Mary Oliver on How Habit Gives Shape to Our Inner Lives

An article from Brain Pickings on the power of habit, profiling the poet & memoiristMary Oliver on How Habit Gives Shape to Our Inner Lives.

Habit is that peculiar life-force that both obscures and illuminates the crucial difference between routine and ritual. “We are spinning our own fates, good or evil,” William James wrote more than a century ago in his timeless treatise on the subject. But the greatest meditation on habit I’ve ever encountered comes not from the legendary psychologist and philosopher but from a most beloved poet: Mary Oliver, who knows a great deal about the habits of heart and mind that both help us be fully alive and make sense of loss.

In one section of the altogether soul-stretching Long Life: Essays and Other Writings (public library), Oliver considers the mesmerism of habit — a peculiar manifestation of rhythm — and how it frames and paces the rampant messiness of our lives:

In the shapeliness of a life, habit plays its sovereign role… Most people take action by habit in small things more often than in important things, for it’s the simple matters that get done readily, while the more somber and interesting, taking more effort and being more complex, often must wait for another day. Thus, we could improve ourselves quite well by habit, by its judicious assistance, but it’s more likely that habits rule us.

‘Better Than Before,’ by Gretchen Rubin, a book on habits & behavior change
The Value of Time-Indulgent Ritual in Your Workday

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