by Hannah Adams
Rhythm is a word we come across very often in Waldorf education. There are many questions that may arise in relation: What makes rhythm different from routine or schedule? Why do we put so much emphasis on the importance of rhythm? How do I maintain a rhythm in my home?
As we return to our daily life after the holiday season, I am reminded of how easy it is to fall out of our rhythm, and what a gift it can be to have the rhythm of the seasons to keep us grounded. Indeed, there is a rhythm to our daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly life. These ebb and flow like the tides, with room for us to flex in and out of something cyclical. One aspect that stands out about a rhythm as opposed to a schedule or routine, is the organic breathing room a rhythm allows for. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. Once settled into the pattern, one may not even notice. Less strict than a schedule, yet still a form for us to have freedom within. An example of this form could be that breakfast may not happen at the same exact time each day, but you do always brush teeth before and get dressed after. Perhaps the activities differ from day to day, but there are landmarks to ground us that provide something especially reliable for children and adults alike.
Rhythm is deeply integral to Waldorf Education because of the way it supports our beings developmentally, spiritually, and physically. Everything in and around us has a rhythm–our heartbeat, the moon, the life cycles of a plant, a day in the life of a bumble bee. Throughout the Waldorf school year we observe festivals and celebrations that are rooted in the seasons and communal gathering. We find connection in our community through shared experience and ritual. You can also practice ritual in your home: the ritual of lighting a candle for mealtimes, a story before bedtime, finding small treasures outside to add to a nature table. A growing sense of reverence and wonder is found in celebrating the magic of the mundane.
Helle Heckmann has three considerations for raising children which she believes are the most important. To be flexible, to have boundaries, and to observe the same rhythm each day. One might think that flexibility and boundaries are at odds with each other, but we can see when observing a rhythmical life, that they are in fact symbiotic.
The cyclical nature of the Waldorf school year provides connection to nature, self, and community. Seasonal traditions and festivals ground us in our environment, present opportunity for community connection, and moments of inner reflection.
How might you find peace and connection through rhythm this year?