One hour fifteen minutes from waking up to walking out the door. 20 minutes for my commute, assuming traffic was normal. In the winter, I always rode the bus. In the spring and summer, sometimes I’d allow a bit more time and walk to work. Usually, I ate lunch at my desk. Sometimes in the summer, I’d sneak outside for a sandwich on a sunny park bench but always felt a bit guilty for being away from my desk. Other than that, my routine was pretty much the same, year round.
In my 20s, I lived and worked in Washington DC. I had a well-paid corporate job, I got to travel a bit, I was super ambitious and also had a busy social life. I’d optimized my routine, and I stuck to it.
Set goal. Make a plan. Stay focused. Work hard.
That was my general formula for success in life, and it worked for me, for a while.
I felt I was in control of my destiny. I believed if something didn’t work out, it was my fault, I’d just work harder the next time. Eternally optimistic, I was convinced I could get whatever I wanted by determination and work ethic alone.
Then life happens, right?
One day you realize that everything is NOT within your control. That sometimes amazing things happen so easily, and opportunities just fall into your lap. And other times, you can work and work and work, and it still isn’t enough.
(This took me years to realize and then a few more to accept. First, I had to have a quarter-life crisis. End a relationship. Move to France. Realize although living in Paris had always been my dream, living there didn’t actually feel like a dream! Fall in love. Move to England. Work at a job I hated so much I’d often cry on the train on the way into the office. Do several years of learning, journaling, exploring to find my way back home to myself.)
Now I know there is another way to approach life and work. A way that feels so much easier. Yes, you still have to show up and do the work (we’re not manifesting lottery tickets here, sorry.) But this way of living and working feels completely different. Flowing. Easier. Aligned. Nourishing. Joyful.
What is this new way of living and working? It starts with the Wheel of the Year.
What is the Wheel of the Year?
The Wheel of the Year is an ancient concept that the year is a recurring cycle, like a wheel.
The year is comprised of four seasons (spring, summer, autumn, winter), or five seasons in the traditional Chinese calendar. There are also a series of holidays which mark the turning of the seasons. These holidays are often aligned with the sun and moon.
The culture most commonly associated with the term Wheel of the Year is Celtic. But across the world, you’ll see traditional cultures describing the passage of time as a wheel, circle, cycle. In the Celtic wheel of the year, there are major festivals/holidays aligned with the solstices and equinoxes.
If you know your own ancestral origins, I encourage you to do a quick Google about your ancestors’ traditional calendar. See if you find a wheel there too – there’s a good chance you will.
Why Does the Wheel of the Year Matter?
In Western culture, we think of the year as a straight line. It starts in January, where you begin flipping pages to move forward until you reach December 31st. Then you throw out the calendar and start again.
Our ancestors perceived the year differently.
Completely dependent on the earth and natural cycles, they were attuned to the smallest changes throughout the year. They paid attention to seasons, hours of daylight, sun/moon cycles and important rituals marking the passage of time.
In the days before electricity and central heating, you had to live in sync with nature, or you weren’t going to live very long. Whereas for most of us today, we try to live the same, every day, year-round. We just wear a different jacket!
7,994 Generations Can’t Be Wrong
Humans have been on the earth for about 200,000 years. We’ve only been able to choose to ignore natural cycles since around 1882 (at the earliest!), when electricity appeared.
That’s around 140 years since we’ve decided we’re going to live differently.
Put another way, we each have around 8,000 GENERATIONS of ancestors behind us.
7,994 of your prior generations have lived in sync with nature. While about 6 of your generations have lived this other way.
Let me be clear, I feel extremely fortunate and grateful that I get to live in this time of amazing technology. I love it, and it enables me to do the work I do.
However, it’s obvious that our bodies and minds haven’t evolved within 6 generations to live completely disconnected from the natural world. And we feel that disconnect, badly.
Disconnection from the Wheel of the Year
When we’re disconnected from the Wheel of the Year, we might feel…
- Disconnected from your family and community
- Disconnected from your creativity and curiosity
- Disregard / disinterest for the environment and earth
- Stuck in our heads
- Stressed out and doing too much
- Like you’ve lost your sense of magic and wonder
- Bored with life, and not appreciating the beauty in the everyday
- Like we’re just going through the motions, life is on auto-pilot
- I’ve even heard it described as “I feel a little like a robot.”
Ok, So How Do I Connect with the Wheel of the Year then?
Connecting with the wheel of the year is easy.
You can start today, no matter what season it is. You don’t have to wait for January.
You don’t need to hug a tree, move off-grid, ferment your own sauerkraut or stop shaving. You can keep all your modern technology, keep your day-job, AND feel a whole lot better.
- Step Onto the Wheel of the Year
Because the wheel of a year is a cycle, the first step is just to step onto it.
Connecting with the wheel of the year is about getting really present to TODAY. So, let’s start there, and step onto the wheel.
- What season is it where you are right now?
- The next time you’re outside (even for 5 min in the city), look around. What signs do you notice of this season? Look up (at the trees) and look down (at the weeds). There are signs everywhere. Pretty soon you’ll start tuning into the seasonal signs of your place.
That’s the first step. Just get outside everyday, and start paying attention. (Bonus: this noticing is really an act of mindfulness. Meditation in action!)
2. Each Week, Bring Something Seasonal into your space
Keep this really simple. Bring something that reminds you of the season into your space (either your home, or your workspace). It could be a pinecone, a special rock, a leaf, a flower, a feather. Something that reminds you of the season. Bring it in for the week, and at the end of the week return it to nature (don’t just throw it in the trash!)
If you’re open to being a little woo, then ask permission of the object before you take it, and say thank you as you’re returning it. (You can do all this asking and thanking in your head, don’t need to say it out loud.)
3. Learn the Seasonal Energetics of the Wheel of the Year
This is the real secret to making your life and work feel easier.
Each part of the natural cycle of the year has an energy. If you connect with the energy already happening around you, you’re much more likely to get into the flow and everything feels easier.
Here’s a quick overview of seasonal energetics:
- Winter: cold, dark, short days. Inner-focus. A time for nesting, resting, nourishing, restoring, gathering with friends around the fire, preparing yourself for the new year ahead.
- Spring: warmer, longer days. Planting seeds. Sprouts. Rebirth. Clearing space. Growth! This is the time to set intentions, start new projects, reach out and make new connections.
- Summer: hot, sunshine, long days. Action and activity. Peak growth. Play, joy, creativity. This is the time to be out in the world, meeting people, producing, creating, making it happen!
- Autumn: cooler, shorter days. A time to harvest all the goodness you created this year. Feast and celebrate your wins. Prune back what no longer serves you and let it go. Put aside and prepare for winter.
Seasonal energetics are intuitive, right?
Do you see how you can’t possibly be go-go-go all the time? The world (including humans) work in cycles. There needs to be an inward period of rest (winter) before you can plant new seeds and grow them. You have to let go of what’s not working (autumn) to make space for new projects.
Looking at the year in this energetic context also makes it seem totally crazy that we try to start our new year in January, when the season is telling us to rest and restore ourselves indoors – not go to the gym! Much better to set new years goals in spring, when the energy is rising.
Whether the Wheel of the Year is a new concept for you, or just a refresher, I encourage you to step onto it today. Just in a little way, connect with the season in your area. What’s happening today, right in front of you? Just be present and notice.
How do you connect with the Wheel of the Year? Leave a comment and let us know!