Good Rhythm

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Don’t miss the news about the winner of this week’s giveaway on Monday’s blog post!  Thanks to everyone who participated in making this month-long celebration of our “blog-iversary” so much fun!

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My new medical term for the month is “A-fib.” It’s short for atrial fibrillation, a type of cardiac arrhythmia. I’ve learned the term because Steve, a friend of mine at church, has the condition.

Doctors treat A-fib with electrical impulses to “tune” the heart back into its proper wave pattern. Steve has to ease carefully back into work and exercise. But he is confident he’ll master a new routine, with God’s help and support from friends and family. He is back at church now and feeling good.

My pastor offered a simple prayer for Steve that could apply for all of us:

“Give us good rhythm.”

The beating of a heart, the rhythms of breath, of laughter and crying, show us how vibration is at the core of our being. We hear and feel rhythm in nature: birds singing, crickets chirping. The philosopher Alan Watts has a lovely meditation on the delights of rhythm. Most forms of play and entertainment depend on rhythm — variety and complexity within a regular pattern. Watts concludes, “[A]n essential component of my heaven… would be absorption in rhythm.”

I am reminded that dance can be incorporated into Christian liturgy. Indeed, the origin of dance in human history may be rooted in spirituality and worship. Liturgical dance is not a recent innovation; it is a way of recovering an ancient tradition of communing with God through rhythm and body movement. Music and dance can be employed as therapy for mood disorders, neurological disorders, even in cases of stroke and heart disease.

Pastor/writer Jeffrey Cootsona shares his thoughts about the rhythms of leadership. Echoing Alan Watts, Cootsona reminds us that rhythm exists through a relationship between work and rest, sound and silence, yes and no, presence and absence.

We sometimes use balance as a metaphor for wellness and right living; Cootsona proposes rhythm as an alternative metaphor. Balance, after all, suggests something static, something delicate. If we lose our balance, there is often a painful fall. Rhythm is dynamic, it is robust. If we lose the beat, we often can recover it quickly. Indeed, there are often other people, partners in rhythm-making, to coach us back into the groove.

"Sabar Ring" - Théâtre de St Quentin en Yvelines 17/03/07 (répé)

Cootsona cites neuroscience research, as well as advice from his father about carpentry, to make this point: Gritting our teeth to power our way through a creative block is counterproductive. It may even be unhealthy. Better to take a strategic break: Go for a walk. Listen to music. Fold a load of laundry. A well-timed break allows our stress to leach away, and our creativity to emerge.

How will you build constructive breaks into your routine?

A bigger question: Is there a “groove” in ministry where your best work happens, where your best self shines through, where a divine rhythm propels you or carries you along? Are there tricks or tactics to help you find the rhythm when you need it?

–John James

(Top image, “Endless Rhythm,” by Robert Delaunay, 1934, Tate Modern. Lower photo by Christophe Alary, both used with permission via Creative Commons.)

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