"Let the rhythm of your life speak"
There is a natural rhythm to life. Every element of creation has its own unique rhythm.
The earth rotates around the sun, while it rotates on its axis - giving us 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. The ocean’s tides respond to the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun. They are in perfect rhythm.
Gestation of life, in all its forms, has a special rhythm. Humans, plants, and animals all have a unique cycle. Hearts beat rhythmically to sustain life and seasons rotate seamlessly and continually.
The list goes on and on, but the point is:
Rhythm is vitally important in life!
As humans, it is important for each of us to discover our own personal rhythm. We each have legitimate needs that are often unique to our own inner workings. Once discovered and implemented, we are able to handle unexpected stress, unplanned events, and unwanted change. Being in balance in our daily lives is necessary in order to thrive, not just survive.
In his book, The Rhythm of Life, Matthew Kelly lists four areas of legitimate needs that should be considered when figuring out our own personal rhythm.
- Physical: Care of our body and its needs.
- Emotional: Interacting with the world around.
- Intellectual: Stimulation of the mind.
- Spiritual: Relationship with ourselves and God.
Each of these areas shapes our lives and help us achieve balance, understanding, and strength. Once legitimate needs are met, we can then create routines and systems that will help maintain our rhythm.
Physical Needs often translates to eating a healthy diet and daily exercise. But, is also encompasses how much sleep a person needs. Some need as little as 6 hours, where others need 8 to 9. A morning person struggles when trying to stay up too late at night, making it impossible to be at their peak level.
Knowing what foods we can eat and those we need to avoid, are key to keeping our bodies feeling good. Too much coffee, too much alcohol, and too little water, definitely leaves a person out-of-balance and will most likely cause health issues. From the type of exercise to personal grooming - there are many areas to consider.
Emotional Needs include relationships, acceptance, intimacy, and security, just to name just a few. As Kelly states in the book, "it can be more difficult to pinpoint our legitimate needs."
Personally, I believe that most people are afraid to look at what they emotionally need. It is scary and often too revealing. Once that "box" is opened, there is no telling what will spill out. It feels safer to leave it alone. But of course, that doesn't lead to a healthy balanced life.
Looking honestly at what is lacking emotionally, gives way for opportunities of healing and grace. Relationships become stronger while self-confidence grows. Kelly states, "We must ask ourselves these questions: Do we provide a non-judgemental environment for others to reveal themselves to us? Do we affirm those we love by complimenting them and expressing gratitude, not only for what they do but for who they are? When others make mistakes, are we quick to judge and ridicule, or do we acknowledge it as a learning experience and part of their journey? Are we willing to take the first step and make ourselves vulnerable by beginning to reveal our true selves to others?"
Intellectual Needs vary from person to person. But, everyone needs to stimulate their brain in order to keep it fit. Reading good books, watching quality programs, or learning something new, all contribute to healthy brain function. When we challenge ourselves to grow in this area, our conversations are more interesting and we are less likely to have uninformed opinions.
Spiritual Needs are unique for each of us. But, "only in the area of spirituality do we come to understand most fully our other legitimate needs - physical, emotional, and intellectual - and gain the insight to live a life that enriches, upholds, and protects our well-being in each of these areas."
Many seek silence and solitude to hear the stirring of God. Learning to be quiet and listen is among the most valuable lessons in life. Meditation, mindfulness, and walks in solitude are all practices that bring us closer to ourselves and God. Daily reading of Spiritual books, along with prayer, brings peace and understanding in our world today. "Spirituality brings clarity, direction, continuity, and integrity to our lives."
When I first read, The Rhythm of Life, many years ago, I had little understanding of my personal rhythm. It seemed that I was living everyone else’s rhythm but my own. I didn’t have a clue what I wanted or needed. I often felt out of balance and out of control. It was so much easier to live other peoples’ lives.
When I decided that understanding my personal rhythm would give me freedom, strength, and balance when times got rough, I began working through the four areas of legitimate needs. I made a list of all the areas of my life that didn't seem to be working. Then, I continued listing what felt forced and what felt natural.
I knew that in order to find my answers, I needed
to take a look at what my problems were.
Years ago, I read that, The solution to the problem is within the problem. First, you must understand what the problem is, then the solution will be easier to spot. So, if you know that your body requires 8 hours of sleep each night, but you stay up late watching television and only get 6, the solution is obvious!
Once I began looking at each area of need, I began to look closely at what I was doing, or not doing. Situations that resulted in fatigue, mood shifts, and stomach issues. It was time for me to stop flailing around and find ways to improve my daily life - my routine - my rhythm.
As I began working through each area, I began to feel better, have more energy, and my stomach issues started to subside. Some changes were simple, while others were really hard. It's amazing how easy it is to stick with something that isn't working just because it's familiar.
I discovered that little changes can make a big difference, leading to the desire to make the next change and then the next.
Beginning with my physical needs, here are a few areas that I needed to adhere to:
- Going to bed early enough to make it easy to get up at my favorite hour – 5:30am.
- Learning through the process of elimination that strong coffee hurts my stomach in the morning, so I reduced the strength and have only one cup.
- Sugar and processed carbs make me moody and lethargic, so I did a cleanse to eliminate sugar from the diet for a few weeks. I felt amazing during this time, but I started down the slippery slope of adding them back in, proving that it is necessary for me to reduce both of these from my diet.
Like many people, this area caused, and still causes me, difficulty but I will persevere until I've found my rhythm. Here are my personal revelations:
- I'm not always honest with how I’m feeling about a situation, so I'm attempting to speak my feelings lovingly, but truthfully.
- I’m a pretty happy person, except when I’m not! So I need to be okay with being sad, mad, or hurt, instead of putting on a happy face.
- Working on not allowing my thoughts to run-amuck. Remembering that they are just stories that I tell myself, so I don’t allow them to derail me emotionally.
I wouldn't call my self an intellectual person, but I do believe that we all have the ability to think more deeply. Here are the areas that help me grow and keep me balanced:
- I've become an avid reader over the years. I do a book challenge yearly on Goodreads, which feed my need for good stories and personal growth.
- I want and need to be informed about the world, but I dislike politics and don’t trust most of the news. I limit my exposure and I try to double-check stories before I believe and pass them on.
- Travel has become one of my greatest passions. Meeting new people, seeing historical sites, and learning about a new culture, broadens my understanding of the world around me.
Lastly, my spiritual life needed attention in order for me to find peace and grace.
- I've talked and prayed to God for years, but I needed to bring my focus back to the Bible, and other spiritual books.
- I felt lost on Sundays and realized that I needed a Christian community, so I have begun attending church again.
Although I live alone, I still need quiet time away from everyday life, so I'm planning a yearly personal retreat at a monastery. I've done this type of retreat in the past and it truly feeds my soul and brings me peace.
All of these changes and plans are something that I have to work on every day. Some come easily - others are a struggle. It's easy to drink enough water, but really difficult to say what I need. But knowing what my legitimate needs are, is a big step towards accomplishing them.
I’m a work in progress! There is a scripture that I’ve held close for some 20 years – “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Proverbs 3: 5&6)
I’m counting on it!
If you feel that your rhythm is off, you might want to begin this process. Matthew Kelly has already provided you with the four legitimate areas of need to help get you started!
And, the good news is, it isn’t about anyone but you.
Only you know what you need and want. Only you have the answers to finding your personal rhythm.
It takes time and commitment to change and grow, but it will be worthwhile!
God began a good work in each one of us, but each of us needs to do some fine-tuning to discover our personal rhythm.
*To order A Rhythm of Life, by Matthew Kelly, click here.
"Dance to Your Own Rhythm"