Routine is important. especially for a writer. If you don’t write, around the same time each day, you simply won’t write at all. This can feel conventional, and I think the best writers try to break free of convention, but this convention breaks itself. In fact, I believe all conventions break themselves if they are purposefully created and maintained. While building a routine for your day is a convention that most, if not all adults, thrive on, once the routine has been kept for a certain amount (a long) time, it is no longer convention as the routine you have built has taken you so deeply into your craft that you are discovering more everyday–and so the act of the routine is confined to convention, but the honing of your craft, which is a convention in and of itself, breaks down the deeper into that craft you go.
Think of it like this: A convention is something many people do. Right. It’s conventional, it’s the norm. Someone might say, “I go on a run everyday,” and that seems like a normal thing–many people run everyday, or at least try and sometimes they miss a day and that’s fine. But if someone says, “I go on a run everyday, and I haven’t missed a day for three years,” suddenly that normality has been shattered. The same can be true of any routine when it is taken to extremes. Extremes break convention whether it means meditating for 365 consecutive days in a row, or writing for ten minutes on a “write or die” style word dump program like I’m doing right now everyday. Of course, I’m not writing everyday. Not on this blog, anyway. I’m the runner who misses a day now and then, and it’s not a setback, it’s not a bad thing necessarily, but what does extreme lengths of repetition do to conventions? My understanding is that it makes you a master at the craft you’ve poured your heart and soul into. It makes you an expert at whatever it is you love.
Some people think meditation is just a bunch of hippy-dippy stuff. And for some people that’s true. But a lot of research is being done that actually shows the scientific benefits. Though the brain is still a mysterious organ, there are certain things doctors know about it. Like what areas are responsible for executive decision making, memory, and stress management. As well as which centers are responsible for cognition. When you meditate and practice awareness you shut down, or more accurately ignore the cognition part of your brain, focusing your attention on immediate sensations such as touch, smell, and hearing. Much emphasis is also put on the breath. Many techniques encourage you to count breaths as it takes a large amount of awareness to do so and stops the mind from it’s usual preoccupation of planning the day, your next move, what to do next.
Studies have been done by nueroscientists on regular mediators compared to those who meditate seldom or not at all. What one Harvard neuroscience found was an increase of gray matter in places responsible for decision making, memory, stress management, and more. So in this way meditation physically changes the makeup of your brain. I don’t know about you, but this blows my mind. By just taking a small time out of your day, each day, you can change the way your brain functions. The idea that emotions are a determining factor within your life–if you feel something you must act on it–doesn’t hold water when you actually do have some control on how you brain is shaped. Meditation feels empty and useless for those who can’t quiet the mind. But if you stick with it, I think any person would benefit. Each morning I sit for just 15 minutes and the result is a more calm, collected, and motivated mind. I’m able to tackle project more head on and don’t procrastinate as much because my brain is more focused. I’m also nicer to people, which is the most immediate and notable benefit of all.
I told you about a book a while back called, “A Tale For The Time Being,” by Ruth Ozeki. It’s a novel about two people, the author, and a young girl in Japan who is contemplating suicide. Don’t be alarm, it’s fiction–or at least that part is.
The two dominant religions of Japan are Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto has been around as long as Japanese culture has, while Buddhism came from mainland China. Instead of warring, like most religions, Shinto and Buddhism actually complement each other in many ways.
Buddhism promotes solitude like few other religions. I mean, think of the founder of the practice, Gautama Buddha. He achieved enlightenment by sitting under a tree by himself, for ages. Or for seven days. The interesting thing about Buddhism, is that it’s solitary roots translate directly into not only the practice of meditation–in which you aren’t really in solitude because you have the whole cosmos to keep you company–but also in it’s dissemination.
Think about it–there are no proselytizing Buddhists. Buddhists don’t have the “true faith” rhetoric. Because, what would Buddha do? Nothing.
Have you ever seen those pictures of Buddhist monks during the Vietnam war? They believed so strongly in the wrongness of that war many were willing to burn themselves alive in protest. Talk about solitude. Sure, they may have had some other monks to do it with. But committing that type of suicide, that type of demonstration–to believe so strongly against an unjust war–I can only imagine how alone those people felt.
So, yeah. Solitude is built into the very bones of the Buddhist philosophy. When we sit, we sit alone. When we eat we do so also. For Buddhists all life is pain. And while misery loves company, pain is something everyone is alone in when they feel it. But don’t worry. If you’re still enough you have the whole cosmos for company.