Day ten of our three-month residency in New York City and already we begin to feel like natives. Slipping into new rhythms living in one of the world’s most vibrant cities when it seems only yesterday I was gazing out over the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales. Two “homes” that have seemingly so little in common, except for how I love them, and how I’ve been drawn so strongly to dwell in both places.
Moving and making “home” is not new for Neil and me. And this goes beyond the simple house moves. We’ve spent periods of time living and working in vastly different environments, from the austerity of an Indian ashram to the confines of a camper trailer in the Australian outback; from the harbour in Sydney to the green fields of Yorkshire. We’ve travelled and swapped continents without reservation.
I’ve navigated these changes with ease, enjoying the variety and the stimulation of new environments, the different rhythms of daily life. How can this be…when moving of any kind is high on the list of life’s most demanding events? On examination, I observe there are threads of continuity that weave through and support me, no matter the external circumstances. These threads are the routine of my personal practice.
Routine often gets a bad rap. A mark of a fixed life, stuck, boring, and same-same. And while this can be so, it’s not the whole story. Routine can also be the foundation for a progressive, evolving experience of life. Rather than holding us back, routines can be a source of personal growth that liberate us to adapt and enjoy the different rhythms of life going on around us.
If we always do things a certain way – sit in the same seat on the train, park the car in the same spot, use the same bike at the gym, grab the same place in class, buy coffee, lunch, from the same place – and find ourselves feeling put out if we cannot – then these routines do not support change and growth. Instead they foster rigidity. These “routines” can hold us back – stuck, shrinking – as ways of attempting to control our external environment. They can make us less open to the unexpected and fearful of change.
Establishing routines for personal practices that by their nature extend and expand us creates a very different effect. These routines strengthen us from the inside out. And, far from keeping us stuck, they liberate us by creating an inner stability and adaptability, empowering us to embrace different external environments and changing circumstances.
For me, these routines include a daily meditation practice, a period for reflection through the writing of morning pages, yoga, regular reading of material that inspires and enriches me, and periods of rest.
Routine here is powerful. The routine, regular, repeated doing, brings a personal rhythm to life wherever we are, whatever our endeavours. Routine is the thread of activities that are both familiar and that stretch us. And, interestingly, these supportive routines are portable, going with us wherever we go.
My own routines have built up over a number of years, step by step. It began with one thing, writing morning pages. Reflection is easy and enjoyable for me, and so it took root. Starting with one activity that extends and expands us, repeated and established as a personal routine, can make a big difference over time.
Let’s consciously examine the role routine plays in our life. When you know what to look for, it’s easier to separate out those routines that hold us back from those that support our growth. And we can then embrace new routines and begin.