Find Your Groove
Principles of rhythm to improve your timing, clarity, productivity, and health
THE ROLE OF RHYTHM
Everything has a rhythm to it including the seasons of the year, the movement of the planets, and other natural occurrences. There’s also a rhythm to when we eat and sleep, as well as our mood swings and energy levels.
Rhythm also plays a critical role in our:
Health – Our body uses rhythm to coordinate all of its parts into one smooth-running system.
Communication – Rhythm helps you lock into flow, creating “fluency of expression”—from talking to improvising on your instrument.
Energy – Singing, whistling, and moving to the beat while working helps you get through arduous tasks. Rhythm releases tension and gives you energy.
Movement – Rhythm stimulates motion and action in your body (and mind).
The good news is that you don’t have to excessively control and manipulate the above, but simply allow. Using rhythm can help you do that, naturally.
“If the rhythm is right, you feel it with all your senses … it flows down your arms and through the drum. You feel light … you fly like a bird, when the rhythm is right.”
— Mickey Hart, percussionist.
RHYTHM AS A TOOL
You can use rhythm in many ways. Here are a few ideas:
Release tension – When you’re stressed out, nervous, or feeling impatient, notice how your body will “seek movement” through fidgeting, bouncing your leg, and triggering nervous tics. Your body is attempting to release the tension that stress creates. You can help it by doing something physical involving repetitive rhythm and motion, such as walking, swimming, drumming, dancing—even doing the dishes “in rhythm” can do the trick.
Reduce upset – You can minimize your reaction to whatever you find irritating like loud, obnoxious music by copying its rhythm! Next time you hear a song you don’t like, try swaying your body or tapping your foot to the beat and watch what happens to your reaction.
Reconnect to thoughts and ideas – Rhythm can act as a “carrier wave” that information can connect to and ride on. When I get stuck writing, I’ll turn to where I have my conga drum waiting. I tap out a few rhythm patterns, and the ideas begin to flow again. This works for me every time! Think about it. Rhythm can move thoughts, ideas, and other “information.” How could you use this yourself?
Absorb new information – Students at Waldorf schools learn a new language by stomping their feet or tapping their hands while reciting words. Muslims move their upper bodies back and forth when reciting the Koran to help internalize the message. Rhythm is a powerful tool to help internalize what you learn.
Using your body – We typically learn a new skill, such as a sport or musical instrument, by being taught the proper “technique,” like how to hold the racket, when to step, how to swing. That’s fine, and the results are usually pretty good.
Check out TheBookofCool.com which highlights top performers doing a variety of tricks including juggling, dancing, and skateboarding and then shows you how to do them yourself. When you watch the demos at their site, think of this:
Sometimes focusing on “the how” can lead to over-thinking or controlling the body, resulting in rigidity, unnecessary errors, and hitting a plateau that’s difficult to get beyond.
Instead of focusing on technique, you can pay attention to the elements of rhythm like timing, tempo, and pacing. It will help you speed up the learning process and tap into your “higher abilities” found in your body, naturally, and with less effort.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
You know the days when everything seems to be a struggle, and it’s almost as if the world is conspiring against you from accomplishing anything at all? Well, of course it’s not, but it sure can be frustrating, sometimes to the breaking point, when things don’t go your way.
Most likely what’s happening is that your timing is off, which, in effect, disconnects you from the rhythms that surround you, making everything more difficult.
When you find yourself out-of-step, check to see if there may be a negative reaction to a problem you’re having, or you’re trying to rush ahead, maybe out of impatience, frustration, or anger.
It’s quite extraordinary what can happen when you settle down and let the rhythm find you. Once you’re in sync, as if by magic, everything shifts—problems get solved, phone calls get returned, the money starts to flow, and you can think again!
When your timing is on is also when “meaningful coincidences” or synchronicity (which literally means, “with time”) tend to happen. The right person at just the right time shows up; an unexpected check arrives in the mail just in time to pay that bill you’ve been worrying about; messages of inspiration, exactly what you needed to hear at the time, appear. You can read about my favorite example of synchronicity that helped save a red-nosed Pit Bull puppy, Ezmeralda, at lifeasawave.com under “articles.”
LITTLE THINGS THAT CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
Sometimes it’s when you do something that makes all the difference. If you usually do your laundry only after you run out of clean clothes, think about what would happen if you were to do it a few days earlier. You’d produce a different result—clean underwear at all times! It’s the same thing with paying bills—what kind of stress could be avoided if you timed things just a little differently?
Notice that you aren’t adding energy or extra effort, just changing the timing of it.
It’s also true with our more “important” endeavors, like my projects that I often catch myself trying to force into fruition. With too much pressure on my brain to get it done in on time, the flow can grind down to a complete stop, and any clarity or creativity I had goes out the window, leaving me fogged and scattered.
Once I stop forcing time to happen the way I want, the flow returns as I settle down, pay attention to the timing, and let the rhythm take over. Instead of forcing the results to happen (out of worry, pressure, or fear), I let the “when” take care of itself and end up getting much better results.
Yes, there are deadlines to consider, but with a clear intention to have it done “on time” and while relaxing into the rhythm, it all gets done without forcing it—subtle but important difference.
Rhythm is responsible for our health, energy, movement, and fluency.
You can use rhythm to reduce stress, accelerate learning, produce more with less effort, and help find your groove.
You don’t have to work hard at finding it. Settle into the rhythm, let it find you.
We’ve all had days or moments where the timing was perfect and everything flowed. Using rhythm is the key to experiencing this more often.
Try it Out
Use the elements of rhythm like pacing and tempo in everything you do. Notice what you’re feeling to help determine if you’re going too fast or slow, pushing ahead or holding yourself back.