Sustainable Rhythms

I was tempted to go straight to how rhythms are graceful today, since I've had to give myself tons of grace this week due to physical limitations (aka sickness) and stress. It's been one of those weeks when things come to a head with work and life and everything in between. I've been back in my survival mode of being "strong" all the time, and finally my body decided it didn't want to be anymore. I rested for 5 days and watched lots of Food Network on Hulu. Grace.

However, I really didn't want to skip over the importance of sustainable rhythms. When you get into a good flow, where you've found the things that give you the most life and the best times to do those things, your rhythms can feel like they're sustaining themselves. It's the cyclical, centered pattern we talked about last week.

Until you're in that groove, things can seem a little clunky. When you're in transition from season to season, trying to figure out if your old rhythms work with your new schedule and your new desires, it can be downright messy (not to mention frustrating). When rhythms are new, you can get really excited and set a super high bar for how often you might practice or how quickly they'll work.

A sustainable rhythm is basically one that is doable on a regular basis. This is where we get down to the nitty-gritty of making smart goals for your rhythms. Is your desired rhythm actually attainable? Will you want to get up at 4am every day to read the Bible and pray? Can you really make it from work to that art class in 15 minutes in Friday afternoon Atlanta traffic? Even if you do, will you be relaxed enough to enjoy the benefits?

One easy way to assess the feasibility of your new or desired rhythms is to look at your ideal and your minimum. This is a coaching exercise that works wonders in almost any situation, and it's especially useful if you're in transition or wanting to incorporate something new. I'll give you an example plucked right out of my current situation.

I'm looking for a new way to do physical activity in a group setting that will challenge me but not produce added stress. I've done yoga before and it seems like the way to go. I loved when I could do hot yoga at a wonderful studio with beautiful, hippie-tastic instructors and classmates and incense that smelled like heaven. (I promise I'm not exaggerating.)

My ideal would be to go to the studio I went to before, 3 or 4 classes a week, and come home rested and relaxed. However, I don't live anywhere near a good hot yoga studio anymore, and driving in rush hour to get there 3 times a week would kill me rather than heal me. There's some perspective! My minimum would be once a week in studio, then I could practice at home 2 or 3 times a week. It's not the same, but it would be beneficial for sure.

When you look at your ideal and your minimum, know that sometimes you have to start with the minimum and see if you can add more after a period of time. I'll likely start with one class a week on Sunday, and add to it if I find I have more margin and money. This may seem like defeat, but it's actually success. The physical, mental and emotional benefits of that once a week class may go much further than I would expect!

When starting to practice your own life-giving rhythms, think about sustainability. What is your ideal for how many times a week, how long, where, and how you'll practice your rhythm? What is the minimum of these factors that would still satisfy your needs? How does this perspective change the way you'll implement your rhythm?