One insight in yoga is the recognition that pattern and repetition are foundational to our nature. And they are neither good nor bad, but simply one of our most basic psychological building blocks. Yoga understands that patterns can come to rule us, but they can also set us free.
Most of us are feeling the power of losing our patterns right now. We lean on these structures of routine and schedule without understanding just how much they contribute to our well-being and productivity. What’s more, patterns are how we make meaning out of our lives. Context cues, setting, timing, and location all contribute to the sense of purpose that moves us from one task or part of the day to another. There is a better term for this: ritual. We live in a web of rituals – work, recreation, family, and otherwise.
Classical yoga is especially concerned with negative patterns that limit us, called samskaras. And here is the real wisdom – yoga recognizes that patterns are not optional. To fix negative patterns we can’t simply do away with patterns altogether. The solution to a bad diet is not to stop eating. Yoga understands that structures of routine are among our greatest tools because action, setting, and intention make meaning, and meaning is what sustains us.
Yoga gifts us many plug-and-play rituals – the sun salutation, mantras, pranayama exercises – and also gifts us the building blocks of ritual itself: action, setting, and intention. When you find yourself adrift these days, try making a new ritual, giving yourself a new structure. Take a walk at 4. Listen to the birds at 7. Reach out to a friend at 11. Accomplish something at 2. Find a way to give back at 6. Choose the meaning you want, take action, and give it a few days to sink in. Gift yourself a new ritual to make the meaning that sustains you.