Routine and Mindfulness

There’s a cat that lives on the porch of the house where I am staying. He doesn’t belong to my landlady, but she feeds him and gives him a covered house to sleep in on the porch. So, he’s agreed to live with her.

He begins his day on her porch. Waking up and eating his breakfast. Then, he moves to the next house and eats there. He hits three to four houses in the neighborhood, enjoying breakfast at each. Then he disappears and does whatever cats do during the day. I see his tracks in the snow crisscrossing the neighborhood. Everyday, he follows his routine.

Snow cat

Photo via Anh Tuan Hoang

I am terrified of routine.

I think, if I am completely honesty with myself, one of the main reasons that I moved to Vietnam is because I felt my life settling into a routine in the United States. Everyday it was the same. I woke up. I went to work. I went to lunch. I went back to work. I went home. I surfed the web and watched television. I went to bed.

Repeat. Ad infinitum.

I felt that my life was slipping away. Like Lester Burnham in the film American Beauty, I felt…sedated.

I’m not exactly sure what it is but I know I didn’t always feel this… sedated. But you know what? It’s never too late to get it back. – Lester Burnham

How do you get it back?

Some people join a gym. Or volunteer at a hospital or pet shelter. Some people have children with their partner. Some people accept it for what it is, roll over, and go back to sleep.

Me? I moved to Vietnam.

But, it was a temporary fix. Vietnam is anything but routine but still, toward the end of my yearlong stay there, the dreaded routine came creeping back.

So, I moved to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Back in the West routine is around every corner. Things are comfortable here. They are predictable. But for a while, they will be different. And that is good enough for me. That is the drug that I crave.

I don’t know why I fear routine.

If you stop and look around, everything runs on routine. Your body needs to eat and sleep in a routine-fashion. Birds migrate. Some animals hibernate. The tides come in and out and the seasons come and go, each in their own turn.

On a larger scale, our planet spins and revolves around our sun. The other planets do as well. Our galaxy has its own rotation.

Everything accepts its routine and lives according to it. Yet I fight it with every fiber of my being. And I know I am not alone.

So, what is a man to do?

I have been thinking about this a lot. After all, there are 16 inches of snow on the ground. I have a lot of time to think.

One routine that I embrace wholeheartedly is smoking. I know…I know…there is slight evidence to show that it may be bad for me, but bear with me.

Everything about smoking is a routine. I get up and go outside. I take the cigarette from my pack and place it in my mouth. I flick my lighter and raise the newborn flame to the end of my cigarette. I draw quickly on the newly lit cigarette to set the flame. And finally, I enjoy the first, glorious, deep draw from the cigarette, and pull the smoke deep into my lungs. I exhale slowly, sending the smoke into the atmosphere.

While it is routine, it is mindful. There is nothing about my smoking routine that I don’t pay attention to and do with deliberation. I am focused. I am alert. I am mindful.

Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Mindfulness, I think, is the key distinction between my smoking routine and the other routines of daily life. I am not mindful on the bus or at the grocery store. I just heedlessly wander through.

But with smoking, I am mindful.

Maybe mindfulness is the key to acceptance of routine because, unless you are planning to upend your life every year like I have, routine will have to be accepted eventually.

Routine will catch up to me. Even I can’t run forever. I have to learn to accept it.

How do you deal with routine? I’d love to read your methods in the comments below.

2 Comments on “Routine and Mindfulness

  1. I vary my routine by volunteering at the hospital, attending faith sharing, belonging to a just for fun social club, attending grand children’s activities, and reading. This is also sprinkled with trips to St. Louis and eating lunch out. Although after a while this tends to be a routine, but it is my routine and I welcome it. It gives me a structure I need to keep me focused and at my age it keeps me off the sofa and away from the “boob tube” and helps me keep my passion of sitting in my comfortable chair with a book in hand in control. At least for now for as I get older I just may give in to the mentioned passion of reading all day.

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