Spring Rhythms at Work

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.

Photo taken by El Frito, Flickr

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.

10 Responses to “Spring Rhythms at Work”

  1. 1 Katya Taylor March 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    margaret – amen to resting and renewal. amen to attuning to your own rhythms. down with a bad cold, instead of being mad at myself (and life)
    i cancel my appointments and go dig in my garden. then i nap. then i read a page turning historical mystery. then i plant a few seeds. then i nap again. always remember, dear, to follow your own advice to others! i love this quote by the tibetan saint milarepa: “hasten slowly and you will soon
    reach your destination.” keep on singing!

    love, katya/tallahassee

  2. 2 executivesoulblog March 20, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    “Hasten slowly, and you will soon reach your destination” — I love it, Katya. Thanks for sharing your own inspiring story and being such a good example of following your inner rhythms while recovering from your cold.

    Blessings and peace,

  3. 3 Jane Taylor March 21, 2012 at 4:11 am

    I was at a 37th annual Equilnox observation/celebration, in which we each share something about our past year. One woman does not follow the news, but tends to her patients as one incredible music therapist, then takes daily walks. I contrasted that to myself, who is constantly aching about the problems of the world, around the globe and here at home. Chris, the music therapist, knows what she can handle, does so beautifully, and lets it go at that. I admire that in her. She listens to her own rhythms so well. So what you wrote resounded well with me… even if I don’t quite how to fit it into an already tight schedule… crazy!

    • 4 executivesoulblog March 21, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      Interesting to hear how Chris attends to her inner rhythms. For those of us who feel called to pay attention to world events, do you think there’s a way to do it that doesn’t throw us out of alignment with our deepest selves? Thanks for your thoughts, Jane.

  4. 5 carole doherty, laytown, co. meath March 22, 2012 at 8:29 am

    margaret, that strikes me as real counter cultural wisdom! i find it so difficult to ‘be’ a reflective person especially in a work environment where contrary to expectations, a more gentle pace would actually make life more wholesome for everyone. Carole Doherty, co.meath

    • 6 executivesoulblog March 22, 2012 at 6:39 pm

      Carole, I think you’re right that this is counter cultural. Our work environments are so pressured, and you’re right that a more gentle pace would make life more wholesome for everyone. Thank you.

  5. 7 Jess Mason March 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    I appreciated your article, and have been reflecting how it intersects with my current exploration of the heart of self-control/self-discipline. I think I sometimes have a hard time distinguishing between paying attention to my rhythms and give way to all my impulses. But I’m thinking about a new definition for self-discipline, which is simply the repeated acceptance in love that worthwhile efforts are costly. Such a definition would explain why it must be a fruit of the Holy Spirit, as that’s how we’re empowered to love sacrificially. And with such a definition, properly attending to natural spiritual rhythms can even itself have a kind of “cost” to it, a willingness to relinquish pride or self-aggrandizement, as its done in love, for God, our true selves, others, or the creation. And other hand, it also helps me distinguish a bit, because giving way to all my impulses is not done in love, where attending to God-given rhythms would be.

    • 8 executivesoulblog March 22, 2012 at 6:58 pm

      Jess, thank you for these very thoughtful reflections. I appreciate your distinction between giving way to all your impulses and attending to God-given rhythms, and the place of love in all of it. I found your thoughts very helpful.

  6. 9 Morris boyer March 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm


    Your thoughts on nature’s rhythms and our inner rhythms make a nice seasonal topic. I had this inner urge to buy and plant 6 more fruit trees in February. I’m up to about 40 now. Johnny Appleseed?

    I enjoy your writing. Thanks for sharing.


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