I am not a natural athlete (at all!), but in a good week, I’ve been managing to get out early three mornings a week for an hour’s walk, up a hill to a flight of stairs, where I run up and down the 75 stairs 10 times over.
What’s behind my impressive discipline? Patterns, of course!
I’ve been collecting 10 stones at the base of the stairway, then, each time I reach the top stair, I add another stone to the circle I’m building. It always amazes me how how this little trick gets me to do the 10 flights every time, even when I really don’t feel like it, just because i can’t bear to leave the pattern incomplete.
And now… my stone circle has become edible! It’s gooseberry season, so for the moment, I’ve ditched the circle of stones, and instead I’m opening a gooseberry lantern for a tiny snack at the top of each flight. It’s like the advent calendar of exercise!
Patterns are powerful things. At a macro level, they’re the order we are able to perceive in what appears to be a chaotic world… and also, they’re helping me exercise more.
But it’s the same thing, really: patterns are what help us perceive and create order out of the chaos, whether we’re looking at the cosmos, or at data sets, or at our daily schedule.
It makes me realise that practicing good habits is a way of turning my whole life into a beautiful pattern, built up day by day. Poet Annie Dillard puts it another way, when she says: “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives”.