Prior to any undertaking, it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen. Only through some form of commitment – no matter how large or small – does the path ahead begin to take shape. This is the fourth post in the ‘Creating A New Habit’ series. It seeks to explain that, as we step into the unknown, all we can predict with any certainty is that emergent properties will arise as a result of the self-organising power of life itself.
It all started four weeks ago with an intention to start my day earlier. That inevitably meant going to bed earlier. Both have been disciplines which have attracted me for years, but which have remained idealistic notions. For 12 days, however, I managed to get up at some ridiculously early times, telling myself that my tiredness during the day would be resolved by earlier nights, deep sleeps, and a rhythm which would eventually become as natural as brushing my teeth.
My tiredness led me to look into the science of sleep, and I found myself listening to a podcast interview with sleep expert Matthew Walker. He explained that if we only knew the untold benefits of sufficient sleep and the drastic consequences of reduced sleep (the difference between 7 and 6 hours), we would prioritise sleep over almost everything.
So that’s what happened. I aimed to make sure I got at least 7 hours, and began sacrificing the early starts until I did. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to get to sleep on most evenings and so resolved to focus my attention on my sleep technique: no screens an hour before bedtime; a winding-down routine to train the mind and body to prepare for sleep; and an empty mind to seduce me every evening. They are all a work in progress, but that last point offered the greatest insight: it turns out I would rather think about something than nothing – even if that something keeps me awake for hours.
Thereafter, I decided to use some of the sleepless hours to do extra meditation – train myself to create and be comfortable with a less busy mind. So that’s where I am a month after embarking on a simple challenge: back doing meditation after a number of months away from it, having been led there by the self-organising force inherent in all of life. That’s the first lesson – maintain commitment and awareness, learn to relax into the flow of life, and you’ll be shown where to go next.
The second lesson is that even though I have abandoned my initial goal, it’s not a failure. It’s the way life works. We assume we know how things will turn out, but we don’t. We can’t. Life is so much more complex than that; but it is precisely that complexity which makes it so powerful. Given the right conditions, life will drive itself to the magical place between order and chaos where creativity is maximised. All we have to do is go with it.