Soothe Yourself

Soothe Yourself December 18, 2016

kilmartin glen, photo by seth m (cc) 2006.
kilmartin glen, photo by seth m (cc) 2006.

Yule 2006 my family and I went to Scotland.  A place that I remember was Kilmartin and Kilmartin Glen, one of the areas with the richest concentrations of prehistoric monuments in Scotland.  Kilmartin Glen is special because of the Gulf Stream; one of the reasons the Glen is home to such prehistoric monuments and history is because the weather is so mild.  It was not cold when we visited, even in the yule-tide of December, the weather was relatively mild, lower 50’s and temperate.

Something made me remember that visit today.  This may seem an odd connection, but stay with me…it comes to a point.

I was in a workshop about Somatic Treatment for Trauma and I learned that our nervous systems are designed for self-soothing.  As the presenter was talking about rocking motions, holding ourselves, and the ways that such movements have been shown to calm a distressed nervous system I was drawn, suddenly, back to the rock art on Baluachraig Rock at Kilmartin Glen.  I remembered sitting there, in the chill of yule, looking out over the ocean, smelling the sea, and our guide saying that nobody knew why the rock faces were carved:

Baluachraig, photo by David Edmondson (cc) 2014.
Baluachraig, photo by David Edmondson (cc) 2014.

“We don’t know why the rock faces were carved. It’s been suggested that they lay on long-established routes through the landscape, possibly leading to pastures or hunting grounds. They may be related to a time when ritual monuments, rather than settlements, were fixed points in the landscape.” (From

And as our guide talked about the mystery and complexity of the rock carvings, I placed my finger in one of the carvings that was at the edge of the rock and traced the spiral circle, in and out, round and round.  I fell into a lazy trance there on the rocks, relaxing and feeling the spiral of life, listening to the ocean.  I turned to my wife and whispered, “I think I know why they were carved.”

And as I sat in the presentation this morning, listening to the presenter talk about how many times we stop ourselves from engaging in our self-soothing behaviors, how we find rocking and holding ourselves socially inappropriate, but how our nervous systems have been designed to self-soothe through such multi-sensory movement.

I was back on Baluachraig Rock, tracing the spiral.  Marveling that thousands of years ago, before history, before philosophy, before a Platonic understanding of the mind we knew how to self-soothe.

And now, we look back upon simple rock spirals with wonder and contemplate the complexities they must represent…when perhaps, they were just a way of feeling a deeper connection with our lives and ourselves.

During this busy holiday season, after an election that many found distressing.  Take some time to soothe yourself.  Hold your sides and rock.  Trace spirals in the earth.  Listen to the wind and the Earth and the song of life as it sings in cups and spirals throughout creation.  Calm your jumbled nerves the way they were designed to be calmed.

Blessed be.

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