By Robyn Greene
Most people are aware of the big transitions or events in life. We honor births, birthdays, perhaps coming of age, starting and ending school, leaving home, marriage, retirement, and eventually, death. But how often are we even aware of mini-transitions that occur throughout the day? We don’t usually acknowledge those. But maybe we should.
You may remember a particular song called “Strangers in the Night” that used the lyrics “Do Be/Do Be Do” in part of the song. Inspired by those lyrics, I can think of another way those words can be used or understood: and it has to do with the way we organize our time during the day.
Human beings were not designed to be in work, or “Do,” mode all day long. I often encounter people who cannot sleep at night because they cannot shut down their brains enough to let go. And that’s at least partly because they are in “Do” mode most of the day and don’t know how to enter “Be” mode.
Here’s another way to think about this. Although many people are familiar with the term circadian rhythms, most have not heard of ultradian rhythms. While circadian means “about a day,” ultradian refers to ninety-minute cycles during the day. The way this works is that we are in “Do” mode for the first 60 minutes in an hour. But then we shift to a more receptive mode, or a “Be” state, for about 15-30 minutes. We may experience it as slowing down, daydreaming or mild sleepiness. But what do most people do when they experience this? They try to fight it. They drink coffee and try to plow through until they finish a task, no matter how long it takes or how they feel. So while they may get things done, how much of the process do they really get to experience? By not allowing themselves to just “Be,” they unintentionally block their openness to creativity and spirituality. They don’t take enough breaks (if any at all), which would give them the opportunity to savor and appreciate what they’ve done. Yes, it’s OK to actually pat ourselves on the back and bask in the appreciation of our work and ourselves!
What about creating a little ritual to acknowledge or honor the little transitions that occur during the day? They occur anyway; why not give them their due? Like waking up in the morning, driving to work, or getting ready to work at home? Before you start going madly through your day, sit for a few moments and acknowledge that you are beginning your work. Ask for guidance or just think about something you value about yourself. Clear the mental decks. After about 60 or so minutes, or when you notice your energy start to drag a bit, put down what you are doing. You could take some deep breaths and practice relaxation. As you breathe, focus your attention on both the inhalation and the exhalation, allowing the exhalation to be a bit longer. Or you might do some stretching or take a short walk. Meditate a bit. You could even listen to some peaceful music that you enjoy. I have had the experience of becoming completely refreshed from listening to Mozart. If you plug into these little opportunities during the day, you’ll probably find you have more energy and feel less physically and mentally exhausted. When you arrive home from work, or stop working at home, take a few moments to sit before diving into evening activities. Think about not just what you did, but who you were today. And then let it go. You might even take a short walk around your neighborhood with no particular place to go. And when you return home, note that you are shifting your consciousness towards evening.
Recently I was in France in one of those wonderful little towns in the Loire Valley. And this town had a church that rang bells on the hour and half-hour. At one time, people organized their time around this. The bells were cues to remind us of what to do: when to eat, when to sleep, when to pray. They also were reminders of the sacred. But the only bell that most of us have now is the alarm clock. Life has grown so much more complex that we’ve lost our sense of time. As a result we accumulate tension throughout the day, and are unsure of what to “Do” when we have quieter time.
So I invite you to make note of your daily transitions. Make an actual list if you like. And then think of simple ways that you would enjoy creating and acknowledging the spaces in your day, and make a list of those. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you.
Robyn Greene is a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant (honoring the big and smaller transitions) as well as being passionately into music, especially songs and singing. She’s also a licensed marriage, family, and child therapist in the state of California.