Rhythm and routine

Last week’s journaling workshop was based on Chapter 3 of The Journal Writer’s Handbook, and was entitled Logging the Journey. We had a rich session that took in some exercises on getting present, developing our observational skills and using metaphor to deepen our awareness and understanding.

We also had a discussion about rhythm and routine – and the great question ‘what’s the difference?’ came up.

Intuitively I know there is a difference between rhythm and routine. I tried using a musical analogy. Rhythm being the inherent time signature of a piece of music and routine the arrangement of the musical instruments to deliver the sounds.

Blank faces.

So I tried explaining it with respect to our bodies. As women our monthly cycle has its own 24 – 28 day rhythm. As mothers our routine might be to feed our kids at 6pm each day. Once again, rhythm is something inherent, implicit, internal whereas the routine represents the external actions we take to express ourselves.

Hmm. Still no dropping pennies.

I think the problem of comprehension lies in the fact that we have largely become routine-focussed and have completely overlooked our natural rhythm. We’re much more likely to talk about the regularity of our shopping trips, our rounds of golf, or the annual Christmas rituals than we are about whether the style and pace of our work, our diet, our exercise regime actually suits our natural way of doing things. And then, when you do get talking about what your natural rhythm might be, the conversation takes a facile turn into defining whether you are a morning lark or a night owl.

There’s more to rhythm than this – and it serves us, as always, to get curious. How can we design our life in such a way that our external daily routine mirrors our rhythmic patterns of energy and of our emotional and intellectual availability? How can a female business woman align her enterprise and activities to be compatible with her monthly cycle? How can the school day be restructured to take greater account of children’s and young people’s natural learning rhythms?

The fact is we are stuck in the rut of the 9-5 post-industrial routine and are trying desperately to shoe-horn our vital rhythm into a daily dirge. It’s like trying to play the sailor’s hornpipe on a tuba, or the funeral march on a piccolo. Horses for courses, the saying goes.

So let’s make a stand for reclaiming our own unique rhythm of life. Stick on a bit of Sammy Davis Jnr and see where it takes you. Are you a staccato person or a legato? Do you march or promenade? Is it a constant beat or does it vary? And do you dare allow your intrinsic rhythm to influence your routine?

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