My personality type – INFJ, Eneagram 4 – is apparently the type that both needs routine the most and finds it the hardest to establish them. And although that is, I’m sure, somewhat due to my personality itself, I can’t help but think that it’s in part due to the world we live in. We arguably have more opportunities now than we ever have – movie showings at all hours, restaurants open all night long, quick transportation from point A to point B, any number of streaming services allowing us to binge all the shows… the possibilities are truly limitless. And so, with all these opportunities, we feel the need to indulge them all – hang routine. We have lives to live.
That’s what following a routine sometimes feels like the antithesis to. By choosing to go to bed at the same time each night, exercise daily, or clean your house on certain days, you’re shutting yourself out of opportunities to live, have fun, play. But when did we decide that routines and living life were opposite?
As I’ve been reading The Celtic Way of Prayer and practicing liturgical living daily with my Sacred Ordinary Days planner, I’ve noticed a definite trend in how ancient cultures viewed rhythms. Researching ayurvedic principles reveals something similar, though from a different viewpoint. Peoples in the Celtic tradition understood and honored the natural rhythms that accompanied seasons – times to work, times to rest, times to plant, times to harvest. Peoples in ancient monastic cultures participated in spiritual rhythms that provided a bridge between the physical world in which they lived and the spiritual world to which they clung – times of prayer, times of silence, times of worship. Peoples in the ancient ayurvedic tradition treated their bodies in a way that made sense based on constitution and season – eating what was in season, maintaining adherence to eating and sleeping times, regular routines of self care. For all these ancient cultures, following some kind of rhythm and routine was the norm. Saint Benedict even coined a term for it – The Rule of Life; rhythms by which your life is to be lived in accordance with your purpose and desires and rooted in following the will of God.
So, rhythms were important in the ancient world. But what about today? I think we can find that they still are just as important today as they were then. We see it in the natural order of the world. The sun still rises and sets on a schedule. The schedule of the moon still controls the tides. We’re still advised to sleep in accordance with natural circadian rhythms. It almost seems that the natural world is pleading with us to follow suit. Were we to do so, I think we would find great joy and happiness.
In Jennifer L. Scott’s delightful little book Madame Chic at Home, she mentions that Madame Chic never seemed overwhelmed or frazzled. This was, Scott believes, mostly attributable to the routines that she had put in place. She cleaned on certain days, maintained a rotating, seasonal meal plan, and sustained a “uniform” wardrobe. The habitual, daily happenings of her life were routinized, taking the guesswork out of many of her daily decisions and leaving room in the brain and soul for those things outside our control.
Similarly, a recent blog post by Tsh Oxenreider of The Art of Simple discussed what she called her “daily bookends” – the ways she regularly begins and ends her days. More than the post itself, one particular reader comment caught my attention: because she had made it her rhythm before bed for so long, the smell of chamomile tea alone made her drift into sleepiness.
And then, there’s the evidence in our own, daily lives as educators. From day one, my administration reminds us: teach the routines. Before you do anything else or worry about any curriculum or standards, teach the routines. Children thrive on routines, both at home and in school. We are so aware of this as teachers. Just think about how crazy things get when a schedule is disrupted, whether it’s for something fun (like a pep rally, dress up week, or holiday party) or something not-so-great (like a fire drill, threat to campus, or accident). We all feel the effects of it and most of us – students, teachers, and administrators alike – leave feeling a little worse for wear.
It makes so much sense, really. We know that “we are what we repeatedly do.” We know that ancient cultures and the natural world itself encourages rhythms of order that produce beauty and joy and purpose. Why must we refuse them?
With all this in mind, I began thinking about what routines and rhythms I can benefit from. I didn’t want this to become one of those things where I take on more than I can handle or add more to my already overflowing plate. These rhythms are about joy, not a to do list. Here are the things on my mind and I encourage you to think of a few daily rhythms you can incorporate into your own life that produce joy and beauty.
1 | Timely Tea Drinking
Drinking tea is one of those routines I got into naturally. I find it nourishing and comforting and it is truly something I look forward to every day and miss when I (rarely) don’t get to. However, I decided to add a little bit more routine to my routine, particularly after reading the comment above. And, also, because I can spend way too much money trying all the teas when, really, my needs are simple.
In the morning, I’ll begin my day with a strong cup of black tea, honey, and milk. Throughout the day, I’ll sip on green tea and perhaps an herbal. In the afternoon, as a snack, I’ll delight in my favorite Earl Gray. At nighttime, before bed, I’ll drift off with a creamy, spicy herbal. I want my tea drinking to mirror my times of day, my energy levels, and my needs.
2 | Daily Office Lectionary, Journaling, + Planning
I mentioned my Sacred Ordinary Days planner earlier. This has been a fantastic tool that I have thoroughly enjoyed using since August and has easily worked its way into my routine. On the days I miss it (usually the weekend, for whatever reason), I feel a little less centered and a little more distracted. I think that’s because this practice meets several, very central needs that I have in the morning. First, to fill my soul with a time of prayer, journaling, and scripture. Second, to give my brain a space to plan and prioritize my day. Revisiting this page in the evening allows me a moment to assess my day, journal and pray a little more, then finish the day off with the Psalms. Accompanied by my morning tea and my evening tea, it’s a lovely way to create space.
Like most people, I’ve tended to fall into traps of trying to exercise so many minutes a day, start a schedule of alternating strength/cardio/flexibility training, and the like. I never (ever) stick to it. Ever. But, I do love to move. I feel better when I move. So, instead of trying to exercise on a schedule, I instead am attempting to establish a routine of daily movement. For me, this involves either yoga (as long or as short as I want, as gentle or intense as I want) and/or walking (again, as long or as short as I want). Rather than pushing myself into something I really don’t want to do, I’m working towards doing what my body needs and adjusting that on a day-to-day basis. As long as I’m moving a bit, I’m good.
What routines do you already have in place – even if you haven’t yet named them? Or, what rhythms would you like to introduce into your daily life? How do you think they will benefit you as an educator? As a person? Let’s talk!