We human beings like to create routines and rituals. But note the difference between those two words. Routine – an imposition of order on an impermanent and unconstrained world – and ritual – an imbuing of activities with mystery and magic, things directly counter to order, stability and predictability.
There’s a paradox. We want order with disorder, stability with spontaneity.
In her superb post, Maria Popova puts this “deep yearning” for routine and ritual at the heart of our predilection for learning about the routines of famous people. We eagerly look to them for insights into what is a very difficult balancing act.
One person who may have mastered this task, Popova suggests, is the Dalai lama.
He wakes every morning at three thirty a.m. to spend four hours in meditation, considering especially how he can come with compassion to the turbulent political forces in Tibet and China which have displaced himself and many of his people. In this simple activity is encapsulated the belief that life is a “joyful participation in a world of sorrows.”
He also incorporates a not-inconsiderable diet of information into his morning routine – listening to the BBC and Voice of America and devouring Time Magazine, Newsweek and many news sources. What’s interesting is the way the Dalai Lama weaves this knowledge into his own personal “story”. He doesn’t present himself, as so many famous individuals do, as part of a “black and white” fairytale. He, the oppressed leader of tibet against they, the evil Chinese conquerors. Rather he continuously presents himself in a way that defies easy interpretation, often describing the Chinese as neither good nor bad.
So what is the benefit of learning about this routine? Well, ultimately, the Dalai Lama’s morning habits can be seen as exercises that acknowledge the fundamental truth of interconnectedness, from his meditation on the plight of others to his weaving of his knowledge of current events into an understanding that admits the complex natures of others with whom he may disagree.
Something we can all learn from, surely?
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