This series takes a look at how 10 qualities of Rhythm can help make things easier, both personally and for teams at work.
PULSE: The Foundation
What was the first sound you ever heard? If you guessed your mother’s heartbeat, you’re right.
We came into this world on a lifeline of Pulse, and it has been there for us ever since.
Yet in our complicated daily lives, juggling work demands, family needs, and personal aspirations, we can easily disconnect from the comforting, grounding expression of Life represented by PULSE.
It all starts with Pulse
Pulse is the most basic unit of Rhythm — the steady beat. Pulse is the oscillation of opposites: a note and a space, a sound and a rest, the yin and the yang.
Beyond Rhythm, Pulse is essential to Life itself, which depends on beating flow, moving in and out. The squeezing and releasing of our heart. The expanding and relaxing of our breath.
Pulse and Breath are our grounding, our biological rhythm track. Together, Pulse and Breath declare, “I Am Here,” as a living, breathing, ALIVE creature.
We need the rhythm of in-out, up-down, push-relax for our lives to be in balance. Yet when our work, family needs, and general busy-ness push us to be “ON” most of the time, we can easily get disconnected from our basic sense of inner rhythm — and the energy support that it can give us.
As wise people have said for centuries, you find It by simply noticing. Go ahead, do it now: Feel your pulsing breath and heartbeat. Come back to the moment, This Moment, This Now.
Most importantly, feel the shift in the quality of your attention, and your inner physical experience as you focus on the pulsing sensations. With each “relax” side of the cycle, allow the mosquito-whine of your “Constant On” energy to slowly drain away.
When your mind is quieted, and grounded with a slow-tempo pulse, space opens up for new thoughts, insights, and possibilities. Keep noticing: your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and wants.
None of this is new, of course. It’s the ancient wisdom of meditation practice, whose benefits are confirmed by science every day. Spending even a few minutes a day in this kind of centered, aware state make a big difference in our lives, compared to never experiencing it. Let your breath and heartbeat take you there!
Pulse supports us outside of meditation, too. Let’s look at some ways to call on Pulse to help at work and in life.
Choose Your Tempo
Do you choose the tempo of your inner rhythm, or do your circumstances drive it?
Our tempo varies throughout the day depending on what we’re doing, reflected both physically in our breath and heartbeat, and energetically in the quality of our attention. We are easily revved up by external circumstances, and we like the stimulation and challenge of upping our tempo to play a bigger game.
But it’s important to maintain our awareness about how we’re doing at such a fast pace, and keep our sense of choice about when to throttle back.
In a drum circle, when the tempo picks up, you may find a point where playing faster becomes too difficult without your playing turning to mush. No problem! You CAN play at the higher tempo, just with fewer notes. If you simplify your pattern by dropping a few notes, you can get right back into the fast-rocking groove.
What are some “extra notes” in your life that could be dropped? What activities, dramas, and distractions steal your time and attention, but leave you feeling drained and with no sense of gain? Regularly pruning of what is sapping your energy will let you reach a deeper groove with what’s most important in your life.
Pulse and Tempo at Work
When a group plays music together, everyone’s first duty is to unify around a common pulse — to hear it, feel it, and play in time with it as the heartbeat of the music.
What is the pulse of your work place? Is it deep and steady, or scattered and erratic? Are people tuned in and aligned with it, or marching to their own beat?
What helps your team’s pulse get steady and grounded? What throws it off?
Tune into Pulse for Easier Teamwork
Here are some ways to use the qualities of Pulse to foster a more pleasant and productive atmosphere at work:
- Tune in to your own Pulse and Breath. It’s way too easy to spend hours in our heads, or immersed in an on-screen world. Our bodies hate that. So build the habit of regularly returning your noticing your breathing, and feel the grounding sensation of your own steady pulse. Set a reminder timer — it works! Pay attention to your cycles of energy, and take deep conscious breaths through the day.
- Breathe — visibly — especially in meetings, so that others are reminded to breathe, too. Notice that “holding our breath” quality that is so common in meetings. It’s true — that’s what’s happening! Bring some fresh air to the conversation with your own deliberate deep breaths.
- Help Team Tempo adjust to the situation at hand with your own actions and demeanor. Sometimes, you need to speed up for an action response. Sometimes, you need to take a collective breath and think for a bit. Sometimes, you need to get back to a satisfying, sustainable pace. Calibrate your own tempo help the team gear up, relax, or hold steady.
- Take a walk! First, tune into your walking rhythm, and the sensation of movement. Then walk and daydream. Walk and think. Walk and talk — with colleagues, or with yourself! Feeling the physical weight-shift motion as you walk — right-left-right-left — brings your body into rhythm, and helps your mind relax into more creative brain wave frequencies. Often, what seemed stuck under intense mental effort cracks open with the help of simple movement and rhythmic flow.
From your private meditations to your most high-stakes public moments, PULSE — the most basic element of both Rhythm and Life — is there to support and affirm you.
Tune into Pulse to claim “I am Here, I am Alive, I am Ready — Now!”
Next Rhythm Tool for Life: CYCLE →