I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, April 28, 2019

A slave to routine

Fields of tulips
Two days ago, my friends Lily, Cindy, and Maria and I all gathered together early on a sunny morning to travel down the highway to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. As we drove, we noticed low clouds moving in, but I assured everyone they would burn off before long. Not that I'm much of a prognosticator, but given that this happens often on our Thursday hikes, I was pretty sure I was right. Well, guess what? The clouds stayed around; we had a few sun breaks early on, but otherwise we had a brisk wind and low clouds, making me wish I had my down jacket.

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful day spent with great friends, and between us we snapped hundreds of photos. Cindy's phone ran out of battery power and shut off. We kept going until most of our phones were very low. And then we went off to the town of La Conner for lunch. It was a simply lovely day.

My usual Friday routine was completely off the rails. I didn't go to the Y to work out, and I missed my Friday yoga class. Considering that I was having a good time doing other things, I didn't think I would feel so unsettled about the change in my routine, but yes, I did. It makes me realize how much I have become a slave to my routine. Is that a good or a bad thing? I really don't know.

However, I was reading last week in a book by BKS Iyengar, the founder of the style of yoga that I practice, and he reminds me that most of us want to turn negative habits into positive ones. But he says that from there, you turn them into no habits. In learning to act in freedom, you act appropriately, unconditioned by the past. Just considering living every day without my daily habits gives me a sense of unease. As I sit here with my laptop on this early Sunday, I am typing away writing this post, a habit I can hardly imagine going without. Getting up, brushing my teeth and dressing, going to the front porch to do my early morning exercises before heading off to the coffee shop—I can't imagine doing something different.
We will be more successful in all our endeavors if we can let go of the habit of running all the time, and take little pauses to relax and re-center ourselves. And we'll also have a lot more joy in living. —Thich Nhat Hanh
Now that I can probably manage: taking a break from my routine and paying attention to my surroundings. It amazes me how many times every day I see people with their total focus on their phones, whether they are on the bus (which now has free wifi), strolling on the sidewalk, or enjoying a meal. The art of conversation seems to have taken a big hit with the advent of smartphones. When I sit at the coffee shop with my friends, we have our iPads or phones open, too, but when one friend shows up, he insists that we all close our devices and visit with one another. At first I resisted, but now it's become a—you guessed it—a habit to close them when he walks in.

It's a worthwhile endeavor to examine my routine, I suppose, and perhaps even change a little of it now and then, like taking a Friday off and spending it with my friends. It certainly does make me aware of how much of a slave to routine I have become. I started doing the Five Tibetan Rites in early 2014, five years ago now, and I have not missed a day. They only take about ten minutes to perform, and I cannot imagine not doing them before heading out for the day. When I am traveling, it means getting up a little earlier, but as you must realize about me by now, I am definitely a creature of habit.

Sometimes, like when I was reading Iyengar's book, I think about trying to find a way out of my routine. When I do the same things day after day, as one gets older, sometimes I wonder if I am actually forgetting to do them, thinking that I have, when it was really the day before. When a habit is so ingrained that you are no longer even conscious of what you are doing, I can see how that would end up being a detriment to living a full life.

Of course, all habits and routines are subject to change, as we grow older and become unable to continue in our daily life as we have for so long. Illness and infirmity are also in my future, which will force me to adapt to another reality, but for now, I really don't know whether it's worthwhile to stir things up too much. I suppose that it would be much better to be conscious of my daily habits and not get too far into autopilot. That seems much more doable: bringing awareness into my routine.

This conversation has been going on inside me for awhile now. I have been thinking about my actions as being the ground under my feet, the only possessions I can keep. And apparently this conversation has been going on among humans for a long, long time:
All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire. —Aristotle
Aristotle was born in 384 B.C., so yeah, it's been awhile. As I continue to enjoy my daily routine, I am taking it upon myself to become more conscious of every act, so that I can exercise my mental processes and have a fuller life. My tea is now long gone, my beloved sleeps next to me, and the sunlight is streaming in the windows. It must be time for me to get going, as my post is now finished for the day.

I do so hope that the coming week will bring you plenty of happiness and that love will surround you as you move through your days. Be well until we meet again next week.


Linda Reeder said...

Isn't life supposed to be about finding happiness and purpose? So if routine keeps you happy and gives you purpose, then stick to it. That's my thinking. I, on the other hand, need breaks from routine. We are taking one today. With a 12:30 Sounders game at the stadium, we are going in early to have brunch at The Market. It is a brilliantly sunny, if chilly, day, and we will spend much of it in beautiful Seattle.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, As you will know, I started my latest blogging challenge on March 1 when I set out to walk around Green Lake daily, take a few photos, and then share some of the pics on my blog. I was just a few days into that daily routine when Red, of Hiawatha House, said that my walk would soon become a habit. Turns out he was exactly right. When I first started I moaned and groaned about getting ready to go, getting in the car, driving over to the lake. It seemed like such a chore. Almost two months later, and without missing a day, it now seems like something I do not want to miss. I look forward to getting to the lake and getting started with the walk. In your post today you mentioned, "bringing awareness into my routine." I think that you are so right ... it's very important. I would like to think that is what I've done with my daily challenge. Thank you, DJan, for sharing. And thank you too for your comments on my blog which I look forward to. Have a good day and a good week ahead! John

gigi-hawaii said...

What gets to me is the person getting up from a formal dinner party in my home to watch electronics on his cell phone in the next room.

Elephant's Child said...

I am definitely a slave to routine. It grounds me I think. There is some space for flexibility (but not a lot).
Enjoy your routine filled week.
I relish time away from gadgets and find it difficult to accept those who are glued to their phone/tablet/whatever to the exclusion of the people around them.

Gigi said...

This post is the perfect reminder for me to be more conscious in my day to day life because I am so guilty of this.

Have a beautiful week, DJan.

William Kendall said...

Well said!

Marie Smith said...

Routine is important in my life too but spontaneity is wonderful. It keeps life interesting!

Tabor said...

I wish I was more into routine...good routine. My exercise falls by the wayside too often. I really want to do it, but procrastinate. You are a strong person, I can tell from your many posts. I need more people like you in my near life.

Red said...

Routines , habits or whatever have some good and some bad. a good routine makes sure we get where we want. On the other hand routines can become obsessive. I think when we're older we need a good schedule to keep going .Now all this comes from somebody who is terribly disorganized.

Rita said...

I never had much of a routine in my life until I became housebound. And then it wasn't really an everyday routine until I got to be basically on days a few years ago thanks to melatonin. But when my sleep gets off (usually due to illness or pain from something or other--recently my back) then my routine gets off. I only have a morning routine, really..but I am quite surprised at how much I miss it. I feel off when I am struggling to get my journaling done in the afternoon, for example. The day just doesn't flow the same way. And I have gotten used to blogging and laundry on Mondays and Gramma Days on Saturdays because now when I miss those I feel off kilter, too. I feel much better when I'm on my basic schedule.

The flowers were lovely, BTW. :)

http://peacefulheartopenmind.blogspot.com/ said...

I am a creature of routine but my routine is based on the seasons more than anything. I am not a fan of winter so during the winter months, I adhere to a routine that gets me thru the days. However, when Spring rolls around, my routines become disrupted all the time. I start writing a post for my blog and then notice the birds and chipmunks that are at my feeders so I stop to enjoy the experience. The morning doves that rest below my maple tree start their morning cooing and I break off my routine to listen. The air is warm and breezy so I stop my routine and go for a walk. Seasons dictate my routines and I am pleased with that.

Arkansas Patti said...

I am not much for routine though blogging has managed to make me set aside a chunk of my day for reading new posts but it is not a regular time. Also reading a book before bed has become routine so I guess I do have a few. Otherwise I tend to bend with the wind.

Trish MacGregor said...

Routines are easy, I guess. But I also try to break mine up with something spontaneous.

b+ said...

First time back on my computer and visiting others since coming home. The idea that we can become slave to our routine is so foreign to me. I have to make myself stay with a plan. In my world, the routine is the thing that saves me from myself. In many cases, it helped me become a happier retiree. Interesting isn't it how we all approach life differently.

Be well.


Far Side of Fifty said...

You are probably the most routine active person I know! I like to vary things, the time I go to sleep and when I get up...and what I do throughout the day. I am kind of a slave to the 6 PM suppertime...we can thank a Border Collie for that! They love routines!
Far Guy is getting better everyday...we walked to the Mail box today and around in the yard:)