There is a chapter in my book entitled “Rhythms”. The just of the chapter is that everything we are and everything that surrounds us, embodies rhythm. Our organs and physiology as mammals abide by it, even more so when viewed through the lens of energy based medicines such as those invented by early Eastern civilizations. Our sleep and wake cycles are called Circadian Rhythms. The earth cycles through seasons, tides shift in relation to the moon and our lives move through cycles and changing rhythms from birth until we die.
Ultimately nothing organic is free from the flow of undulating life force. Rhythm.
The reason I’m writing about this in my book on movement is because part of finding my way into sustainable and nourishing exercise had to do with becoming aware of and honouring my own daily, weekly and monthly rhythms. After my break-up with diet and fitness culture, I began to understand that working in harmony with the natural flow of my desire and energy enabled a relationship to movement that felt easier and much more sacred. This is in direct opposition to cultural norms which for the most part, champion the subjugation of these internal patterns.
At minimum, 9-5 workdays, 5 days a week with the expectation that one be available digitally at all times. Messages promoting health but with far too narrow a definition and often lined with subtext that it in no way jeopardize profits or the ever important bottom line. Monoculture farming, unrelenting resource extraction and flying food all over the world to enable access to everything at all the times. It’s so clear that we have been living in counterflow and that the interests of those in power are at play here.
Aligning yourself with your own rhythms, even in the smallest of ways through exercise and rest feels to me, like an act of insurgence.
Because here’s what I know.
All this makes me wonder, “Is it possible this could work in reverse as well?” Could personal and localized attention and reverence to our natural rhythms compound into greater shifts for the planet and for our humanity?
These are some of the thoughts that allow me to indulge in small moments of hope amidst these difficult times.
How has quarantine affected your rhythms?
In my Acupuncture practice, I insert needles with the intention of shifting the rhythms and flow of Qi. I see it as an interruption of sorts; in the nervous system, in the flow of blood as well as the in the overall rhythm of my patient’s day. Treatment acts as a reset and a chance to relocate ourselves in a more balanced state.
Quarantine, to me, feels like a large scale rhythm reset. I see some referring to it online as The Great Pause and this definitely resonates for me.
Imagine for a moment we are all in a giant game of musical chairs- bodies moving frantically and vigilantly around in a circle, then the music stops and each of us scrambles for a seat. Typically, it’s only a moment or two before we’re once again up and moving, having left someone out of the game completely in the last round but feeling thankful that it wasn’t us. This time however, there has been no timely reinstating of the music. Instead we’ve being asked to remain on hold, most of us clinging desperately to our small lifeline. Suddenly many of us have time to rest our overwrought nervous systems and the mental space to ponder just why we began this hustle around a circle of steadily diminishing chairs to begin with. Not to mention looking around to see just who’s controlling that damn music. Just like my needles, this virus is an interruptor and it’s inviting an opportunity for balance.
It’s not so much that Quarantine has shifted my daily rhythms as I feel that it has allowed more of my natural ebb and flow to emerge.
In the first few weeks of being home, I was putting effort into attempting to keep the schedule I thought I should keep. My mind wanted to get a movement session complete in the morning to allow for book writing the rest of the day. It seemed ludicrous to think I’d need a rest during a time when I was not seeing patients, so productivity was the name of my game! Only it wasn’t working out that way. Instead I just kept wanting to lie down and nap. I tried repeatedly to force my own plans on myself, only to feel shameful and frustrated when they didn’t work out.
Then it dawned on me. Rhythm. I needed to take some time to notice just what my daily rhythms looked and felt like during this strange new time. Of course they wouldn’t be the same as when I was in my “normal life” and of course they wouldn’t look like what my mind thought they should.
Almost all of us are experiencing daily and weekly rhythm changes during this time. Many of you, I know, are in the opposite situation to me where you are juggling a new version of work, possibly at home and some with children at home with you. If this is the case, you are likely having a hearty laugh at my “go with your inner flow” advice. I get it.
It’s difficult to access any natural cadence when there are overwhelming demands pulling at you, not to mention the underlying stress of being in the middle of a trauma event. In this case, I suggest simply trying to notice what you might crave and when and if there is any recurring pattern that emerges. You may not be able to abide by these patterns right out of the gate but once you have an idea of what your personal rhythms might be, it’s at least possible to start arranging the demands in ways that feel more aligned.
Maybe you can shift your work schedule to allow for a short meditation or gardening session in the morning, maybe you can include your kids in a movement practice so that it lands during a time when you feel most energized or in need of a break. Get curious about your body’s desires rather than trying to talk yourself out of them and most of all: Do not be afraid to rest.
It’s also possible that your existence right now is SURVIVAL based and that feels like anything but rhythm. That is OK. Survival means you’re just doing what you can when you can in order to get through the next minute, hour or day. This probably doesn’t feel much like flow but it is energy. It’s the energy of keeping you here. And it is the job of all us with more privilege at this time to resist against the power imbalances and plug into to our basic human rhythm of connection in order to lend a hand to those without. Ultimately I believe this is what our existence is all about. May we disrupt the counter rhythms that put you in this survival energy in the first place.
Lori Race is a healer, health clinic owner and writer with a passionate message to share from her past as a fitness instructor suffering from compulsive exercise disorder.