Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the difference between mindless habits, healthy repetition, ritual, chaos and addictions. What parts of my life feel mindless? Do I prefer routine or irregularity? And why? Where does boredom come from?
Yoga teaches that we all have various addictions and attachments (check back to the kleshas blog for more info) that can cause suffering. We ALL deal with addictions all the time. But there's definitely still value to repetition and routine. Where and how do we draw the line between the two?
Obviously the answer is different for everyone. Even day to day, our need for the security of routine or the creativity of chaos differs.
It's our job as spiritual beings to determine: is our "need" for stability or messiness legitimate or are we simply clinging to our comfort zones?
I recently listened to a beautiful podcast on embracing chaos with Tim Harford (Hidden Brain by NPR). Tim gave some amazing examples of how those unexpected 'problems' that arise in our lives are often the push we need to get out of a mindless rut. Though we're often challenged by the unexpected, embracing it offers us the opportunity to find a new way, explore our creativity and stretch our problem-solving capabilities.
I find it easier to stay creative when I allow flexibility into my schedule. Over the past few years, I've become more comfortable with flux than I am with routine. As an entrepreneur, my schedule is mine to control however I want. So I often enjoy how it differs day to day or week to week. But I experienced the opposite end of the spectrum first. I worked 9-5 and essentially did the same tasks and had the same predictable schedule every week. I had to work very hard, mentally, to stay present, to find value and interest within the monotony, but it was an important part of my journey.
What type of energy creates the most balance for you? How can you learn to find the value in routine AND chaos? What types of things make you feel restless or uncomfortable?
A few months ago, I took a private lesson with one of my good friends and teachers, Lianna. I was in the midst of the worst of my dysautonomia, struggling with my body that felt completely out of control. She reminded me to question the perceived value of control. We often think we have control when things are going well, but we do not. And if the opposite of control is freedom, does repetition and control create more bondage? It all depends on your perception.
Rumi reminds us that there is value within repetition. (Patanjali reminds us of this as well in Sutra 1.13) But the real value in the 'steady and continuous' comes from discovering something new each time. We can learn how to do the same thing or move the same way 1,000 times, but never experience the exact same thing. By truly remaining present, feeling and embracing the nuances of repetition, we actually can become more comfortable with change as well because we start to see change in everything.
Our lives and our bodies are never static. We are always moving and changing. So even when things feel steady, in control, safe, monotonous...they're not. When we experience boredom, our perception has become dull.
We stay sharp by developing SELF-control. Having patience through repetition and grace through change comes from paying attention to everything in between. Be mindful for the moments that cause you to feel safe, bored, flexible or free. Feel your way into appreciating what's really behind each moment. One at a time.