Routine is the most common obstacle to being conscious. For most people, there is comfort and safety in following their daily routine, but comfortable or not, routines permeate the work we do and most hours of the day. Why is that an obstacle to living consciously? There are several reasons:
Routine activity conditions the brain to follow old, familiar neural circuits. Over time, new input has a harder and harder time registering, because the course of least resistance is to follow the same ingrained patterns.
Routine dulls the mind by making you go on automatic pilot. Hours can be filled keeping busy without actually thinking.
Routine makes you less active and more reactive. I ran across a nice phrase recently: the reactive rut. You find yourself in such a rut when your day is organized around e-mails, meetings, and a calendar of planned activity.
Notice that routine isn’t a problem in and of itself – keeping regular hours, going to bed at the same time every night, and maintaining a regular health diet are all good for the body. The real problem is located in the mind, which is the seat of consciousness. Every day your mind controls a feedback loop where you can choose the kind of input that will be processed. As mechanical as this may sound, you can’t pursue your dreams and fulfill yourself at a deep level unless you participate in a rich, evolving, fully alive feedback loop.
Look right now at your daily routine. The input that fits a conscious lifestyle will have the following characteristics: fresh, unexpected, surprising, delightful, challenging, inspiring, heartfelt, spontaneous, curious, creative, vital, selfless, and expansive.
If you daily routine leads in the opposite direction, towards unconsciousness, the following words apply instead: repetitive, predictable, conformist, unadventurous, automatic, reactive, dull, boring, exhausting, unchallenging, numb, uninspired, selfish, and mechanical.
Using these labels, honestly confront how you spend your day, examining where boredom, dullness, and mechanical repetition have set in. At the same time, examine the best aspects of our routine, which are fresh, challenging, and spontaneous. Your aim is simple but profound. Learn to minimize the downside of routine and maximize the upside. Don’t take the false path of distraction. Most people who are caught in a reactive rut divide their lives in half, managing to get through the boring part of their routine because they have something totally separate that they actually enjoy, whether it’s a hobby, fantasy football, video games, or hours plunked in front of the TV.
A conscious lifestyle isn’t divided but integrated – you must embrace our whole day in order to build a whole self. Routine is your psychological foe and a drag on your brain. See it as such and become active about the problem. One of the greatest hindrances in everyone’s life is low expectations, and nothing traps you in low expectations like dull routine. By rising above routine, you can build a life that feels alert and alive at every moment. The only tool for building such a life is self-awareness.
Source: Deepak Chopra, The Conscious Lifestyle: Rising Above Routine. Deepak Chopra MD (official)