The Art of Oscillation

Oscillating is our ability, both through planning and listening to our bodies, to seek what we lack in a given moment through mindful action.

The Art of Oscillation

We use the word “art” beyond the context of paintings and sculptures: the art of taking action, the art of acquiescence, The Art of War…

Why? Because art in these contexts expresses just how difficult doing that thing is.

Art, in any form, is difficult, yet, improvements can be made.

One definition of art that I enjoy is, “skill acquired by experience, study, or observation.”

Oscillation is an art as it is a skill that can be acquired over time. It’s a skill worth cultivating. Oscillating is our ability, both through planning and listening to our bodies, to seek what we lack in a given moment through mindful action. Typically to oscillate is to make waves above and below a place of homeostasis.

Picture this, you’ve been sitting and working at your computer for the last two hours, you’ve stayed in the same room, and you’re beginning to get frustrated that you haven’t accomplished what you set out to. The Art of Oscillation is to know what activity will serve you best in that moment and allow you to come back to your work (or whatever you were doing) with the best energy and attitude possible.

In the example above, my ideal oscillation would be to seek movement outside. This change of pace and scenery would provide the reset I need to stay energized and enjoy my day.

In order to be productive and enjoy our days in whatever we care to do, we need to oscillate, we need to make waves. Though oscillations are helpful everywhere, I find them to be most impactful when breaking from work. When working I find that I am inside, sedentary, and stimulated. In order to oscillate effectively, I need to find the opposite of that.

Inside → Outside

Sedentary → Movement

Stimulated → Free from Inputs

I have found that the more consistently I oscillate well, the better chance I have at bringing a fresh perspective to what I return to. Moving outside allows me to expand and just be. Even a short walk has the power to reset my mood and energy.

As I mentioned above, there are two components to oscillation.

1. Planning Our Oscillations

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

We have to acknowledge that in the moment, we likely won’t seek to do what is actually best for us. We’ll get caught up in what we’re doing and opt to keep chipping away at whatever it is, ignoring the fact that what we need most is to oscillate.

This is where a plan comes in. Map out your day, when does it make sense to take a walk? When can you sit outside? Is today a good day for a bike ride?

Planning is key, but we also need to be willing to adjust on the fly by listening to our bodies.

2. Listen to Our Bodies

Notice here that I said we need to listen to our bodies. Sometimes our mind doesn’t do what’s best, but we can feel what our bodies need. After too long sitting, we have the urge to get up and move. After too much time cramped inside, we have a propensity to free up our space and move outside.

When your body speaks to you, listen.
In its simplest form, this article is about taking breaks. We need breaks, and we want those breaks to prove fruitful. If your current workplace is more restricted than normal, do what you can. Even expanding your body in your chair or standing place can provide the expansion your body is asking for. If you currently have more freedom than you’re used to (working from home when you’re used to being in an office), use it! Play around with it, explore, enjoy.

90 minutes of work on a computer inside followed by 25 minutes of scrolling feeds on a phone in a dark room is not going to provide the reset we truly need. That’s why we need to plan out what we can and listen to our bodies to take care of the rest.

It’s not always easy to oscillate well, but as I mentioned, it’s a worthwhile pursuit. Pursue this art just as a painter would, brushstroke by brushstroke, learning along the way, and enjoying the process.