I went for a walk today, like every other day, with the dogs, on the trail, by the lake. There is something comforting in the routine. Something liberating about knowing what to expect and allowing my brain a breathing space. New experiences are fine yet routine gives one a chance to explore inner space. This may run counter to your intuition. Isn’t new and improved better? Perhaps. Consider Barry Schwartz’s “The Paradox of Choice” < http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice.html > where he describes how novelty and choice can create anxiety. Too many investment options actually causes retirement planners to become paralyzed by all the choices and opting out of the plan (watch Schwartz’s Ted video for a fuller explanation).
Hiking the same tract over and over, I can be fully present. I am mindful of my environment, my dogs, my self, the gravel crunching underfoot, the subtle changes in landscape day by day. Not distracted by the unfamiliar and not hypnotized by an iPod. I actually used to hike with the iPod. I was less refreshed and more anxious afterward even losing my patience with my dog because she took me out of my digital trance. I ditched the iPod. Hiking in new places offers an exploratory experience and I must be on guard for unknowns – different trails, rocks and roots, steep terrain. And that is fine but it is not freedom, it is preoccupation. The mundane offers its own type of joy.