Routines and habits
Please note, the following content was a response to something related on a private list. The response got too long, so I dumped it here. It's not exactly out of bounds. All personal information has been removed.
I happen to have a pretty steady schedule and if I don’t keep routines, things will get all messed up fast. But not everyone is like that. If you are the type of person who has a hard time making regular routines, here are some suggestions for you...
Years ago, I had a friend who was a successful, self-employed professional, but who had a wildly irregular schedule. This women was massively busy and yet got a ton of stuff done (work, personal, spiritual, hobbies, travel, etc.).
So, we stayed at her house for about a week once on vacation and I got to watching how she accomplished everything. Here was her trick: She did stuff when she had time to do stuff, not when it was the “right time.” If she wanted to work on a project, she worked on it, and didn’t care what time of day or night it was. For example, she had a small altar in her house. But she didn’t do daily offerings. Instead, she’d do stuff whenever she’d walk by the altar. Sometimes just a gesture (which really did become automatic). Sometimes, lighting incense or a candle. Sometimes she’d drop off a cup of water. She was like this about everything. If she wanted to bake for the coming week, but it was 10 pm, she’d just do it. There wasn’t a lot of routine or habit, but she still did the things she needed/wanted to do.
If you have a hard time with routines, I recommend thinking about a couple of spiritual things that you can do whenever you have a moment and that don’t require routines and habits:
* Put small altar or shrine in your house, someplace where you pass it all the time (hallway, kitchen, bathroom – more on this last option below). Keep it simple, with stuff you have on hand. A glass of water, a dish of salt, an incense holder, and a tealight make a perfectly fine household alter. Print a picture of your favorite God (spirit/angel/etc.) and tape it up. Done. Make a small offering as you walk by. Don’t make a big event out of it. Don’t try to schedule it. Just work on keeping it in your awareness and remembering to acknowledge it. Most basic, touch the salt and say “bless this house.” Do it whenever you think about it. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t think about it for a while, just be happy when you do and act when you do. Say to yourself “the altar is calling me” and then tell it “I hear you!” Light the candle, refill the water, light the incense, remove the stuff that doesn’t belong. Whatever you have time for.
* Wear a spiritually significant pendant/charm/medal dedicated to the power of your choice on a chain around your neck. If you can’t afford something “fancy” use a hot needle to poke a hole in a guitar pick or plastic disk and use a sharpie to inscribe a meaningful symbol. When you take it off, give it a kiss and say a thank you. When you put it on, give it a rub and express a short petition. No fancy ritual. If you forget, that’s ok. But you probably won’t forget to take it off when you shower (if you do, get a leather cord for it, wet leather will absolutely remind you) so when you do, just the kiss and the thank you.
* Put yourself in the way of nature whenever possible. If you walk, walk through a park or under a tree. If you drive, take a route that goes past a green area. When you have a free hour, go outside as much as you can. If you have a free afternoon, instead of trying to “Get Organized” and “Start a Routine” use the time to go to where the wild things are and just BE instead.
* Enchant for the future, when you think of it now. Do you cook? Next time you think about doing something magical, enchant all your pots and pans for health and prosperity. Say “may the food cooked in these pots and pans bring a blessing on all who eat them.” Now, whenever you cook, you’ll be doing magic – without having to think about or remember at the time. If you do think about it, just strengthen the enchantment. Do you drive? On a day when your mind turns to magic, anoint the outside edge of your hubcaps with oil (olive oil with some basil and thyme from your spice cabinet is fine). Say, “as these wheels turn, elevate my spirit and bring prosperity to my life.” Now, every time the car moves you are spinning that spell like a prayer wheel – four prayer wheels even. Enchant an instrument and make magic whenever you play. Enchant your shower products. Enchant your shoes (put nice smelling essential oil in them – two birds, one stone). Write down your list of possibilities and magnet it to the fridge. When you have a free evening and are feeling it, go check your list for ideas.
Doing this stuff will integrate more spirituality in your life without forcing yourself to do a lot of regular scheduling. Which is the point really.
However, there are ways to incorporate more regular habits into your life. What you want to do is trick yourself by adjusting or attaching to a habit you already have. And yes, you have habits. You just don’t think about them because, well, that’s the point right? You have to have habits or you’d go nuts having to consciously think about all the things you do every day by rote. If you can’t have a routine, at least have useful habits. Here are some thoughts:
* Most people are in the habit of brushing their teeth in the morning. That’s a strong habit. And if you’re like most people, it would take some major disruption for you to leave the house without doing it. So attach a little something to your tooth brushing habit. First, enchant your tube of toothpaste (communication would be an obvious target, but heath and relationships are great too). When you brush you are already doing a spell. Now, how about a small altar in the bathroom? Maybe on the edge of the sink or on a little shelf? Cup of water and a dish of salt. Keep it simple. While you’re taking your two minutes on your teeth, reach over and rinse and fill the cup with clean water (because you are RIGHT THERE at the sink already). Then add a pinch of salt and ask your favorite non-corporeal entity to bless it (mentally obviously, as your mouth is full) and sprinkle yourself. It’s OK, you’re already where the towels are.
* What if you want to track things but have a hard time getting into the habit. While you’re brushing your teeth, you are probably facing a mirror, right? Get a wet erase marker (like a Vis à vis) and for every day that you do the thing you want to track, put a mark on the mirror… right in the way of your face. Don’t use white board markers by the way because they can be hard to get off glass (ask me how I know). You’ll be hard pressed to forget your tracking habit when it’s literally staring you in the face. If you only brush in the morning (no judgement, for years I was always forgetting to brush at night) track from yesterday. If you brush at night (my dentist would be proud of you) then track for the day. Try to keep a row of checkmarks going with no gaps or Xs. That’s Seinfeld’s “Don’t break the chain” technique.
* I'm guessing you are in the habit of getting dressed. Most people are, though without the day job, I’m convinced that I might never change out of my jammies (the last ice storm kind of proved it actually). There’s an item of clothing that most people wear every day. Yes, it’s your underwear. They usually live in a drawer together, so write short a prayer/invocation/chant on an index card and put it in your underwear drawer. When you are digging around in the early morning, cursing the world and trying to focus on exactly how clothing works again – welcome to my world – you maybe notice the prayer and glance at it, and poof you are praying. You don’t notice, maybe you do when you are doing laundry (with the enchanted bottle of detergent?) and then you dig it out and put it back on top of the heap.
* If you are on the computer every day at work, make your login password a short mantra or affirmation. Like “Bridgetbless&keepme” or “Iliveahappy&meaningfullife.” You’ll be able to type it quickly after a while and again it’s like a prayer wheel. Poof, magic habit. If your office has typical security algorithms, you’ll be forced to change your magic up every six to eight weeks or so.