Rhythm and Repetition


Community Drum

Last week when I was in New Mexico, an old friend asked me about my typical day.


“I get to Sol Healing and Wellness Center at 9:00 for zazen,” I told her. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we practice as a community, which sets me up to practice on my own the other days.


Then I sit down for my daily writing practice, ten to twenty minutes on the topic, “Where I am,” which helps me process whatever is still rattling around in my head.


At that point, I need to move, so either I walk around the block or do some yoga in the studio next to my office.


The rest of day is as follows:

  • 10:30 – 12:30 — Work on my manuscript, taking breaks every twenty-five minutes to stretch and/or walk.
  • 12:30 – 1:30 — lunch, catch up on emails and phone calls.
  • 1:30 – 2:00 — yoga nidra nap
  • 2:00 – 3:30 — work on business.
  • 3:30 — get in the car and make the half hour drive to my daughter’s school.

Sometimes I get a little work done at home in the afternoon, but usually I’m doing laundry, making dinner, and picking up the mess I left sitting in the kitchen and dining room because I wanted to get to zazen on time.


Of course my schedule varies with school holidays, days my daughter stays home sick, and my varying energy levels. But overall, I’ve developed a rhythm that serves me, moving between work and family, practice and productivity, activity and rest.


When we get in a rhythm with our days, it’s like a beat that our bodies get used to.


But in a few short weeks that rhythm will get shot to hell. Summer vacation, with its stops and starts and uncertain transition days, looms.


In former years, I panicked at the end of the school year. Admittedly,  it’s easier to entertain a teen than a toddler, but that’s not the only reason summer is easier now.


I’ve learned that summer has its own rhythm, and if you give into it rather than fight, your creative work can blossom.


The trick is to create enough of a routine that you can come back to despite the constant interruptions and changes in schedule.


I find that rhythm of zazen, writing practice, and book work is always at hand, even if I can’t get into the office until later. Or if I can’t get into the office at all, I can work with writing practice and a shortened work period.


Also, we’ve created a family rhythm for summer, which we find ourselves returning to year after year. 


Mornings we work and/or play on our own, then we all come together for lunch, which we usually prepare together. It makes the summer special, even more so than a family vacation, standing in the kitchen together chopping vegetables for salad, sitting around the dining room table in the middle of the day.


The summer schedule also forces us to relax. It’s so hot in Austin, I can’t bear to be outside. It’s heaven to give into a nap or take refuge in a summer movie with my daughter. I even enjoy going the mall, which I usually hate. But it’s a relief in to go somewhere I can walk without passing out from the heat and humidity.


It’s good for creativity to let go of work. When you stop driving so hard, the mind has a chance to work things out on its own.


That’s the beauty of the summer schedule, the surprises that come from giving it a rest.


Speaking of which, next week I’ll share my discovery about rhythm and rest that is completely at odds with current conventional sleep wisdom. Until then, I’d love to hear about your daily rhythms and how you will downshift to a different beat this summer.


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