My life is full of routines. Meditation every morning. Same breakfast. A walk on the beach once a week. Gardening is a constant: weeding, re-arranging, cleaning. In July-August, when the figs are ripe and are falling on the ground like crazy, we need to pick them up at least twice a day.
There’s nothing mundane or boring about these routines; in fact, they fill my life with inspiration. They are relaxing and anchoring. It makes sense. Babies and little kids thrive on routines — a fixed schedule alleviates anxiety and gives them a sense of security. Predictable is comforting.
As adults, we sort of have to re-learn what came so naturally at first. UC Berkeley offers a free online “The Science of Happiness” class. Yale has something similar. Both courses suggest “strategies for achieving social and emotional well-being.”
Thankfully, I can rely on my routines to keep me happy. They boost my mood and energy, uplifting me. A slow-pace, as opposed to a jet-setting, lifestyle makes me self-aware.
With routines in place, there’s no need to re-invent the wheel every day trying to come up with something new and entertaining. Because routines can have variety built into them.
For instance, one of my family’s weekend routines is a hike in Tamescal Canyon. While mindfully engaging with the meandering path and feeling in command of the day, I immerse myself in the moment. I keep my alert senses wide open, soak in the transient sights, the aromas, the sounds. And nurture them within. The truth is, it feels different each time even if it’s the same hike. And as such, the process of looking around, noticing ever-changing details is extremely enjoyable.
I am echoing a point of view in a wonderful book by Alexandra Horowitz On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes. It’s a description of eleven walks around a city block with eleven different “experts” that help the author see it in a completely new way every single time.
There’s nothing conventional or robot-like about me. Yet, I embrace routines habitually. The reason is that they afford the time to really pay attention and see the goodness all around. They help me achieve equilibrium.