I was running in New York City two weeks ago. Up and down Central Park’s hills (yes, it’s hilly in the middle of Manhattan!) The teeming life caused me to overrun my stamina, so I wearily began ambling home – west and about 30 blocks south from the northern edge of the park. I was grateful for New York’s pragmatically numbered streets. I took Columbus Avenue and ticked down 97th, 96th, 95th, turned west on 92nd, jogging over to Amsterdam, where I turned left and headed further south. I kept it up: south a handful of streets then turning west to the next avenue.
As I turned from Broadway to 81st Street something happened that’s happened to me on a hundred runs – in woods, trails or cities. I had turned at the exact same corner Jennifer and I had turned after dinner the night before. A trivial repetition? Of course! A coincidence? NOT. The body repeats patterns. Whether the muscle memory resides in the mind or in the muscles, as some scientists now argue, it resides and it operates a lot. Maybe it’s some ancient evolutionary survival technique, as my mind in a neural firing, yanked me down 81st, as if it were saying, “You were safe on this (strange city) street yesterday, so odds are good it’ll be safe today.” Or, maybe the mind was lowering anxiety in a more general way to free up RAM for other tasks.
Have you experienced this uncanny power of repetition? Even the most quirky, random and imaginative of us will head to the coffee pot or flip on the computer on Monday morning in the exact same way as we did on Friday. We start our toothbrush or floss in the very same spot – top, right back molar, maybe – sit in the same seat on the bus, stop at the same gas station. But in an incredibly fast and changing world, our automatic moves – like my turn at 81st Street and Broadway – may not be as useful as they were the week before. For kids, work, computer programs, the competition are constantly morphing. Repetition may not be so safe.
With 4th of July coming I plan to raise my awareness of my own freedom and especially the ways I limit it. Last night I reviewed my goals from January (can you believe we’re at the midpoint of 2010?), because those goals are a map of free intention not repetition. I am recommitting to my values, because they are my guides of free intention not repetition. And I am going to watch my behavior patterns with others, because too often I repeat irritations, avoidances, and misunderstandings. I want to set paths of learning and creativity and engagement instead. Care to join me – on the intention of freedom?
I hope Mick (the Poet from the Keewenaw Peninsula) will weigh in on the topic today. He’s been sharing with me how he’s really found a radical freedom, where his mind has been released from tired and tiring, repetitive patterns, and he’s seeing things afresh. Let us hear from you, Mick! I welcome all comments on freedom at our blog community. How free are you? What gets you free to see with new eyes and turn down new streets? How have you made choices that re-sparked work or relationships, dislodging them from old patterns that just weren’t so helpful any longer? And if it’s your pattern to occasionally think “I should write a comment one of these day,” but you never do, maybe it’s your day to cut a new swath, to be free and to
Lead with your best self!