Oh my! Over a year since my last post. There really isn’t a worthy explanation and I’m not even going to try. Let’s just sweep it under the carpet like no time has passed and get on with the business of today. And what’s currently of interest to me is rhythm, which is in all creation, and what my future novel is about.
‘Grace and the Wind’ is a unique cross between young adult fiction and spiritual self-help literature. The protagonist is an outcast teenager who learns from an unusual spiritual guide, the Wind, how to synchronize with nature’s rhythms so she can flow through life and live in grace.
When meeting people at parties and telling them I’ve written a book on rhythm, many literally sing back to me, “Hit me with your rhythm stick / Hit me slowly, hit me quick / Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!” I kid you not. I now stop them after the first “hit me,” explaining that if they carry on, I really will hit them.
“Rhythm as in nature’s cycles,” I clarify. Glazed eyes. So in the interest of preventing awkwardness at any future social gatherings (on both sides) this – in an exceedingly schoolmarmish tone – is what I mean by rhythm.
All of nature’s cycles have a wonderful way of reminding us of life’s bigger picture – that we’re not the ones personally bringing the sun up and down each day. Tidal, lunar, circadian and seasonal rhythms influence our lives in profound ways and it’s by cultivating our relationship with these rhythms – and aligning to their energy – that we enter a state of flow. (I won’t even contemplate explaining flow in this article!) Bringing total presence to each unique moment of time, we become a channel for grace (ditto describing grace – it’s for another time) to surge through our lives.
When we’re in the ocean and experience the gravitational pull of the tide’s ebb and flow we feel the life force of something greater than ourselves. And just as the ocean isn’t afraid of its own waves, neither should we fear our own emotions as they come crashing onto the shores of our consciousness. We can’t physically stop the waves from rising, cresting and breaking, but that’s exactly what we do when we don’t allow our emotions to fully express themselves through us.
If we feel out of balance (which is most of us, most of the time!) we should first connect to the wisdom of nature’s rhythms and the intelligence that lies therein. The ocean’s effortless ebb and flow teaches us to allow, not force. It reminds us that rhythm arises from alternation as one state smoothly transitions to the next. Life is not static, it’s transitional. We’re continually adjusting, fluctuating and oscillating as we experience simultaneous dissonance and harmony, and just like the ocean, we can encompass the equilibrium.
In ancient times people counted time by the moon’s phases, not calendars. The moon’s cycles told them when to plant, harvest, hunt and gather. Because the moon’s gravitational force pulls on the ocean’s waters and since humans are mostly composed of water, our relationship to the moon is one of the most significant unions we’ll ever form. But does today’s average urban dweller even think to amalgamate their lives with the moon’s cycles? (Judging by my conversational experiences at the local pub, no.)
Witnessing the moon’s contraction and expansion can help us escape our either/or thinking, reminding us that life is a process, that each phase is part of a wider whole. The ritual of self-reflection in tandem with each of the moon’s phases reminds us where we are in our own life’s journey and to not get too attached to one stage as another will soon appear.
All things in nature exist in their own strength, bringing an irreplaceable vibration to the world as each element is in harmony with the moment. Unfortunately our constant exposure to artificial lighting and the multitude of lights emitted from our digital devices – let alone jet lag – means we’re not in sync with the rhythms of the rising and setting sun. Work or school tends to dictate our circadian rhythms (the roughly 24-hour cycle going on within our own bodies) more than nature.
[This is where I now hit my stride as the poor person who innocently asked, “Rhythm? Do you mean like in music?” wishes they’d just kept their mouth shut.] It’s crucial to harmonize with the light-dark cycle, which is the inherited blueprint our body’s cells and organs follow. Our body is part of the universe, so while our heartbeat belongs to us, it also belongs to the heavens. The rhythmic rise and fall of our breath is the very essence of life itself.
In bringing ourselves into line with the sun’s exultant path across the sky, we never witness it struggling to rise or set as it does so effortlessly. It’s a reminder for us to go about our days with equal ease. (The person at the receiving end of this lecture is by now hoping they can smoothly slip away to knock back a G and T or two!) By not integrating, referencing and living the movements of the cosmos, we miss the miracle of how each day comes to be and how quickly it vanishes like an apparition into the night sky.
By being one with the seasons as they fleetingly make their way through us, we feel the abundance of the earth, its nourishment and wholesomeness. When eating seasonally we also notice everything else special about that time of year: what insects are buzzing about, which plants are blooming, the changes in the air (lots of nodding of heads here, especially by the foodies who worship asparagus season as the highlight of their year). It’s a particular point in time on the calendar that can’t be frozen; it must pass. By trying to capture the ephemeral we only diminish its beauty and imprison its legacy.
Nature is continuously in a state of growth, decay and shape-shifting, like a wave that forms, breaks and disappears back into itself. All natural processes are cyclical, not linear, and these sequences aren’t something to conquer. Imposing our own timetable on a flower’s birth is impossible (no matter how much we may try!). When we can accept what is and surrender to a force greater than our own limited personalities, we become an unobstructed vessel for life to flow through us.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Only the very brave would now start singing, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”) Everything occurs at the exact moment it’s meant to so instead of striving and struggling to make things happen in our own lives, why can’t we – like nature – let moments run their course? Why can’t we trust that the deeper intelligence orchestrating the cosmos is also operating within us for our own greater good?
To conclude, when living in rhythm we’re magnetic – we’ve plugged into the source of creation. Dwelling in the womb of nature, the artificial falls by the wayside and our sense of unity with the divine returns. It’s not enough to mentally understand this though; it needs to be known as a truth through direct experience. Begin by sensing nature’s aliveness, its pulsating energy, both in the earth and your body, and have faith that the current of life will carry you to wherever it needs. And if that’s too hard to trust in . . . well . . . just silently murmur to yourself, “Hit me with your rhythm stick / Hit me! Hit me!”