“The only difference between a rut and a grave… is in their dimensions.”~Ellen Glasgow
The other day, I was driving some distance to a meeting on a route I’ve driven several times before. It was a sunny morning and I was alert.
Still, I nearly missed my exit when I realized at the last minute that I had been driving in the lane farthest to the left rather than 3 lanes over to the right where I was supposed to be. Jolted by my mistake, I wondered aloud how I could have done that?
Then I realized that traveling in that left lane was part of the path I had followed home umpteen times over the past few decades when we lived in another part of the state. That groove has been so deeply worn in my mind that I just let it carry me along… in the wrong direction.
The experience reminded me how difficult it is to change our habits, our patterns, our comfort zones. Awhile ago, I wrote about automaticity: “…the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit. It is usually the result of learning, repetition, and practice.”
Achieving automaticity is a swell goal for things we want to incorporate deeply or comparatively effortlessly in our lives. Routines from mundane tasks like cleaning the dishes and brushing our teeth to more complex practices like sports and dancing to soulful practices like compassion.
But automaticity can also mire us if we end up practicing things we don’t want to have as our default setting. Like driving in the wrong lane to take the wrong exit to someplace we no longer live in :).
We often need to work even more consciously, intentionally, and harder to retrain our minds and bodies to expand along new pathways. That’s the road to possibility, to vibrancy.
My little outing brought to mind that great quote of Ellen Glasgow. It’s true. For when a pattern of ours lacks vitality, and yet we continue to practice it, we get stuck. And when there’s no movement or potential for movement, there is a death.
The boon of this experience is that it spurred me to examine, once again, both what I am practicing and what I seek to be better, i.e. more automatic, at. Are my practices serving me, where I want to go, who I want to be? What’s stale, needing to be discarded or refreshed?
So many questions. And the answers? Not so automatic….
Photo credit: Top-Christina Goldberg, Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds, Old Lyme CT, sculptures by Gilbert Boro