The search is the meaning, the search for beauty, love, kindness and restoration in this difficult, wired and often alien modern world. The miracle is that we are here, that no matter how undone we’ve been the night before, we wake up every morning and are still here. It is phenomenal just to be. This idea overwhelms some people.
— Anne Lamott
The Routine Of No Routine
When I retired nine years ago, the one thing I most looked forward to was not having to awaken each morning to the blaring of an alarm clock. I could wake to the natural rhythms of my body, to the light of the sun, the songs of the birds or the cranking of the garbage truck slowly making its way down the hill. I looked forward to shaping my days rather than having them shaped by the routines of my typical work day. I could live each day without the routine (a sequence of actions regularly followed, a fixed program*) of going to work, going to lunch, coming back to work, and finally coming home which was the only part of my routine I enjoyed. Unlike many people who fall apart without a routine, I thrived. I did not need a schedule full of meaningless activities to stimulate my life. I had books to read, poems to write, Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata to learn on my keyboard, walks to take, and oceans to visit. The last thing I wanted was a routine of any kind. I wanted my days to be free for me to follow my heart and my dreams.
The Buddha asked his disciples to empty their minds of all desires for desire was the root cause of all suffering and disappointment. Many find this somewhat paradoxical as the desire to empty one’s mind of desire is itself a desire which adds to the suffering in one’s life.
I experienced a similar paradox in my attempt to not follow a routine. Doing what I choose to do each day itself became a routine. Yes, it was a chosen routine of my own activities as oppose to a required one, but still a routine. The difference was that my new routine had more flexibility in its implementation. So, I embraced my new routine because each day I was doing the things I loved.
I only awaken to an alarm clock if I have an early flight to catch as I make all of my appointments late in the morning so I can awaken naturally. I may do some yoga stretches or go for a walk when the weather is agreeable. I have never been a breakfast person so a cup of tea or coffee usually comes next. Then I read the news and set about my work. I call my writing work because I take it seriously and because it fills a good part of each day. However, it is work I enjoy doing. This is usually followed by a nap, a meal, and another walk before the daylight comes to an end. In the evenings I will write some more, read, or maybe watch a rented movie on iTunes. On occassion, I interact with others or take a Spanish class. These activities are the core of my routine which changes daily and is yet grounded in that I no longer have to commit any of my time to activities I no longer want to do.
My new daily routine has become a ritual as it is repeated each day with the same degree of love, devotion, and desire to live this life I love doing the things I love to do. This is my true secret of life or in the words of Jim Harrison, “You have to follow the affections of your heart, and the truth of your imagination. Otherwise, you will feel badly.”
- Source Reference: New Oxford American Dictionary