January 24, 2018

The Routine Cage



Be careful my friends. Of comfort. Of routine. 

I’ve embraced all of these - lately. Now I’m paying the price.

We sat, quietly, for a little while, until someone asked the question, then each of us spoke up. There were four or five of us, I don’t remember the exact number, but I remember I could detect that all of us were feeling the nervous energy. The kind that accompanies runners before a race. This race happened to be the London Marathon, and the question posed was “where are you from?”

I was the only American among us, which made me smile inside, because it felt really cool at that moment to be riding a train through England to the start of a marathon with people from all around Europe that I had never met, and probably would never see again. That was the moment that prompted me to look for more. The moment I chose to run ultras.

Deepak Chopra wrote “relinquish your attachment to the known, step into the unknown, and experience all the fun, mystery, and magic of what may occur in the field of all possibilities.” As Chopra describes in the law of detachment, we have a tendency to return to the known, to that which we find familiar. To the people, places, events, activities and even thoughts, we call the known. This goes to the old cliché that we don’t like change, and we are all creatures of habit.

Chopra says freedom from the state of attachment to what we are familiar with, including our own past, comes from the wisdom of uncertainty. The not knowing.  Not knowing what is going to happen next. Not knowing what to expect. Not knowing if we will succeed or fail, in whatever we seek to do.

I once met a girl at a party that told me she found it really helpful to throw sandbags over the side of a hot air balloon. I think, or at least I hope, she was speaking metaphorically.  Letting go of her past (sandbags) so her balloon (life) could rise to new heights. Was she seeking uncertainty? Not sure, I just remember nodding my head and sipping my beer.

Are we all just creatures of habit, unwilling to leave the cage we call routine?  Chopra says without uncertainty, life is just the repetition of outworn memories. This leads to stagnation, entropy, and decay. Not high on anyone’s bucket list. But why do so many of us follow this path?

The answer? It’s our ego my friends. According to Chopra, we stick to the comfortable and the familiar and the past and the boring because, well, it is safe. And the ego loves safe, because the ego clutches violently to fear and insecurity. Why risk “failing” at something you’ve never done and know nothing about when you can “succeed” at something you’re familiar with? Afraid to speak in public? Blame the ego. Start a new job? It’s the ego. Start a new business? The ego. Enter the routine cage. And lock the door behind you on your way in.

But how do we escape from this cage? How do we access Chopra’s freedom of uncertainty? The answer isn’t so simple. Per Chopra, when we stand apart from our ego, we are who we really are. Detached, floating, unfettered by what others think of us. Unshackled from the bondage of our peers, colleagues, friends, even our families, all of whom are co-conspirators with our ego.

The key here is to detach. Detach from the outcomes we seek. Find something we know nothing about, and dive in. Find an event, a race, a sport we’ve never done. And go. Then sit back and enjoy journey.

I’m working on this…stay tuned.

1 comment:

Florian Auckenthaler said...

almost reminds me of Eckhart Tolle 'the power is now'. The 'detachment' happens when you fully let go of past and future. I personally think this is not just a decision you make, but something you need to work on, just like we train and run, it's the same to 'train' our subconscious to ignore the past and future. I think this happens through yoga, meditation, etc.