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As much as I like to think of myself as a spontaneous, free-spirited person, it’s obvious that I am more prone to routine, habit and structure. It only took three days for my new dog to figure this out about my morning routine. Even then I was trying to vary the pattern so she wouldn’t catch on…to no avail. Her ability to know that I was going to work after achieving certain tasks, leaving her alone for the day, brought out an obstinacy and nervousness I didn’t know was possible in such a little dog. I admired her intelligence for picking up my habits so quickly. It caused me to wake up to and rethink what I was doing, and how I was going to ‘out smart’ this little four-legged teacher.

Routines or habits can be good. I find they make remembering things less stressful if I do certain tasks the same way every day, such as putting my keys in the same place so I can find them later. I’ve experienced trying to change this one habit in recent weeks with negative results. I put my work keys in a different spot than I usually do, forgot I had done so, and walked away. Later, when I realized they were not in-hand, I retraced my steps only to discover that someone else had picked them up and given them to a manager. Eventually I tracked them down and my key-carrying habit has been reinstated. Some habits aren’t worth changing. Others are.

When we employ routines that allow us to be the most efficient, the most productive, they often become a habit, until something new is introduced to the process – such as a small dog. Now, I’m more aware of the routine things I do in the morning. Since I want to ease the anxiety of this small critter (an adopted, rescue dog), but still get ready for the day, I mix up my tasks. Yes, doing so slows down my exit just a bit. However, knowing I leave her calm and peaceful, I feel better. I’m paying attention. I’m consciously aware that my actions are impacting another living creature and it is my responsibility to do no harm to the best of my ability. This takes practice.

Practice, in the generic definition, is to “repeat something to get better” or “an established way of doing something, especially one that has developed through experience and knowledge.” I see practice as being consciously aware of creating a new positive routine or habit based on experience and knowledge.

For example, when we begin a meditation practice, we are very aware of every sound in the room and the stream of thoughts that suddenly (or so it seems) flood our mind for attention.  It takes combining the knowledge of what meditation is – plus conscious awareness and concerted effort – to calm the mind, ignore the sounds, dismiss the thoughts for a time, and go deep into the peaceful place within to commune with Spirit. Repeat as often as possible until it becomes a positive routine and you become serene just preparing for the meditation. Who knows, after awhile, the peacefulness of the meditation practice could very well become your way of being, of living, of habit.

My intent is the same for my new companion – to create a space of peace and trust for her. It will take time for a new routine to form…and lots of practice.