Abraham Joshua Heschel was one of the leading American Rabbis, theologians, and social activists of the 20th century. He said something that I’ll never forget and that has stayed with me since the moment I heard it. In his book God in Search of Man, he wrote, “Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder.”
There's a true story of a man I have worked with who has spent his entire life believing that his ears were not symmetrical and therefore sunglasses always looked crooked on his face. He came to accept this over time, until he came in touch with mindfulness practice.
One day as he was standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom he chose to take a moment to come down from his busy mind, become present, and really look at himself. What he noticed was astonishing.
He suddenly realized that he had not been standing straight and that one shoulder was slightly lower than the other. In that moment, he chose to stand up straight and low and behold his eyeglasses were no longer crooked on his face. All this time he thought his face was lopsided in some way when in effect, it was his posture.
This story is just a metaphor for the rest of us in our lives. Over time, what do we just get used to and learn to accept that keeps us limited in how we see things? What in our lives has become routine to a point that we have lost our sense of wonder in this world?
When dealing with a myriad of mental health conditions (e.g., stress, anxiety, depression, or addiction), we get stuck in routine ways of reacting to things. A challenge may arise and the automatic reaction is “who cares, I’ll never succeed anyway.” As we become accustomed to this, it can be likened to unknowingly walking around with crooked posture. Once we become aware of it, we can begin the process of straightening ourselves out.
It's a worthy question to explore: What do you notice in your life that's routine?
Do you watch TV every night? Do you take the same route to work every day? If you are in a relationship, do you sleep on the same side of the bed night after night or does only one of you cook the meals or clean? Do you often shoot down new ideas? Do you react to stress or pain with routine avoidance? Is this routine taking away the wonder in everyday life?”
To do: Pick one thing from your “routine list” and choose to begin becoming aware of it and switching it up.