Using rhythm, ritual & practice to reclaim balance

Life tends to gets chaotic, as I’ve mentioned many times. If you don’t apply the effort to keep your affairs in order, things tend towards entropy, towards falling apart.

There are external vagaries of life that push us to and fro, the world outside, events outside our control. Beyond those, there is also the perpetually shifting sands that is our internal states. There is always something ready to push us off balance.

We can start one week focused and on top of things, only to fall apart the next, moving through our days in a stupor, barely getting by.

Sure, things like motivation and discipline do help to keep us on track. And we must make the constant effort to perform and thrive. But these active strategies must also be accompanied with more passive ones.

There are certain concepts to understand and deploy to help us recover, find balance, and return to focus especially after we have been blown by a metaphorical storm.

I have talked about rhythm a few times, and how important it is to respect it.

Everything in life moves in a rhythm. There is the flow of night and day, one into the other, for as long as the earth spins on its axis. There is the rhythm of the seasons, winter, spring, summer, fall. We also have our personal rhythms, our body clocks, our emotional rhythms.

If we pay close attention and learn how our rhythms work, we can learn to live in a way that just flows. In a way that is in accordance with our natures.

I know some of my rhythms. 3 and a half days of complete work and focused immersion means that I’m ideally going to need to take at least half a day or a full day off to recuperate. Taking time completely off on the weekend would refresh me enough to face a full work week. 2 months of extended high pressure work will require at least 3 weeks of calm and relaxation.

Sure I can abuse my rhythm, and sure sometimes we just have to do what we need to do. But the more I respect rhythm, the more I am able to be effective consistently over the long haul.

Understanding and flowing with rhythm allows us to be a little easier on ourselves. To push when its appropriate, to rest when we must. To know in the days and weeks when we can’t seem to muster motivation or focus, that rhythm will bring us inevitably back to hyper performance.

A ritual is simply a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. We recognise them mostly from religious or traditional settings. But if we peer a little closer into our personal lives, we can also spot our own rituals, our habits, our ways of doing things.

For instance, you probably have a set way you wash yourself in the bath or shower. Without thinking there is a set of steps you take. Perhaps you let the water wash over you for about a minute before lathering up. Perhaps you start with your hands and work your way down. Whatever it is, there is probably an unconscious ritual behind that simple task.

We can deepen our experience of tasks and day to day life by elevating them to the level of ritual. By paying attention, by setting intention, by focusing on each step fully. The shower ascends from merely a time to get clean, to a time to reset, refresh, and refocus.

The power of rituals is that they evoke specific states of being and emotion, and if we use them intentionally in our lives, they can serve a real transmutative function in our lives.

We can design the rituals we do to get into a creative zone and ready to work. We can create rituals we can do to calm a raging mind, and find peace in moments of anxiety. There are the rituals we do, to cleanse ourselves, recenter and find meaning. There are rituals we can do to rest and heal.

The more we engage with rituals intentionally, the more we can unleash their power in our lives, turning mundane moments into sacred empowered ones.

In a hyper-productive, hyper-connected world, we can fall prey to the expectation to be always be perfect or to have it together. Embracing the idea of ‘Practice’ can help us find balance and rootedness.

For instance, once we begin to recognise our work as a practice, our approach to it also shifts. We move from a focus on the destination to a focus on the journey, from a thing we do at a point in time to an on-going process of becoming.

It is not about a desire to attain perfection, but a desire to continually explore and improve. It is a process. Something we do over and over again.

That is the idea of practice — constant deliberate engagement with the aim of growth

We know that if we take too long of a break, we begin to get blunt and dull, our skills atrophy. But if we are diligent in practice, then we get better, we improve, we build one layer on top of the other.

We can bring this application to anything that is important or meaningful to us — setting a new habit, learning a new skill, nurturing our relationships. The thing of focus moves from something we do sometimes to a lifestyle we now embrace.

Approaching it with the mindset of constant improvement, we are never too close minded, never too much of an expert to learn something new.

We hold a healthy focus and respect for the fundamentals, practicing the basics over and over again until they are second nature. Until we pierce through and touch the sublime. Until we get lost in our practice, attaining complete flow and unity with it.

These 3 concepts have the power to unleash a deeper level of being, a stronger connection with the self, and long term growth and productivity. Respecting our rhythms, engaging in rituals, and embracing the practice. With these tools, we can always find our balance after the inevitable storms.

Originally published at https://otoabasibassey.com on November 2, 2020.

I am an brand strategist, designer writer and entrepreneur using my skills to help people and businesses live up to their potential.

If there was an overarching theme to what I do, it would be “The art of being + the act of creating + the space in-between“. I am interested in how we live, how we create and how the two interact and inform each other

My obsession with personal development and constant growth sparked in my early teens remains unabated and now I share what I learn as I build a life by design.

I think things. I design things. I write things.

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