The Ready Room: Habit

And if you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach toward the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real.  

Mary Oliver–Long Life:  Essays and Other Writings

I’ve watched the steel beam structure of a building stand on a corner near my house for over 10 years.  When those beams first went up–two stories worth–the immediate thought they conjured was of dreams yet to come.  What would this building become?  What kinds of stores would it hold?  How would traffic flow in and around and out of it?  How good would this new establishment be for the local economy?  And then, nothing.  The bones of the building were raised, and then for ten years, they stood uncovered, untended, unfinished.

I think of the habits that we cultivate like the under structure, the bones, the steel beam structure of our lives.  Cultivated habits give shape to our lives.  They begin to suggest what dreams are in us and which have the potential to unfold in us.  Look at my cultivated habits, and they begin to suggest what my life may hold, what I am open and closed to, what I may be able of contributing to those around me.  Our cultivated habits suggest, shape and dream us for a life that is always unfolding.

Ah, but those habits need a life.  The habits that we cultivate really only begin to unfold into who we are and what our gifted potential is when they are clothed in a life lived.  A daily meditation or prayer practice, or example, serves no good purpose if it is not part of a life lived in the world where the inner peace cultivated, the mindfulness cultivated, the prayer that extends beyond ourselves finds feet and hands and connection through our living.

What habits do we tend in our lives?  Can we see the shape they give us, the dreams they portend?  As we step out of the door today, into our lives, let us be deeply aware that we take these bones and shapes of our lives with us, and that we are engaging today what our habits have prepared us for.

Bob Patrick

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