Creatures of Habit

My dog, Manta Ray, accompanies me on my twice-daily walk taking the girls to and from the elementary school down the street. Morning departure is hectic and broadly telegraphed, with increasingly insistent instructions about the packing of snacks and donning of coats and hats and backpacks and “Lord, child, why am I just getting this field trip form now?” Her excitement is lost in the hubbub.

Afternoons are a different story. Sometimes I’m lost in my work, so I have set a timer that rings on the computer, the phone, the iPad, a quick round of chimes sounding through the house. Manta’s response to the sound is predictable, and evidenced in the video above: clear joy. But she is ready before the alarm goes off. She’s followed this Pavlovian reaction all the way back to the earliest possible cue that I’m about to stand up and reach for my coat and the leash: the uncapping of the stick of lip balm that sits on my desk. At other times of the day, this action holds no meaning for her; at pick-up departure time, it means everything.

There must be some lesson here for us creatures of habit as we move into the holidays, with the concomitant visiting with old friends and family. What gesture or actions are laden with weight given the patterns we’ve established? (These, in yoga, we call samskaras.) Are they serving us? What are we doing unconsciously that might carry greater import for those around us? Are there times you react, happily or, more likely, unhappily, to actions or gestures that have nothing to do with you?

On another holiday note, if you’re in the Triangle on Christmas Eve, please join me for a free class at Carrboro Yoga at 2 p.m. All levels, all ages (if they are old enough to stay interested, they are welcome!), with some play, some hip opening, and lots of time and space to create peaceful openness and self-awareness as we begin the holiday weekend. You can sign up here.