Why is rhythm and routine important?
Action Research Project by Phaedra Tettero-Crosby
Presented at the RSCT on July 25th, 2018
Since having children of my own I kept hearing how important it is to have a rhythm and routine, to do things at the same time each day and to have consistency in my life. It was one of those many things that my mother told me but I wanted to believe I could do things differently. And I did.
When my eldest child started school at Waldorf and I came into contact with the Waldorf pedagogy as an adult/parent. I saw how rhythm and routine were pillars of the kindergarten curriculum and saw how beautifully it embraced and incorporated so much of life and how it supported the children.
One year later I started my Waldorf teacher training and still kept hearing more about rhythm and routine and feeling the nudge towards it. I was still convinced I didn't need to take that “boring” route. My resistance to it was that my life would be so predictable and that would be boring. I wanted to be free and to do as I pleased.
At this point I was teaching in a Waldorf school and had two small children, I noticed my life forces getting depleted and the resistance I carried to the rhythm and routine of the school week. Something in me didn't want to conform, didn’t want to be doing this and I resisted the whole way through the year.
I found myself feeling very depleted and exhausted all the time and didn't like feeling that way. I knew intellectually that rhythm and routine supports a healthy etheric and that I should have a stronger rhythm and routine in my life but I just wasn't making it happen. Just the initial work it takes to start and keep a routine, I couldn't conjure up the will forces to start that.
Working in the ECE I also knew that the more rhythmic my home life could be the more seamless the transition into the classroom would be. I wanted my home life to align somewhat with my work life so there isn't too much discrepancy. For my own children too I knew it would be so beneficial, things would be more relaxed and harmonious and they would feel more secure knowing what is happening.
As a kindergarten teacher this year and having 2 young children of my own (ages six and eight) I knew I would be needing to strengthen my etheric forces. I wanted to feel like I could give to the children and I wanted to make sure I was at optimum vibrancy to do my work the best I can as teacher and mother.
I decided on what I thought were the places I needed to implement a routine and I also decided on a few things that I would build into my daily life that were important to my personal development as a Waldorf Teacher.
After school routine: Each day after school we come straight home and we just stay at home. Previously I have been swayed by my kids to go to the park or do something after school which was completely exhausting and wasn’t conducive to a peaceful evening.
So now we come home and I begin right away with making dinner. I dont have the previous attitude of once im home I can let everything fall apart, no more rules and rhythm. Now I see coming home as a continuation of my work and carry a routine and have boundaries with my kids. Dinner is made on time, so we can eat in a relaxed manner and all eat together. Then there is still time to play before bedtime.
Review of the day: As a part of my personal development I put into my routine that I would do the review of the day exercise each night after putting my kids to bed.
Colour of the day: At the beginning of school year I decided to wear the colour of the day. So I bought one or two shirts for each day of the week and I have them in a separate part of my closet. They are lined up in order of sequence. When I go to get dressed in the morning I don't have to decide what i'm wearing, I just choose that coloured shirt and that's done. It saves a lot of time and energy and having to make yet one more decision.
If one thinks about how many decisions one has to make in just the 2 hours before we even get to work in the morning it's quite overwhelming. What am I going to wear? What am I going to eat for breakfast, for lunch? For dinner? What footwear will I wear? Am I going to the meeting after school? Who will watch my kids? How will I do my hair?
Having some of these decisions already taken care of and made more simple I can save myself not only time but the mental energy that it takes to each day a new make these decisions.
Moon cycle: In September I began a new menstrual (moon) cycle on the first day of school. From this time on I have started my cycle (i.e. got my period) always on a Monday morning between 6am and 7am. It has followed this exact day and time up until March. I took a trip in March to Mexico where I was doing a lot of traveling and moving around.
This resulted in the timing of my cycle starting 3 days late, completely out of the norm. This proved to me how much my rhythm and routine was deeply embedded into my body. Upon returning from my trip my cycle went back to early Monday morning.
At the beginning of September when the school year started I began implementing my new rhythm and routine for my home life. It was my goal to experience if and how rhythm and routine supports the etheric body, the life energy of a human. It is well known that in Waldorf kindergarten the children of that age are building up their physical bodies.
This building of the physical body requires the etheric forces from the adults around them, so they draw on us teachers and parents for our etheric forces.
The pedagogical law is in essence that we as educators of young children ages 0-7 years old use our etheric forces to educate the child's physical body.
When the child is 7-14 years old we use our astral forces to educate and inform their developing etheric body. During ages 14-21 when they are developing their astral forces the educator uses their ego to guide them.
Steiner said it takes one month or one lunar cycle to incorporate a new rhythm into the etheric body. The rhythm of the etheric body is one lunar cycle. This was very clear and apparent to me when after the first month of implementing my new routine, I felt this release of energy and just naturally picked up a few other things that had been on my to do list for a long time. It just happened because there was a freeing up of etheric forces.
Also this etheric body and lunar cycle connection was hugly apparent with my moon time and how spot on it was each month. This showed me that my body, my organs were responding to the rhythm and routine. If my body was catching onto it in such a short time and consistently then how profound would this be working on the children and their organs. This is profound when I think how this rhythm and routine could be having the same effects on the organs of the children in my class.
In late October I got asked to play Mary in The Shepherd's play at the school. I was completely surprised at myself that I even considered this role. After a day of making sure I was thinking alright I agreed to play this part. This part entails singing solos and being one of the main characters. This is not something that I have ever been fond of.
I thought maybe I would chicken out once we got practicing but much to my surprise I only grew fonder of all parts of this new venture. I attribute this having energy and confidence for something so seemingly scary to having been strengthening my etheric forces.
Because my etheric is restored I have energy left over for these extra things. In addition having this rhythm and routine has boosted my confidence hugely and given me the feeling that I can do anything. And I can do anything..why not?! Its opened up doors for me that I never thought I would open.
Huge boost in confidence: I have noticed a huge shift in my confidence I have in my work and also in my personal life. Having more vitality and energy has translated into much more confidence in work, with the children and their parents. This confidence has translated into my next point: a new love for my work.
Deep sense of love for my work: In the past, I can't say I had ever loved being a Waldorf teacher. I found it intimidating and hard. This year in the winter term I had a break through, and just started loving every minute of my days with the children. Through being more connected, by having more energy and time, and being more confident, I have really delved into this work, and see how much that feeds the fire of love.
Connections: this has been a year of connecting and really coming into my own self. I think when one's life is always different or new then it's hard to know who you are and what you want in life. The rhythm and routine really forced me to see what is important to me and who I am and what I stand for. I had to make choices and decisions for myself and in that it helped to identify and firm myself and then I could receive or be open to connection that is genuine.
An important part of the connection piece has been the forming of a coven that came to being this year. Being a part of a coven is very connected to rhythms, ancient earth and planetary cycles. We gather regularly, there is ritual and an honouring of the place in this time of the year we are in by different celebrations. This rhythmic pausing and reflection very similar to what we do in Waldorf Education has been yet another way in which I have brought more rhythm to my life and more wellbeing to my life.
Phaedra gave this presentation on Wednesday, July 25th. She is wearing yellow, the colour for Wednesday.
The Etheric Body
In anthroposophy the human is seen as a 4 fold human consisting of
0-7 years -The Physical body/ mineral / foundational / stagnant
7-14 years -The Etheric body/ plants / life forces / growth
14-21 years -The Astral body/ animal / feelings / likes and dislikes
21- onward -The Ego / Human/ higher thinking capacity/ selfhood
Each of these bodies is associated with a life phase and with different aspects of what it is to be human or alive.
The Etheric body is associated with the life phase from 7-14 years old. It is also very much in the plant world. It is what differentiates a plant from a mineral. Plants move and grow whereas minerals are more stagnant. The etheric is also called the life body, lift forces so it's characterized by a life giving force.
The etheric body is also known as the time body, everything that has to do with cycles, rhythms, season, habits, rhythmic processes in the body, metabolism, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly rhythms. It is what makes up and structures our life. Without these rhythms there would be no end and no beginning. There would be no structure to life.
These ebbs and flows and cycles that exist in our life help to create structure and meaning, familiarity and thus a deepening. I wonder what our life would be like if we didn't have natural rhythms of waking and sleeping, work and play, night and day, winter and summer, even the measure of time, our ages, our birthdays, certain points in time that have significance. What is we didn't have any measuring or awareness of time?
I think we wouldn't be on earth, we might float away. These etheric processes keep us grounded, connected, give a certain meaning to our lives. Give us the bread and butter to work with. In the Waldorf ECE the rhythm and routine of the day, week, month and year is our bread and butter, that is what holds us, the teachers and the children.
It gives us structure but also beginnings and endings, transitions and variety. Its sets the mood, the tone, the impulse of the time. Whether it be the time of day, the day of the week or the season. That is essentially informing us in all parts of our life as to what we should be doing.
Some rhythms that exist:
● Day and night or sunup and sundown
● Sleeping and waking
● In breath and out breath
● Eating and digestion
● Each day of the week and its planet informed gesture which is right in the name of the days of the week ( SUN-day MOON-day etc.)
● Monthly rhythms connected to the moon cycle, the waxing a waning, the ebbs and flows of fluids
● The sun cycle; a year, the time it takes for the sun to rotate around the earth.
● Within that year the division of 12 months and 4 seasons (more pronounced in North America)
● The waking and sleeping of the earth, above and below ground activity
● Heartbeat and organ functions
These rhythms are so habitual to most of us or happen without us having to exert too much effort or even necessarily being too aware of them. Most of these are rhythms and habits we experience from a baby and thus are habits. I see these rhythms of the earth and natural world as what keep its vitality up. We as humans can fine tune our own etheric bodies by creating our own rhythmic routines and supportive habits.
The more routine something is the easier it becomes to do and less it takes away from our energy supply. Bedtime routines, mealtime routines, bathing and dressing routines, work and play routines, are all examples of how we can mimic what nature does naturally to renew and support life.
It started off with a huge sense of excitement and relief that I was finally putting some structure in my life. It was the perfect time to start it with the new school year commencing. I was relieved to finally feel like I had control over my life and things didn't need to be chaotic. I was so excited to see how different it might feel and reap the benefits of it. I really took comfort in having these structures in place to my day and to have the challenge of keeping to it.
Once I had started I didn't want to veer from it. Of course as time went on I did and was able to veer from it when I felt it necessary. I think it is still healthy to be flexible once one has a solid foundation. I noticed when I did veer from the usual that it was exciting and special rather then chaotic and disappointing. I was happy to get back into my routine as well. I could feel the comfort in knowing what was coming and not having to each day anew decide how things would be done.
In February when I had quite a big shift I felt and have felt ever since a huge sense of gratitude towards this practice and whatever the force was that lead me to find this calm and control in my life. I really cannot imagine my life being any different. I feel so grateful for rhythm and routine and the many effects it has had on my personal life and work life.
Ego-Summary-Bringing it all Together
I am hugely inspired by this year of rhythm and routine and strengthening my etheric body. I have essentially had a breakthrough in my work as a teacher and now really love what I do. Having a solid foundation has allowed me to know myself more deeply and in turn allowed me to connect more deeply with the people in my life and the work I do in the world.
This comes full circle back to me with so much joy and a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. I recall experiencing the feeling of waking up and being excited to get out of bed and get the day started in the past few months. That is a sign of vitality and a love for life to me. I have been able to delve and connect so much more to my work as a teacher through a surge in self confidence this year.
I will most certainly continue with these routines that have now become a part of my life. I will work on ones that didn't quite stick this time around such as the review of the day meditation. It has been great to make accomplishments and also good to still have lots to work on in the future.
Having and building routine is such a great way to build things into my life that I think are important. I recall when I first started it felt like i was choosing what I wanted to add to my life and once I had decided what it was then I went for it.
I took something that had previously been seemingly unattainable and created the space, time and structure to fit it into my life. This is such a gift and huge inspiration to continue because I think one can live a more fulfilling and full life when we are doing the things that matter to us and preserving our life forces where and when we can.
I can say that I have become so much of a better teacher through all the improvements I have already mentioned. I now know first hand the profound effects of rhythm and routine on one’s life and body. I carry that with me when I am teaching and can talk to parents about it and bring a personal element to it. Knowing first hand gives it real meaning and depth rather then something I know intellectually but don't quite know the lived reality and benefits.
I am so grateful and happy that I have had the opportunity and support and encouragement to do this, I cannot imagine where my life would be without it. It has been the vital stepping stones I needed to enter this new phase in my life. What this research really made clear to me was the truth we all know that in order to be able to give we must have something to give. We have to take care of ourselves first in order to be able to extend a hand.
Without a solid foundation and knowledge of self, who we are then we cannot fully engage with others. I recognize this is an ever developing, ever changing process. I am very happy to have come to this place where I am now and look forward to the future developments.
The project described in this report was the final piece of Phaedra’s three-year part-time Waldorf professional development course at the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto. We hope to publish more student research projects in the future. We started with Phaedra’s report because her findings are so widely applicable.
Phaedra Tettero-Crosby teaches at the Trillium Waldorf School in Guelph, Ontario.
Waldorf Colours for the Days of the Week