Beware the rut in routine…

You probably already know this, but there’s a “rut” in “routine” — and I mean both conceptually, and also literally, if you look at the way those words are written (which is pretty fitting, actually)…

RUT — RoUTine

Once you’re aware of it, try to not see it!  But seeing it is a helpful thing, I feel.  Why?  Well…grant me a moment to get all definitional, and then I’ll explain…

Let’s work backwards here — I’ll start with routine.  Merriam-Webster — my online dictionary of choice — breaks down “routine” for us as follows: “habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure.”  There are a few other meanings, but this is the one I’m talking about in this post.  All of us to some extent create and then follow routines in our lives — we establish them, like the M-W says…they become habits.

Most of us adopt routines in our daily lives...
Most of us adopt routines in our daily lives…

And this isn’t necessarily a horrible thing.  Some of us don’t manage our time well — maybe we procrastinate, or maybe we get distracted by shiny things — so it can be helpful to craft a smart routine that builds some efficiency right into our days.

Routines also have a dark side, though, and that’s where you’ll find the slippery slope that can send you skidding and tumbling and cartwheeling down to “rut.”  One major potential pitfall with routines is that we can become slaves to them: we can grow to be so dependent on them, that our worlds suffer major disruption if anything interferes with them…

"Must...obey...routine!!"  (artwork by Jason Josef Buchanan)
“Must…obey…routine!!” (artwork by Jason Josef Buchanan)

Think Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man, and you’ll have an example that’s maybe a bit more extreme than what most of us would respond with in the face of an interrupted routine, but maybe isn’t that far off the mark, either…

Another problem with routines is when they become so mechanical for us that we roll through their motions without much in the way of conscious thought at all.  That way lies stagnation.  That way lies…the rut.

The far endpoint of the phenomenon we call...the rut...  (artist unknown, but excellent...)
The far endpoint of the phenomenon we call…the rut… (artist unknown, but excellent…)

Back to the fine folks at Merriam-Webster, who define “rut” as follows: “a usual or fixed practice; especially: a monotonous routine.”

“Monotonous.”  Wait…who wants to devote a regularly recurring portion of their days to something that’s monotonous?  Yet how many people end up doing just that?

And here’s another thought…  Aside from the fact that monotony is…well…boring!…there’s also this notion in metaphysical and occult thought that when you perform actions, you’re sending direct messages to the Universe by way of those actions.

For example, when it comes to thoughts about abundance, some teachers will tell you that scrimping and saving constantly without exception is a way of telling the Universe that you see yourself as someone who is partly defined by an abundance of lack, and that you are intrinsically one of those people who never has enough money, sees themselves that way, and based on a lack of evidence of any real desire to change that, you’re okay with that state of affairs.  On the flip-side, though, going ahead and splurging on something once in a while even when money truly is tight, will send the message to the Universe that you’re someone who knows that money will appear when needed, who invites and welcomes that theoretical increase in fortune, and who is willing funds to manifest by way of your actions and your very approach to living…and this latter approach will actually then encourage the Universe to do its part to help you with the odd (or even continuous) influx of cash, whereas the first approach — the one about pinching every penny — will kind of fool the Universe into thinking that you’re happy being unhappy in your economic hardship, and it will direct its monetary cultivation powers elsewhere.  That’s the theory, anyway…

Basically the idea is that you reap what you sow...so sow actively, positively, and well!
Basically the idea is that you reap what you sow…so sow actively, positively, and well!

So I believe that ruts work in the same way: if you descend into rut-hood in your daily life, you’re sending the message — to yourself, to those around you who might notice, and to the Universe — that you’re okay with being uninspired and mechanical…that you don’t need exhilaration and elation and bursts of existential electricity in your ongoing diet.  If you don’t make any showing whatsoever of desiring moments of bliss in your life…then why should the Universe expend its own efforts on doling some out to you?  As far as the Universe knows, you probably don’t even want any, and you very well might not have any idea what to do with real Bliss even if the Universe were to drop a giant, glowing, sparkling steamshovel-scoop of it right on top of you!  Why, then, would it go to any trouble to deliver that Bliss to your disinterested (the Universe assumes…) doorstep, when there are plenty of other people out there who would love to get a crack at some of that kind of Joy…?

The idea that I’m putting forth here, then — to myself even as I write this, as well as to anyone who might happen upon this post — is to be on guard against the slow and insidious decay of routine into rut.  I believe that the solution is to inject the unexpected and the anomalous into our routines…

One method is to simply mix up the order of steps in a given routine, or to occasionally leave a step out of a routine entirely, and/or to change up the details of a given step within a routine once in a while.  Take a different route to work one morning (but still go to work)…eat something for lunch that you normally don’t tend to favor (but still eat lunch, and even still do so when you ordinarily would)…alter your usual exercise program (while still taking care to exercise)…talk to a stranger for no reason other than because you generally wouldn’t (instead of remaining isolated while waiting on line for the barista to make your coffee)…  You probably get the concept…

Take a page from Alice's book, and try stepping through the looking glass once in a while!
Take a page from Alice’s book, and try stepping through the looking glass once in a while!

Another method for keeping routines helpful and positive and non-rutty would be to adhere to the usual steps, but to inject some real inspiration into them.  I guess I’m suggesting attempts to approach these familiar steps from a place of “higher mind” or from pure spirit or some such.

For example, you can go ahead and take that exact same route to work that you always take…but maybe instead of mechanically commuting along like a workaday lemming with little to no conscious thought involved in the process, try to view it as a cavalcade of chances to help a bunch of other people: let a whole slew of your fellow drivers into traffic in front of you, even if you’re more habitually the road rage-y type who jealously guards that roadway position.

Another example: instead of just brushing your teeth at the usual proscribed time, maybe you might take a moment to first view the entire small procedure as an act of great cleansing and renewal, almost like some kind of unusual spiritual or religious ceremony that will leave you more purified before whatever it is that you might hold as Divine.

Or yet another possibility: instead of logging onto the computer in the evening and mindlessly surfing along until you get sleepy, maybe first sit back and ponder the vast realm we call cyberspace…consider the sheer enormity of it, as a possibly infinite tract of virtual reality-scape, think about the immensity of the happy coincidence that you managed to be born at a point in history such that humanity has the means to access cyberspace in your lifetime, and then reflect upon the idea that if the internet is becoming like this observable manifestation of our racial, species-mind that we can all perceive and contribue to…then each and every time you interact with it, you have this amazing opportunity to add something of great positive value to it — to, in essence, contribute to your own immortality…

Quite often, simply viewing something from a different perspective is enough to change everything and add real wonder...
Quite often, simply viewing something from a different perspective is enough to change everything and add real wonder…

So that’s today’s unsolicited advice: use routines in a positive way, but don’t let them use you.  Beware the rut, and cultivate inspiration, novelty, and fun in your everyday affairs!

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