much I love them. Then slowly I pass my hands over their whole body, from head to toes. At the toes, I kind of flick my hands and imagine I’m pushing all the toxins (physical or emotional) out, and then work my way back up their little bodies, pouring all my love (Mummy magic) in.
Who does that any more? The Bulger family, that’s who! Every time we go on holidays, even a weekend break, my husband buys postcards to send to some of the donors and supporters of the charity he works at, to let them know he’s thinking of them. Following his lead, the children like to write postcards, too. Over breakfast on a holiday, we all sit down and think about what we have seen and done and what we enjoyed and what stood out to us, and we write those things down, put a stamp on them, and send them to someone we care about.
One lovely habit my husband has to counteract the long hours he works is to leave little notes for us to find when we wake up in the morning. Notes telling the children how much he loves them, what he hopes to do together on the weekend, how much he loved the drawing they did for him. Those letters, scribbled on the backs of envelopes, receipts and shopping lists, are keepsakes. I keep them all in a little book, so that one day when they are older I can show it to them and they will know (if they don’t already) how deeply they are loved.
Circling back to my alone mornings, my children have a morning ritual too. I have taught them how to read the clock and, no matter what time they wake up, they know they are not to come downstairs until the clock reaches 7am. Often (although not always), they wake up a lot earlier. Any time from six in the morning, they could be awake. But I have learned that if I bring them downstairs when they first wake, the day rarely goes well. They are tired and grumpy and bicker with one another and with me. Burst into tears for no reason. But their mornings, while they wait for 7am to roll around, are slow and lovely.
Downstairs enjoying my me-time, I listen to them on the monitor. One wakes and says in a croaky sleep-voice “Do you want to cuddle?” Then you hear rustling and the pad-pad of little feet, more rustling, and they have snuggled down in one of the beds together. Everything goes silent for a little while. Then, slowly, the talking begins. Games, questions, ideas for the day. Sometimes my daughter pulls out books and reads to her brother (she can’t actually read, but can recite many of their books word for word). Other times, they start a tickle game, or play with the soft toys in a basket in their room.
It is a gentle, slow waking up that gradually becomes louder and more rambunctious as the morning continues and, by the time the little hand points to the 12 and the big hand points to the seven, they are excited to start the day.
Naomi will be sharing more of her slow living journey with us over the coming months. You can find out more about Naomi, her snail mail revolution, letter writing courses and much more on her blog.