This past year, I’ve repeatedly heard or read the idea that “every day feels the same” due to the pandemic. (And for most, that’s not a positive feeling.)
Every time I hear this refrain, I picture Bill Murray looking dejected upon waking in the classic movie “Groundhog Day.”
Since I prefer not to connect this idea of repetition with a dismal attitude, it’s worth exploring ways to maintain a more inspired outlook on daily routines.
And there’s no better time for this exploration than in the dead of winter as we approach the real Groundhog Day!
Overriding the negative association is no easy feat, so I’ve turned to some prolific teachers for guidance.
The first is Buddha. Why mess around, right?!
When it comes to how we can approach a new day (regardless of whether it feels like the previous one), he said,
“Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”
Well, that puts a different spin on monotony! Maybe even Bill Murray’s character would rise brighter if this was his perspective upon hearing Sonny and Cher’s “I’ve Got You Babe” on his alarm clock every morning.
The next teacher is psychologist/neuroscientist/contemplative, Dr. Rick Hanson. He professes,
“There is a saying in Tibet: ‘If you take care of the minutes, the years will take care of themselves.’ What’s the most important minute in life? I think it’s the next one. There is nothing we can do about the past, and we have limited influence over the hours and days to come. But the next minute—minute after minute after minute—is always full of possibility.”
This philosophy helps shape a more hopeful outlook not only when life seems bland and mechanical, but also if you’re experiencing some anxiety.
A minute-by-minute approach to life can feel much less overwhelming than a view with a longer time horizon.
I have to believe that interpreting each fresh batch of 60 seconds as unbounded opportunity could be game-changing for someone who laments that each day is simply a recycling of the same thoughts and activities.
The last source of inspiration that applies an interesting lens on “every day feels the same” comes from the Zen tradition. It goes:
“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
This kōan (a dialogue that aims to stir inquiry and test a Zen student’s progress) has many meanings. In this context I think it serves as a reminder that it is not the actual tasks or events that make a day pleasurable or not; it is the state of being that we bring to each experience that matters most.
For instance, a so-called enlightened person must consistently do laundry and take out garbage (modern day version of chop wood, carry water) just like the average Jane, but the mindful way they approach the tasks allows them to more easily transcend the “Groundhog Day feeling.”
Whether or not a lack of variety or excitement in your days brings you down, these three teachings offer wisdom for going through our twenty-four hour cycles with a bit more attentiveness.
Should your mind need help cueing this valuable insight when life seems repetitive, consider the lyrics that blared from the infamous “Groundhog Day” alarm clock: “There is no hill or mountain we can’t climb.”
Perhaps Sonny and Cher were the prolific teachers that Bill Murray’s character needed at that time.
If one (or more) of these teachings resonates with you, please let me know! I love to hear what makes people stir…beyond the sound of a morning alarm ;).
JANUARY 26, 2021
I’ve noticed that if I return from grocery shopping with grapes and then store them in a refrigerator drawer in their original packaging, it is unlikely that my family members will consume them.
However, if I rinse the grapes, cut the stems a bit, and place them in an open container on an eye-level refrigerator shelf, those snack-sized bunches of grapes will be devoured.
It really doesn’t take much time to make grapes ready to eat, yet my boys would never unpack and prepare them that way without being prompted, as it takes a few extra steps.
I can’t fault them for this…most of us enjoy experiences more when they are easily accessible or user-friendly.
As I watched my family easily consume the freshly prepared grapes, I realized that EASE is something I want to create more of in the midst of our complicated world.
The question of course is, HOW can we create more ease in our lives?
Surprisingly, the thinking that accompanied this “fruitful” moment provides the answer.
While my family noshed on clean grapes and I pondered how I can experience more ease, I paid attention to a thought that played in my mind. Admittedly, it was laced with some spite; it said, “It must be nice having ease created for you.”
As with many ideas that float through our minds, this thought captured only half the truth of what I was feeling.
Sure, it accurately revealed that I might not have been the beneficiary of ease in that moment, but more importantly, it failed to acknowledge that my family does create ease for me in other situations.
This dangerous thought is quite instructive: had I clung to it, I probably would have ended up with some difficulty, clearly the opposite of ease. Specifically, I likely would have developed a whole story rooted in resentment about situations where others do not make things easy for me.
Herein lies the thing that allows us to create more ease in our lives, whether it pertains to snacking or any other situation: we must release the stories that our mind clings to because they are often not true.
Simply by acknowledging—but not following—the trail of thoughts that creep into even the most mundane situations, we can create ease, and dare I say greater freedom (the real reason why we desire ease) for ourselves.
Such discipline requires taking just a few extra moments to clean, detangle, and make visible the often unhelpful thoughts to which we wrongly attach.
Why not start the new year with trying this process…at the very least, it might motivate you to move grapes out of the refrigerator drawer!
JANUARY 7, 2021