There’s a sadness to August. I’m sure part of it has to do with the fact that summer’s laid-back daily routines are starting to fall apart. Like it or not, another cold Rochester winter will soon be knocking on my doorstep. Uggh.
From sports practices to work demands, autumn commitments are filling the empty spaces on our calendars and chipping away at the daily routines we’ve enjoyed for the past few months.
Christianity and Daily Routines
Nearly all religions incorporate daily routines into their devotional practices. Buddhism. Hinduism. Islam. Pick a religion and you’ll find followers adhering to rigid daily schedules.
But routines are especially important in Christianity. Historically, daily routines (e.g., daily prayer, Bible reading and the Divine Office) have been helpful for uniting believers in a common, Christian spirituality. Even today, routines that were developed centuries ago play a central role in the spiritual practices of Jesus followers around the world.
In Christianity, monastic life is the epicenter for daily routines.
Written in the 6th century, the Rule of St. Benedict continues to dictate a daily routine of work and prayer for thousands of monks and nuns in Benedictine, Cistercian, Trappist and other religious orders.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing glimpses of monastic life firsthand at the Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, NY. From the outside, it’s reasonable to think that cloistered monks live a boring life. But behind the scenes, monks’ lives are actually quite busy. Just like you and me, monks and nuns struggle to achieve the right balance in their lives.
And the way they achieve that balance is through daily routines.
(For a peek into the daily life of a cloistered monk, take a look at this piece on a day in the life of a monk at the Mount Angel Abbey.)
The Benefits of Daily Routines
Ask a monk or a nun why daily routines are important and they will probably tell you that routines make a contemplative life possible. Routines take the guesswork out of everyday living. They allow us to be more mindful and to focus our attention on the presence of God in the world.
Routines also provide several other benefits for our bodies and minds:
- Lower stress
- Increased productivity
- Greater focus
According to some experts, the net result of daily routines is that they help us live longer, happier lives — especially if we incorporate positive habits like prayer , physical exercise and healthy eating into our daily routines.
Creating a Spiritual Daily Routine
Daily routines provide a framework for a more spiritual life.
Even though some daily practices may not appear to be spiritual on the surface, they provide the structure you need to find God in the chaos of everyday living.
Don’t worry about filling up your to-do list with dozens of new daily habits. Instead, focus on developing a few practices that you can realistically incorporate into your life.
Here are few ideas to help you get started:
- Wake up at the same time every day.
- Schedule a time for prayer and meditation.
- Make time for a daily walk.
- Read for 30 to 60 minutes each day.
- Develop a family dinner routine.
- Stick to a set sleep schedule.
As you begin to create your own daily routines, it’s important to remember that habits and practices present the framework for a spiritual life — not the goal. If your daily routines become mechanical events that overshadow your relationship with God, it’s time to re-evaluate your practices.
On the other hand, the right daily routines might be the missing ingredient in your spiritual life and the key to being more mindful of God’s presence in your world.