Spring came early to Boston this year. The crocuses and daffodils surround me, reminders of nature’s cycle and new life. Darkness and light, cold and warmth, dormancy and budding – spring startles me awake each year to these realities.On this first day of spring I find myself at the end of a week-long writing retreat. The spring around me, with its natural rhythms, has invited me to pay attention to my own natural rhythms. Too often, I push myself in my work, oblivious to the natural rhythm of dormancy and budding within me. Like a hamster on a treadmill, I run faster and faster only to exhaust myself. Exhausted, my creativity and problem-solving abilities plummet. Western culture reinforces my inner push crying, “More, more, more!”
Scientific studies underscore the diminishment that comes with constant pushing, and the importance of paying attention to our inner rhythms. In Take a Nap, Change Your Life, for example, Dr. Sara Mednick points to her research which indicates that when we fail to pay attention to our natural rhythms, our mental acuity, emotional resilience, and bodily levels of energy suffer. As a result, our work suffers. Rest (in Mednick’s research, in the form of napping) restores us and boosts our work.
This past week, while writing, I have sought to pay attention to my natural rhythms. Inspired by the signs of spring around me, I have attended to my energy levels and noticed when my mind and body eagerly work and when they need rest. Surprisingly (why am I repeatedly surprised by this?), I have enjoyed life more, and my writing has been better, with less effort. The ideas flow. The words sing.
“Why don’t I always live like this?” I ask myself. “Can I maintain my attentiveness to my natural rhythm when I return home tomorrow?”
That will, indeed, be the test. For starters, I have committed to spending one four-hour block on Thursday and one on Friday on my writing, paying attention to when the ideas are flowing and when I need to take a break. When I need to read and think, I will do that. When I need to take a walk and let the ideas gestate, I will do that. When I need to rest, I will do that.
May nature’s rhythms serve as a reminder to us all of our own inner rhythms. And as we attune ourselves to what our bodies and minds are telling us, may we discover the joy and abundance that is possible in our lives and work.