Routine can be boring or helpful according to its context. When we think about routine days it might be in regards to everyday tasks we must perform out of obligation. Routine can be helpful and not necessarily boring when applied to going to the gym for a workout. One of the best uses of the word refers to comedy routines. So routine is a very nuanced term.

Most of us have some sort of routine we follow after waking up from sleep. Aside from coffee and breakfast, writing a post for bluejayblog on WordPress is something I’ve done each day without fail since February of 2011. Actually this blog’s history goes back a couple of years earlier, when it was hosted by Yahoo! before they pretty much shuttered their blogging division. So for better or worse, this blog is integral to my morning routine.

Whether or not routine bores you silly or bestows upon you great joy, routine indicates detail-oriented, methodical effort. This is the type of effort that helps us get the results we want. Most often, this determined, repetitive effort is an integral ingredient in goal achievement. A person develops a plan and a schedule to remain on point. Putting one foot in front of the other, consistently with utmost commitment, enables progress.

People who are faithful to their routines never leave a job half finished. They prefer to complete their assigned tasks on time at their jobs. Employers know they can depend upon people who follow through on their promises, even if the tasks are boring, or mundane. Such employees are the bread and butter of a company. Regarding entrepreneurs and self-employed people, routine is especially useful. In this case, there are repetitive schedules, obligations, mandatory responsibilities that add to the joy of going it on their own.

Regarding folks who want better self-discipline and stick-to-it energy, self-help gurus encourage us to establish a routine, perhaps a schedule, that we faithfully follow for a month. By the end of the month the routine will have morphed into a habit. That’s how it should be, because a routine is basically just a set of useful habits.

Wise use of routine is a vehicle to travel the path of self-improvement and character development. For instance, if a person wants to become more spiritually aware, she may create a meditation routine. She mindfully sits each morning at a specific time. Over the span of a month, her meditation becomes a habit or routine part of each day.

This same concept works for other matters we might want to improve. One of the most simple routines is the habit of making the bed right away in the morning. This often results in a domino-effect on how the rest of the day unfolds. This simple, practical habit of making the bed makes accomplishing the rest of our mundane chores habitual and easier.

Routine should be utilized judiciously and not overdone. Too much routine can result in feelings of being stuck in the mire of drudgery and the boring daily grind of inertia. If you’ve noticed that you’ve become overly conservative and resistant to change, it might be smart to give yourself a refreshing jolt of variety. Sometimes breaking away for awhile and utilizing spontaneity is a great idea. Life can be more rewarding when we don’t dogmatically stick to the rules. We create a life of vibrancy by being open to new experiences.

The point to remember is that to be able to do what we really want to do, routine must be taken into consideration.

The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders something from astrophysicist, author, cosmologist, lecturer, and planetary scientist, Neil deGrasse Tyson. “Physics is the only profession in which prophesy is not only accurate but routine.”

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Dull is an ideophone or a word that when spoken, sounds like what it means. This occurred to me this morning after awakening. I sat at the edge of the bed and still felt mentally out of it. The word “dull” came to mind, and I remembered the grammatical concept of ideophones. That’s when alertness finally sprang forth.

The morning dullness was a carry-over from yesterday. The day was hot, humid, free of breezes, with a hint of dustiness. It was the type of day that obscures intellectual pondering. All one desires is inactivity. The sluggishness of body and mind are all encompassing. You wish it wasn’t so, but you surrender to it anyway.

Out of boredom I switched on the radio. I rarely listen to the AM band anymore, but out of the need for novelty, I pressed the selector button for AM then pressed “scan”. Whenever the scanning process paused, there was some sort of talk show in progress. At a random point, I pressed “scan” again in order to halt the process and listen to whatever the tuner had last selected.

A commercial for an analgesic to alleviate arthritis symptoms ended. Then the voice of an infamously popular political commentator began a rant about the current economic situation in the United States. It was easy to imagine his spittle showering the studio microphone. On and on he droned in a conspiratorial manner. Clearly he wanted to stir the emotions of his audience to engage in some sort of insurrection. He went on to cast aspersions about the Governor of Michigan. From there the rant became unbearably dark. Another commercial break came up. During the advertisement extolling the virtues of a tooth whitening product, I switched off the radio.

I wasn’t in the mood for the blah, blah, blah of opinionated talk radio hosts. In fact, such negativity only sours my mood. The cascade of political and religious proselytizing is why the AM radio band is pretty much dead to my ears. The programming wipes out analytical thinking and eventually dulls the mind. As a veteran of AM radio during its better days, I can only lament the desperate state of the industry.

People can be quite insensitive. We easily fall prey to this or that notion without taking the time to carefully analyze. I’m as guilty as the next person for being duped by clever speakers and writers pushing their appealing agendas. Sensitivity is not encouraged in public discourse. Blunt, blatant displays of rude self-centeredness are passed off as virtuous. This results in the dullness of popular discourse and culture. I’m not the first person to feel dismay at the amount of posing and narcissistic manipulation going on. It’s ever-present.

There is a famine regarding nuance, and sensitivity. This lack means that crude insensitivity will be self-perpetuating for the foreseeable future. Reflexive, impulsive behavior will continue to be the dominant feature of our civilization at most levels. We perceive this dullness at some level so we desire escape from it by indulging in distractions to dull the dullness of the world. We want the comfort of a sleepy mind.

To escape from the orbit of dullness requires a certain amount of courage and thoughtfulness. It helps greatly to retain a large measure of curiosity and inquisitiveness about everything–no holds barred. The spirit of investigation and inquiry is sharpened when it is performed in the spirit of love and compassion. This laser-sharp focus provides the escape velocity thrust required to leave the orbit of mediocre dullness.

Great unknown frontiers of the mind and the Universe await anyone who chooses to leave the dullness behind.

Enjoy a sharp, inquisitive day.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the 20th century actor and singer, Burl Ives. “The cool wind blew in my face and all at once I felt as if I had shed dullness from myself. Before me lay a long gray line with a black mark down the center. The birds were singing. It was spring.”

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In August

August–the month of heat-stroke and falling stars. Those are the first two thoughts about this month that come immediately to mind. August is a month that I both dread and appreciate. I suffered my first bout of heat-stroke one August day many years ago. Since then, my heat tolerance has decreased. On the other hand, I somewhat love August because of the interesting natural phenomena that can be observed during this month. Even though it’s my birth month, August has never been my favorite month.

Studying the calendar page, I try to put a positive spin on the month, because that will help me endure or perhaps even thrive. After all, attitude is half of the story. At the same time, I wonder if the spin is simply an exercise in denial.

“Woodstock happened in August 1969, long before the Internet and mobile phones made it possible to communicate instantly with anyone, anywhere. It was a time when we weren’t able to witness world events or the horrors of war live on 24-hour news channels.”–Richie Havens

During my early twenties in my new age phase in the post-Woodstock era, I dabbled in astrology. It was a fun and generally harmless distraction. I learned that people have more than one astrological sign (the Sun Sign). One of the first things the budding astrologer learns is that the Sun, the Planets, the Moon, and other celestial aspects are used to create a person’s horoscope. Where the planets were situated in the sky and their geometric relationships to each other at the time of birth,  determines a unique horoscope. That said, the Sun Signs of people who were born in August are either Leo or Virgo.

There were two Leos in my family of birth, my brother Mark, and me. Mark’s horoscope showed him being born on the cusp of Virgo–which is a fancy way of saying the Sun was very near the boundary between the two signs. If Mark would have been born a few hours later, he would have been a Virgo. As for me, the Sun was just past the mid-point of Leo. I do have a some aspects in Virgo, though.

Although the new age phase is well behind me now, it’s still fun to read my monthly horoscope predictions on line sometimes. I suppose this is because it is a vestige of that formative period during my early adulthood. Remembering the Leo/Virgo association with August triggers happy memories.

Thinking about the sky in August reminds us of meteor showers. As a matter of fact, astronomers say that the Perseids will be peaking during the overnight between tomorrow and Wednesday. Generally speaking the Perseids meteor showers occur from mid July to around August 24th. They tend to peak around the second week of August. I hope tomorrow night’s weather forecast predicts clear or partly cloudy skies. I’d like to observe the unobscured sky then.

Basically, the month of August brings into hazy focus and simmering heat of the middle of the year. Soon, Mother Nature will turn down the heat and prepare to serve us the rest of the year. I’m glad there are some parts of August I can enjoy.

The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this passage from The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd: “The month of August had turned into a griddle where the days just lay there and sizzled.”

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Create Something

I dreamt that I had invented and marketed a portable solar window adapter. It was a two part device so that it could be used on two windows at once. It terminated with an electrical outlet so the user could plug in lamps and small appliances. I awakened from the dream when I was still producing the television commercial to sell the gadget. I rarely have dreams about creating specific products such as this solar adapter, so I’ll investigate in order to see if someone has already invented something similar.

During the days following such dreams, I feel more creative than usual. So, I feel good about today. I am beginning today by creating a post on bluejayblog to offer you my personal observations about creativity.

It has been said that if a person tries to sell creativity, the inventor or artist must encounter sales teams who aren’t as creative as the inventor or artist. Furthermore, the creative people often lack the communications skills to effectively work out the business details with the sales teams.

I feel fairly confident that if the solar window adapter is viable, that I could communicate with an advertising agency about it. After all, I spent much of my adult life writing and producing commercials. As a category, commercials are largely unloved by the public because they intrude into the video, television, and radio programs. While people understand the need for commercials, viewers and listeners resent them. It takes plenty of creativity of the producer in order to consistently make commercials that both sell products and not annoy the consumer too much. You get bonus points if the viewers and listeners share their delight with their friends.

We usually associate creativity with other fields of endeavor–usually one of the arts like painting or music. Artists and artisans understand at some level that our senses are our windows connecting us to the world. It is by experimenting and playing with our senses that we deepen the connection with our fellow humans. When we emotionally and practically connect with others through our work, we discover an abundant wellspring of creative ideas.

Regarding ways to enhance our creative output, it is important not to fall into the trap of relying upon formulaic techniques. When one relies too much on dogmatic technique creativity suffers. This results in cookie-cutter products. It’s better to get out of our heads and look around for inspiration.

Often times the idea is waiting for us to pay attention to it. For example, the morning sunshine filtered through Venetian blinds to cast an attractive pattern onto the shrine in my music room. I discovered it by chance and knew that I had to photograph it before the sunbeams shifted position. In this instance, the opportunity to create a photograph was waiting for me to swivel 180-degrees in my desk chair.

The best way to enhance one’s creativity is to strike when the iron is hot and forge ahead. If you have a glimmer of an idea, begin designing it or start working on something. Create something today, something that connects with your imagination and brings you joy. The simple fact of acting on your ideas ingrains creativity in the mind as a habit.

Everybody is creative in some way. Don’t over-think this. Cultivate open-mindedness and personal freedom then the creative ideas will flow effortlessly. Let’s let go and let our creative juices flow right now.

The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a thought from director, producer, and screenwriter, Jon M. Chu. “Fear is a destruction of creativity.”

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Will This Be A Happy Day?

To have a happy day, I usually need to want to have a happy day, but not desire one too much. There is a sweet-spot between feeling meh, and being overly enthusiastic. Some days, regardless of what I wish and do, the happy day doesn’t occur or it feels fake. Other days, I don’t have to wish at all, nor do anything in particular and the day is a happy one.

Today is one of those days that requires mindful thinking about happiness and doing actions to enable happiness. The balancing act is palpable. Due to the fact that I’m feeling analytical about my personal happiness, I’ll go ahead and document what is going through my head this early morning, in no particular order of importance.

Today is a Saturday–hurray! I woke up feeling healthy and alert–another positive. The sleep was not interrupted by a noisy thunderstorm–another plus. There are severe thunderstorms in the vicinity, which could be worrisome–at least for many of my fellow Nebraskans. These are things I have no conscious control over.

A few of the things I do to exercise a measure of control about this morning include: Wearing a freshly laundered pair of blue jeans; slipping into a soft, large tee-shirt; putting on my favorite sneakers; carefully preparing the coffee; and sitting down to write something for the blog.

As the laptop is booting up, lightning begins to flash to the north and thunder rattles the window panes. Because the laptop is old and its battery does not retain a charge, I briefly worry about a neighborhood power blackout due to the storm. To counter the worry, I’ll remember to frequently back up my work. With the laptop up and running and the backup plan ready, I’m writing something that perhaps a few folks will read or at least skim through. I judge it to be a good topic and one worth frequently pondering. Regardless of the potential audience and readership numbers, for me to write in the early morning is conducive to happiness. I write for its own sake.

What do I think about happiness this morning? What will I tell myself and others about happiness this morning? What will I do to create the necessary balance to enable happiness this morning?

Right now, this very moment, I feel contentment and happiness. This moment is all that really counts. We only really have just this present moment, I’m OK with that.

“The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.”–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Regardless of whether we believe there is such a thing as having a calling, most of us stumble upon an ability to do something creative or useful that we enjoy doing. The artist is self-defined as is the “techie”, the school teacher, the truck driver, the chef, the gardener, the philosopher, the parent, and so on and so forth. When we discover our niche and take the opportunity to practice it, we begin to positively lose ourselves in our work.

On second thought, the work doesn’t necessarily need to be connected to our “calling”. Simply performing a mundane household task mindfully can feel quite rewarding. The Zen monk, Thich Nhat Hanh says that while washing the dishes, one should only be washing the dishes. He recommends that while we are washing dishes, being consciously aware of the act of washing the dishes is important to completing the task in a satisfactory manner. When we wash dishes without feeling resentful about having to do so, or fantasizing about being a martyr about having to wash dishes, we will have spent our time well and constructively. Dishwashing meditation can be adapted to other tasks and chores, too.

Self-help gurus remind us to cultivate gratitude. When we sincerely feel thankful for who we have in our lives and the things that help us go through our days, we have a more peaceful state of mind. This peacefulness is a form of happiness. Although I’m not a paragon of gratefulness, I’ve made a habit of enumerating what I’m thankful for before I go to bed each night. This creates a calm, positive state of mind that is conducive to restfulness. A thankful attitude is a good foundation for happiness.

The thankful attitude is one way to enhance the happiness of one’s life. When we intentionally want to improve the quality of our lives, we cultivate the contents of our thoughts. Without being in denial of reality, it’s smart to guard the contents of one’s thoughts. Wise teachers throughout the ages have said that it is wise to entertain uplifting, virtuous thoughts and concepts. It is best to contemplate one’s virtues without sanctimony or self-righteousness. In other words, it is best to contemplate virtue in the same manner as prayer or meditation–in private, so as not to create a public spectacle.

Yet, it is good to enable happiness in others if we can. This happens through authentic compassion and caring. When carefully, mindfully shared, our own happiness increases along with theirs.

The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders this line from the 19th century Swiss critic, philosopher, and poet, Henri Frédéric Amiel. “Tell me what you feel in your room when the full moon is shining in upon you and your lamp is dying out, and I will tell you how old you are, and I shall know if you are happy.”

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Contrasts …Floral Friday

I wanted bold expressions so as to add pizazz to the house this week. One of the most simple techniques to create assertive styling is through the use of contrasting colors. Today, I offer three very simple still-life compositions to ponder.

The most blatant expression of boldness had to feature fire-orange. The Gladding McBean coffee carafe is paired with green and chartreuse floral elements. A “Nubby” ball toy rests in amber orange stemware for stability. The combo now brightens a dark corner on the kitchen countertop.

Cold, industrial stainless steel is a particularly welcome sight during hot, humid summer days. Soft, rich, red Gerbera daisies enliven the vase. Meanwhile the stainless steel mortar restrains a paperweight.

A more sophisticated use of contrasts is evident with the playful interaction of colors and shapes that are rooted in the smooth, blue glass vase. As an aside, the onyx sphere rests in a turquoise mug.

The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this quote from graphic design illustrator, John Van Hamersveld. “In teaching color, you teach people how to look something and see the tone in it and break it down to be able to paint it and reproduce that color. But then, I’m psychedelic, so I look at color differently. I like colors that are in contrast with one another, so that they flicker back and forth.”

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Attachment To Views

“Too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”–John F. Kennedy

What about our darker side? What mental forces constrain and keep us from being the best versions of ourselves? What opinions do we treasure that restrict our thought patterns and enable dependencies, addictions, behaviors, relationships, and how we treat others and ourselves?

It’s sometimes helpful to contemplate my shadow self to try and understand when I have tricked myself or justified saying or doing something regretful. I ask myself, what do I deeply believe that is irrelevant or harmful to myself and to others? When have I caved in to judgment? Have I forgotten what a disservice it is to myself and others when I have let my attachment to views get in the way of living fully?

To break free of the enslavement that rigid opinions and beliefs, requires me to admit the power and impact they have over my attitudes and how I’m living my precious life. Deep within, I understand that breaking free of my attachment to views means that freedom is within my grasp. I ask myself, why am I afraid to free myself of the prison of rigidity and dogmatic opinion?

When I’m unafraid of contemplating my dark side, it manifests as the perfect opportunity to shine the light of objectivity on the negative opinions and beliefs that have barricaded my way for so long. I once again remember that freeing myself of comforting dependency upon easy, reflexive thinking and beliefs does not happen overnight. Simply understanding that my attachment to belief is a hindrance is not enough. It requires a fair amount of action and discipline to break the chains of opinionated thinking. This is possible because I’ve been able to break harmful habits and have discarded flawed patterns of thought in the past.

Pondering my devilish side helps to detect when I’m near to a positive break-through or epiphany. There is a renewed call to reach my highest potential. The contemplation of my dark side can reveal the temptation to halt the process of discovery and cave to procrastination. Being honest with myself that there is a dark side allows more ease in acknowledging my fears. Knowing the nature of my attachments to view allows me to more realistically confront them.

Having an accurate picture of my anxieties and fears enables me to better face them head-on. Being honest about the dark side also helps me to be more aware of the light side. Striving to understand the shadow-self allows for more constructive ways to release them or transform them into constructive patterns. Such soul-searching reveals the need to once again accept who I am and to forgive myself for transgressions against myself. This in turn, brings about the desire to reconcile past wrongs against others.

“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Becoming aware of the temptation to become idolatrous about ideology, beliefs, and doctrine helps us to avoid such traps. We can better understand how fanaticism results from thinking about others and things in dualistic, discriminatory ways.

Ultimately, being aware of one’s preferred, favorite attachments to views makes it easier to practice detachment and objective analysis. Our desires for comforting concepts, stuff, and people are revealed for our further discernment. This doesn’t mean we become cold-hearted and not caring about people. Being more open to insight we become more curious about the world and the people around us. There is more awareness of our connectedness with everything.

The honest awareness and understanding of attachment to views brings about more authentic, open caring and compassion for oneself and others.

The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders something from Leonardo da Vinci. “The greatest deception which men incur proceeds from their opinions.”

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