entry 11 - the phases of my routines
brain log begun
28.3.2021 - 10:43
the act of writing this log is more important to me than making sure it is easily found and engaged with by others.
i think i need to remind myself of this self-truth often as i continue to write.
in attempting to change my behavioral habits, i develop routines. routines help me normalize new behaviors. physical routines help my body habitually move in ways that keep me feeling strong and flexible. musical practice routines help me sing and play in ways that please me and others, and are reproducible – i want to be able to make music for long periods of time without hurting myself.
mental routines help me with every other routine. what i think and how i think it helps my body move in a relaxed and strong way, clear thinking helps me make satisfying musical choices.
in all my pursuits of routines, i encounter resistance. and i think i encounter resistance in various degrees at various stages. i'm going to attempt to define and categorize these stages, and then i'm going to google 'resistance to routine setting' or some shit like that and see what other minds have figured out about this.¹
phase 1: new love
when i wrote this year's first entry, new year's syllogisms, i was excited about the potential. my mind weaved worlds of thought that could thoroughly transport readers to my brain and envelop them with questions that would quell all their fears and help them meet the challenges of their own internal worlds with curiosity and confidence.
as i wrote the next several entires, this excitement only grew, and i marveled at my ability to sustain this routine. i'll do this forever! huzzah!
i've got to bring in examples from routines i've been engaged in for longer, since the blog won't carry me through all of the phases i think i've perceived in my routine experiences.²
meditation is a routine that has existed in some form in my life since 2009, i think, for 12 years, as of this entry. i was very excited about meditation right away, because it was making me feel more calm and relaxed, and i was in a mighty struggle with my own anger, anxiety, and lack of self-worth that needed immediate attention. the books i read and the practice of breathing meditation, lotus meditation, and contemplation meditation were true salves for my mental anguish.
phase 2: disillusionment/justification
is this really worth the time it takes? am i accomplishing what i really want to accomplish? i'm tired. nobody else is excited about this.
these are the thoughts currently running through my mind about the brain log. i worked on an entry last week, but didn't finish, giving myself permission to work on it over two weeks, but now i'm writing this entry instead, because it feels like a way to actually stick to the routine without compromising. i've had so many ideas that require weeks and months of maintenance to finish, that the thought of turning a single brain log entry into one of those projects was a prescription for doom – a knife in the heart of this infantile idea.
it's interesting here to consider the transformation of these phases themselves; since i'm becoming more aware of my patterns, perhaps i am in the process of breaking free from some traps i've found myself in before.... time will tell.
with meditation, i believe once my daily life stabilized, i abandoned my routines fairly quickly, finding it hard to justify them. 'eh, i'm fine now, i don't need to sit and count my breaths, it's boring.' many routines die in this phase, to be superseded by the next sexy little activity that catches my eye.
phase 3: formalization
then, if the routine is still pulling me to engage with it more regularly, i will often formalize it by keeping track of how often i do it, writing down the days that i meditated, taking notes about the meditations themselves, and trying to form a process of accountability for myself.
this is a tricky phase, because it's not nearly as sexy or exciting as new love, and disillusionment is still nipping at my heels, challenging my every attempt to make the routine more rigid.
in some ways, i don't want the routine to be rigid! i want it to feel fluid and natural, but of course wanting that and being able to embody that fluidity are processes that happen at different speeds. desire awakens in a moment – effortless, natural activities are actually learned and practiced (at least for me).
formalization can be a loooooong phase, sometimes dipping back to disillusionment, sometimes heating up with new love. if i stick with it for long enough....
phase 4: integration
it no longer seems necessary to record my experience of the routine because it occupies enough space in my mind that i simply have to think back over the day, week, or month and see what i have accomplished.
meditation is integrated now – i don't meditate every day, because that's not really my goal. i meditate regularly, and i have a very specific chanting routine, as well as more fluid exercises from simple breath counting to driving meditations to musical immersion meditations.
routine now seems like an improper word. if you eat 3 meals a day, do you call that your eating routine? it's just a thing i do out of habit that gives me nourishment, joy, and comfort. meditation is like this now, a process that fits seamlessly into my day, whose worth is unquestioned because the worth is so glaringly obvious.
this phase is what i imagine when i start a new routine, and sometimes greed and impatience get the better of me, convince me that i'll never get here. but i've done it before. i can do it again.
just before writing this today, i was reading an article in the atlantic called 'the internet doesn't have to be awful' by anne applebaum and peter pomerantsev. speaking of gustave de beaumont and alexis de tocqueville's time in the u.s.a in dec. 1831, the article says that "americans were good at democracy because they practiced democracy." (emphasis theirs) two paragraphs later: "in the nearly two centuries that have passed since tocqueville wrote these words, many of those institutions and habits have deteriorated or disappeared."
writers in the atlantic have said this sort of thing before, and it may be because i've read this thought so many times, but i do feel truth in this idea for my own life. i don't have robust habits that i could classify as healthy civic engagement. there's actually a folder in my bookmarks bar called 'get involved in politics' that i probably created sometime between 2014 and 2016, with links to city, state, and national representatives.
spoiler alert: i don't use this folder very often. maybe it's more accurate to say that i barely click on this folder once per year. i feel confident that this folder was created in the 'new love' phase of a 'get more politically involved' routine, but that routine has been trapped in phase 2 for so long, that it may be more appropriate to pronounce its full and resolute death.
the problem with phase 2 is that it can transform into disillusionment and grasping for justification for all routines, even those that have made it to phase 4! in my mind, at least, the tendency to question the worthiness of how i spend my time is truly a contagion that can spread quickly if not quarantined off to a corner until it dissolves, with no willing host to feed it.
this routine of writing makes me feel better, i think precisely because i began this routine by reaffirming why i'm doing it: it feels good to write. it is clarifying, it is calming. for me, all my routines need to have this calming element, or else they may languish in phase 2 until death evaporates them completely from the wild and thirsty landscape of my mind.
so what do i need to do, how do i need to think in order to motivate myself to spend some time on the search engine optimization of my website and this blog? because, although it is more important to me simply to write than to have that writing read, that doesn't make people reading my writing unimportant to me. in fact, it might be ranked number two in a list of important things about the brain log!
if you're reading this, and you don't already know me personally, it's possible that i've already answered this question in the future, and have made it easier for you to find these words. now that's a fun thought!
brain log ended
28.3.2021 - 11:39
1: do i try to do it myself before researching out of a sense of pride? 'ha ha! look at this thought i had before i even knew about all the research. aren't i so smrt?' it is deeply fascinating to me to consider how humans throughout history have come up with really similar ideas without knowing about other humans' work on the same ideas. i've interpreted that as evidence of our shared mental faculties. maybe evidence is the wrong word to use there. i often like to take guesses about the answers to questions before googling the answer, i feel like it is a mental 'flex,' an activity that keeps my brain actively searching and synthesizing with all the data around me. (back)
2: i love the double meaning here. do you? let me know in the comments, bitch. sorry, using the word bitch makes writing that sentence feel less greasy. (back)