The word “habit” can strike fear. They face us with an infinite and onerous future where feelings of failure can overwhelm us before we even begin.

Some time ago, I wrote The Trouble with “Habits”, which posed the use of “rhythms” instead of habits. Not just a play on words, rhythms can be more readily engaged, guided, and integrated throughout our lives.

Expanding on the idea, a reader had written:

“What’s the difference between missing a beat and losing the groove, something a little more painful because the musician is often unaware?”

The distinction between “missing a beat” and “losing the groove” is an interesting one and had me thinking…

“Losing the groove” sounds like an inadvertent loss of a rhythm you wanted to continue. Maybe you forgot to exercise one day, and then the next, and only later realized you it had slipped from the days.

Perhaps unconsciously, somewhere the intentions were swallowed in other waves of attention and maybe even forgotten.

Following may be a sense of struggle to find the rhythm again or a resignation that it will never be found. We can even go further to say that struggling to find it, forcing it as we might a habit, creates more turbulence and troubles.

“Missing a beat” or even missing several beats is more akin to a mindful, meditative approach. During meditation, waves of sensations may appear during which we can no longer sense a chosen object of focus. But we can still have that object in mind as we continue to acknowledge the presenting sensations. In this way, we are preparing the conditions for a gentle return to the object.

“Ah, this is why I cannot exercise today. How can I address this so that it does not stand in my way?”

(Better yet would be to change into exercise clothes, stand on the mat or sit at the equipment, and then reflect and decide.)

To return the analogy, when literally losing a groove playing music, I find it best to rest in silence for a moment, listening to the sounds around me, before starting up again.

Maybe the same can be said for a daily work rhythm. Rather than force one’s self back into something, take a few moments to listen to the existing rhythms, outside and inside, before re-entering the stream of sounds.

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