4 + LESSON: Real Comfort + Rock-a-bye
What is comfort?
Comfort is an interesting word that has had a significant, yet subtle change in meaning over the years. Currently, comfort is defined as a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint. So comforting is easing or alleviating someone’s grief or distress.
Which brings us back to our question from the previous lesson, what if it’s not something we can alleviate? What if it’s a pain we can’t fix or ease?
The word comfort comes from the Latin confortare - to strengthen. The prefix “com” in this case refers to intense or immense, and the root “fortis” means strong. Essentially, “to give great strength.”
Now that’s quite different isn’t it? Comfort as the act of fixing or alleviating someone’s grief or pain, versus comfort as the act of giving someone great strength. If baby is sick and the pain can’t be alleviated, and comforting means taking away the pain, then comforting is futile -- we feel helpless.
But if we think of comforting as giving strength -- that we can do. Whether it’s a sick baby, grief after a loss, exhaustion, or the troubles of the world -- we can give strength.
And while this gift of strength can take many forms, let’s start with what baby teaches us about comfort. Baby is such a good teacher, because baby don’t lie. If it doesn’t work baby isn’t going to smile and say thanks to protect your feelings. Baby wears no mask.
So, what gives strength to baby? Here’s a few ideas relevant to spiritwork, maybe you can think of more:
First, touch. Physical closeness. Massage. Rubbing the back. Patting the back. Circular touch. Rhythmic touch. Resting in someone’s arms - listening to the rhythm of their heart-beating, the rise and fall of their breathing.
We can do this on our own. What is classic meditation, but listening to the rhythm of our own heart, riding the rise and fall of our own calm breathing. Seeing if we consciously slow and calm our breath if the rest of our body won’t be comforted and follow suit. Meditation strengthens us. We can touch ourselves too. We can rub our own feet. We naturally hold and wring our hands when distressed. We rub our temples when we have a headache. Self-massage is one of mankind’s oldest, instinctual methods of comforting a hurt, warming it up, bringing blood to the injured area so it can heal, and letting the wounded know that they are not alone, that they are heard.
Second, music. Rock-a-bye baby is a lullaby. Repetitive, simple, soothing. It provides an external point of focus and stimulates our empathic senses, our feeling of connectedness. Being spoken to softly and soothingly can have similar effect. Like baby, what’s being said barely matters, just the presence of that soothing voice can give us strength.
Our third baby comfort is rocking. Rock-a-bye baby, the rocking-cradle, the rocking chair, and the care-givers arms gently swing baby side to side or forward and back. It stimulates the vestibular senses and is very effective at soothing baby. (The vestibular system is the part of us that gives us our sense of balance and orientation in space. In humans the sensory organs are in the ear.) We do this in spiritwork, rocking forward and back is one of our primary trance ingredients.
In fact, rhythmic touch, listening to breathing, repetitive singing, rocking -- these are all trance ingredients.
Yes, we enter trance to do deep, life-altering work. Our spiritworkings can definitely be soothing, can be sweet, can be peaceful, but they can also be wild and full of weeping, they can be harsh with bitter truths, they can be chaotic and confusing.
But no matter the tone or feeling, spiritwork is comforting. It gives strength. Spiritworking makes us stronger.