One of the beauties of life is the repetition of patterns that serve as teachers of life’s great themes. Nature must know that we humans are slow learners and therefore offers us example after example of this important truth: rhythm is a vital component to virtually every part of our existence.
Our heart has a rhythm – blood is pressed forward, then there is a pause before the next heartbeat. Our earth turns around the sun, and we experience day and night in a perpetual rhythm. Our lives are filled with constructs of school-years and summers, seasons in the desert and elsewhere, birth and death…and the beat goes on.
Eastern philosophy disrupts our Western need for proof and profit with a call to honor the patterns in our life. It is so easy to resist the natural ebb and flow of work, relationships or even the variance of our own capacity. This fighting of the “what is” wastes energy and can actually cause “dis-ease”. The realization that we each need periods of productivity interspersed with periods of reflection and renewal is an integral principle of wellness. Science has demonstrated that even 15 minutes of a restful pose with quiet reflection shifts us from our sympathetic (“fight or flight”) nervous system into our para-sympathetic (“rest and restore”) nervous system.
It is now the height of summer, and for me this season has a feeling of ease and restoration, along with a drive to pack in all the fun and richness possible. It’s taken me a while to realize that this is integral. The tendency to reward productivity to the point of pathology is a rampant social norm, and whether it is my age, or watching my children grow up that has pushed the issue, I’m giving in to the rhythm.
Raised as a star pupil in the school of overachievement, I have struggled with pouring my heart into work I genuinely love, while giving an even greater measure of passion to my family, but ignoring the need for rhythm where restoration is honored as equally as productivity. I’m now committing to create time in the day for moments of gratitude, a short walk, lunch with someone I love, observation of beauty, or an inspirational word.
I am so blessed with mentors who remind me to honor this need for both productivity and refueling. Dr. Robert Haberkorn tells me that a muscle cannot spring forward unless it has first had a period of contraction and gathering of its resources; Jayne Robertson lives as a continual call to being present in this moment; Dr. Hessam Mahdavi walked by the other day, saw my furrowed brow and gently reminded me to “be unattached.”
In the Wellness Institute, we seek to encourage each other – and our community – to pause and restore. Our associate Deborah Schrameck often asks, “How many hours of this week have you devoted to decreasing tension in your body?”
So I invite you to let yourself experiment with being present, with spending time to decrease tension, or adding something new, not because it is productive, but merely because it sounds fun.
Dr. Brossfield is the medical director at the Eisenhower Wellness Institute and can be reached at (760) 610.7360.