How do we start each day, new? How do we move into and through this day with the innocence of a child, without allowing our story to influence every decision we make?
What does it mean to look at life as if one was a child?
Have you ever asked someone “What’s new in your world?” only to hear them respond, “Same stuff, different day!”
Is it even possible for any two days to be the same?
The boredom of sameness is carried in a mind that is running habitually, by a person who lives life on autopilot.
Every day is new. Even when working at a manufacturing job where one does the exact same thing every day for hours at a time, every moment is new.
The challenge that the “same stuff, different day” people face is that they are stuck in the ruts of their routines. Instead of looking at the spot where they are through new eyes, they look past it so that they can stay un-engaged with life. This is the person who wakes up one morning, looks at themselves in the mirror, and asks “Where has the last twenty years gone?”
Just as Heraclitus stated, “You can never step into the same stream twice,” no two moments of our lives are ever the exact same. They can look the same to the eyes which choose not to see, but even in the most routine of circumstances, everything around us is constantly changing.
The difference between a child and this prisoner of life is that the child is a sponge. She does not think she has already “been there and done that” so she is eager to learn what every new moment has to teach.
Here are seven suggestions for cultivating a more childlike wonder of the world in which we move:
- Question every preconception you have. I was with a friend, recently, who upon hearing my exclamations of gratitude for an exquisite pea salad, decided to ask for a taste of this treat. After she swallowed a small sample, the woman stated, “I have avoided peas for thirty years because I have never liked them. This really is excellent.” The peas she tasted on this day were quite different from the peas she remembered hating. Things shift. Our ideas change. Memories are often exaggerated. Question your preconceptions. Explore areas you previously avoided. See what surprises you. Discover how delightful it is to replace an ancient hatred with a new love.
- Allow that knowing is not as exciting as learning. Jump with both feet into some area where you have never gone. If you are stuck in some rut, deepened by your routine, change it up. Even if you feel your job is boring, look for ways to challenge yourself. Set new goals and play with learning what works and what does not, always moving in the direction of these dreams. Once I had a job in a brake press factory. I cannot imagine a duller job. My biggest challenge in this work was to keep my fingers out of the way of the brake press so that I could take them home, intact. I was quickly bored by the monotonous routine. Move metal into place. Clear fingers. Press button. Clear area. Repeat. I would do this process several times a minute for two hours at a time, followed by a short break. The way I eventually found joy was by striving to see how many of the objects I could create in any given hour. Instead of allowing my mind to wander to where I would rather be or to what I would rather be doing, I focused every ounce of energy into being as quick and as accurate as I could be. I did not do this for attention or for recognition. I did it to free myself from the doldrums of repetition. Very quickly I discovered ways to improve my performance. Instead of being bored out of my mind by the repetitive nature of the work, I found myself having fun and being able to give every two hour segment all I was capable of giving. It was a transformative experience for me. I was quickly promoted and moved to other areas in the business. I took this decision to work “in joy” with me, wherever I moved and it served me quite well. Others who had been there for much longer resented my enthusiasm, which was kind of unfortunate, but I knew I was only there for a while, and I wanted to enjoy every moment I had.
- Imagine you are seeing things for the first time. If you have ever enjoyed the experience of seeing something that you had not previously noticed, despite the fact that your path had taken you near several times, then you know what I am talking about. Consciously open yourself to looking at your world as if with new eyes. Imagine that you are going to take an awareness quiz about your surroundings and notice everything. Pay particular attention to where you notice beauty, which you previously overlooked.
- Notice where your routine “owns you” and make some changes. Perhaps you work some place where you have no personal power over your hours. You still have domain over the minutes before you arrive and after you are done. Change your routine. If you have been getting up at 6:00 A.M., brushing your teeth first, showering second, and getting dressed third, change it up. Get up at 5:30. Lay in the bathtub for 15 minutes while sending love to a situation you would just as soon avoid. Leave the house ten minutes earlier and take a different route to work, preferably one you which will require your attention, so as to avoid the temptation to drive on autopilot.
- Do something totally unpredictable, surprise yourself. After this day of “routine-busting” not only do you take a different route home, but you stop, impulsively, at some place totally new. Get out of the car. Enter the surprise location and look around with eyes of wonder. Stop and touch things, preferably things which are unfamiliar to you. Talk with people you do not know. Love them with your eyes and open heart. Perform random acts of kindness, without hoping for any attention.
- When you get home, do something you have never done. Make some recipe you have never tried. Whatever your typical evening routine is, vary it. Watch a movie that never interested you before. Read that book which has been sitting on your shelf waiting for the right inspiration.
- Finally, go to bed earlier or later than usual. Before going to sleep take a few minutes to reflect on and to give gratitude for all the new discoveries of this day, both the ones that made you feel more alive and the ones that you have no interest of trying again in the future. Each holds its own unique blessing. Consider new ways you can avoid the routines of life, and applaud yourself for breaking out of your habitual ways of moving through your days.
While making the change from living an autonomic life to having a moment to moment experience will not happen overnight, these seven steps can be a catalyst, creating an opening for this shift. See what works and continue to push the boundaries of your norm. The rewards are well worth the effort. Every day is new and exciting when we allow ourselves to show up and be fully present.
One of the greatest gift we can offer ourselves is the gift of openness. Our lives are to be lived in a state of ecstasy, not boredom. Being fully here, not being chained to the past, frees us to be fully alive. It is the way we lived as kids, before the world conditioned us to lose our awe.
Try these seven steps for a week and then share your revelations. At the very least you will not ever step into the exact same ruts which blinded you to the magnificence of each new day. You may choose to create new habitual behaviors, because that is the way some of us like to live, but they will be different from the ones that own you now.