I appreciate John O’ Donohue’s words on the regular and when thinking about rhythms and what I might write, the spirit in his words landed so gracefully on me. He articulates what I, and probably many of you, intuit about how we long to live our lives. With a sense of ease and flow, unhurried and without force. This seems so counterintuitive to what we’ve been taught and modelled in the West, but not impossible. Though you might think otherwise, it is without need of permission. But, in case you need some, I gladly offer it to you today.
Perhaps for you, with your personality and temperament, you operate best under a quicker pace and desire more fuller days. For some, it is a slower, simpler and a spacious way of living. The point is, you know your own soul. And perhaps if you feel like you don’t, this is an invitation to turn your ear toward her and listen. We are all wired in our own unique ways and my hope is that you can navigate the type of rhythm that works for you.
It is possible to live the kind of life that feels authentic and nourishing. I am here to tell you that it is.
I remember a number of years ago I had a very real “pivoting” type of moment. I was beginning a full-time Master’s degree while working two jobs and on the brink of burn out. It was during a shift at the little cafe I was working at at the time that this voice from my belly surfaced and said,
“No one is making you do this. Who is telling you to live like this? You can choose differently”.
There was this realization that the pressures I felt to work my ass off, to make sure I was doing the course load I thought was “normal”, while working hours that weren’t necessarily needed, was a pressure I felt systemically of course, but a pressure I was putting on myself. It felt like I was on a conveyer belt. In motion but not really going anywhere. It is so easy to lose sight of the “why” we are choosing what we are choosing. The culture and societies around us all play important roles in that. We must, however, take back the power that was always and forever will be, ours.
I recognized that this was not me, this over extension of myself. To achieve things through willpower alone and a sense of “keeping up” has never felt like me. It always felt disingenuous. And so, I had to take back the sense of power that was mine to take and somewhere along the way was given elsewhere. So, I dropped out of my Master’s degree and quit one of my jobs. This began a greater exploration of what rhythm looks like for me.
When I think about rhythms, I think of life-giving rituals. I think of being mindful. I imagine it as cultivating spaciousness and moving away from what constricts me. I think of having a sense of freedom to move within the structure that rhythm can provide in our lives. I don’t think our rhythms are necessarily meant to lock us into schedules and plans; however I will say, the structure and order is helpful for many of us. I know it is for me. It frames our days and our lives with a sense of purpose and meaning by grounding us in what we deem important.
Perhaps cultivating healthy rhythms begins with checking in with oneself. Maybe it is really all about attending to the present moment and our experience of it. Asking ourselves
“Where do I begin today? What needs to be done and what can be moved around? How can I best live out of how ‘I am doing’ today?
These are questions that bring us back to the present moment. They provide us with the space to take ownership over our lives, instead of being owned and controlled by what is outside of us.
I am a morning person. I love the slowness of mornings and the curiosity it carries for the day ahead. I have come to protect these times. They provide me with breathing room and more capacity for the day that otherwise might feel frenetic and overwhelming. These are things that I have come to value so much that, ideally, they would be a part of each day. Some days it doesn’t happen, because, well life. But these are the things that keep us grounded, mindful and moving towards wholeness. This is the kind of life I long to live. And I know I am not alone in that.
Are you someone who needs to be physically active throughout the day? Or to cook a good meal? To read and write, and/or to have afternoons where you watch some tv? Do you need more solitude or company – perhaps both? Do you need to create or organize; space to meditate, pray, chant or dance? Do you need to be in nature, feeling it, breathing it, observing it?
Get to know yourself. Ask yourself, “When do I feel most alive and well; balanced and grounded?” And then perhaps, look at what contributed to those times. That may give you greater insight into what your soul needs and naturally cries out for.
You have permission to live at the pace of life you need and long for. Yes, life and responsibility happen and require our attention. But, may we never fall into the trap that we are not without agency and ability to move some things around. Our rhythms are meant to ignite us and orient us towards beauty and love. Our rhythms can and do infuse us with grace.
May you continue to uncover the mindful rhythms that are congruent with the landscape of your own soul.