Routine as mindfulness practice

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been resisting routine in my life for a long time, and it’s getting a bit silly now.

There are a whole bunch of things on my 101 in 1001 list that ought to be really easy (and ought to be done by now), but which are still underway after multiple false starts: “Follow a workout schedule (gym or home) for a month”, “Restart my Zen practice”, “One week. No pop.”, “Eat homemade lunches at work for a week”, “Take a multivitamin every day for a month”, “Floss every day for a month”, “Cook dinner every night for two weeks”, “No clothes on the bedroom floor for two weeks”. There’s more, but you get the idea.

The reason that I have to add simple things like that to my 101 list — and the reason I haven’t checked them off yet — is that I’m way too resistant to routine for my own good. For example, a couple days per week I’ll get annoyed and/or end up running late in the morning because I can’t decide what to wear, or something I planned on wearing needs ironing or is in the laundry. Yet do I take ten minutes to plan the night before what I’m going to wear the next day? No. Sometimes I even think of doing it, but I still don’t.

Somehow I’ve got this idea that having routines like those mean giving up some sort of freedom. I need to disabuse myself of that idea. The freedom isn’t in abandoning routines outright and hoping everything will work out at the last minute — it’s in actively choosing when breaking the routine is right, and choosing to follow it otherwise.

When I listed “restart my Zen practice” in my list of 101 things, I meant that I need to get back in touch with the Zen centre and start doing regular zazen again. But like I mentioned before, zazen is only one of the things in the eightfold path. Mindfulness, effort, and intention are just as important, and paying attention to these trivial things I always put off seems like as good a mindfulness and effort practice as anything.

If Zen is about one thing, it’s about attention. Doing the same things daily, when those things need to be done, doesn’t have to be about mindless repetition. With attention, it can be an exercise in mindfulness, experiencing the moment.

We’ll see how that goes.

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