I seem to feel the coming of autumn more than other seasons. Watching things die and fall to the ground comes as a slight shock - and my body seems to know more about it than my mind does. Over the years, I have observed how it happens, even come to understand a little of why it does. But the point is, it does still happen, almost despite me, like clockwork. As the leaves turn their different shades and the mornings get darker, I slow down, and a form of incomprehension sets in.
This autumn issue of Thresholds features a piece by Matthew Cormack. He explores the resonance between a ritual to mark the Pagan festival Samhain, which honours the dead, and the process he uses with clients at the end of a therapeutic relationship. The use of ritual, he states, can support this change.
The article reminded me how important it can be for one’s self-care to pre-empt transitions and to have gentle practices in place. I use an embodied, focusing practice1 to notice, and gently acknowledge, what is coming up for me and then draw upon a sense of being held by the natural world (and the trees in particular).
I’ve been studying polyvagal theory, and it recognises, and celebrates, the place that nature plays in nourishing the autonomic nervous system.2 The other part of polyvagal theory that resonates with the themes that I have been thinking about this autumn is the idea that our nervous systems tell their own stories.3
In this issue, we feature a conversation with Mick Cooper and his daughter, Maya. They share a family story from 18th century Ukraine that has marked their worldview today. Mick talks about epigenetics and the concept that embodied experiences stay with us through generations. He also points to ways that this can be sensitively looked at in therapy. Music therapist, Bob Heath, writes about his work supporting end-of-life clients as they pass their stories down to their loved ones in music.
As we go into the winter months, I plan to take some time to deepen the practices that sustain me in an ever-changing world. I am looking forward to the BACP Spirituality conference on 12 November. The event is called ‘A Trellis for the Soul’ and is all about how to create a framework for working with spirituality. Tickets are still available. I read speaker, Martina Leehane Shehan’s book, A Trellis for the Soul, upon which her talk will be based. It offers many ideas to nurture deeper connection and contemplation.
I’m busy collating articles from conference contributors for the January issue of Thresholds. It looks set to offer many more points for further reflection. If you’d like to subscribe to receive your free online subscription as a BACP member, click on Thresholds.
1 https://www.focusing.org.uk/ (accessed 12 October 2021).
2 Dana D. Polyvagal exercises for safety and connection. New York: Norton; 2020.
3 Dana D. The polyvagal theory in therapy. New York: Norton; 2018.
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