Routine:  drill, practice, procedure, pattern.  Ritual: ceremony, protocol, order, custom.  Zen: the value of meditation and intuition.

Even the most aspirational artist experiences challenges, so what exactly is it that gets you through your day?.

That daily grind and hard yakka often dissipate when surrounded by a reassuring framework of routine and ritual.  Doesn’t sound very Zen-like does it?  But it is.  Keep reading.

Repeated actions are comforting, both to our hands and our minds, becoming automatic and sustaining during those difficult, sometimes monotonous times we all encounter.

Every morning I enjoy making a small pot of tea – it’s my morning ritual.  The water’s put on to boil, the pot swirled with the hot liquid in anticipation of that Lapsang souchong loose-leaf tea finally greeting its blazing nemesis, producing two cups of tannin-rich, heavenly meditative brew.

But it’s not just in the actions, but also the sounds and taste that I find inner peace.  I love the sound of the tea caddy lid opening and closing and the clink of the teapot lid topping it off as it’s drawing. That process of making and pouring that tea is also soothing and evocative – what a great way to start the day.  And there’s the Zen.

And it’s these almost mindless, repetitive actions that teach us to be at ease with our daily practice – even when the going gets tough.

My machine is cleaned and oiled every time I sit down to stitch.  I don’t even think about it anymore.  But in that routine busyness of gently cleaning and oiling my machine correctly, is a soothing balm for my buzzing brain.  My mind is quietly absorbed as I relax into the rhythm of the work I have planned.

Because it’s so familiar, there’s just enough focus to silence the unceasing blathering that sometimes constitutes the inner workings of my mind, but at the same time, my senses are engaged – I feel the mechanics of the machine, I smell the fine machine oil, I see the uplifting colours I’m going to work with and I hear that contented purring sound of a well-oiled, contented sewing machine.

And really, isn’t that what being an artist is all about?  Letting go and trusting our instincts as well as engaging our senses.

Creating these automatic Zen-like moments offers breathing space, a place of safety and solitude, gently wrapping around me to underpin and reinforce my daily work practices.

Do you have routines and rituals that help you?  Or, do you need to find them?

cathy jack coupland