- A regular routine.
Getting up at the same time; going to bed at the same time; having the same sorts of events each day take up roughly the same portions of the day… Things I do repeatedly, I get better at. The better I am at something, the more mind space I have to improvise and work on other projects.
- Free time.
Somebody a bit more snobbish might call this “quiet time.” Either way, it’s not incongruous with the above point. It’s the purpose for it. I want a regular schedule so I can block big open spaces to sit and think. The key is the biggest blocks possible. A two hour block is twice as good as two 1-hour blocks, which would be still better than 4 ½-hour blocks. Every chaotic experience requires a certain margin of time before I’m able to operate smoothly again. This cuts into the free time that I have available on paper.
- Plenty of time to read, reflect, and write.
As before, this is the whole purpose of the point above. I can always squeeze a little reading into the crevices in my schedule, but reflection and writing require nice big blocks. And it’s only when I’m ready to write that I first begin to notice that I’m becoming happy. It’s the foundational joy of an ordered mind.
I’m putting this last, not because it belongs there, but because, inevitably, that’s where it goes. In reality, I know that prayer is self-sustaining. It subverts the process toward an ordered mind because it directly petitions the God who made me and orders everything according to His providence. He makes time; He pulls significant order out of aparent chaos every day. It is always God’s intent to change the world by means of the intermediate step of his children asking. But more to the point, when it comes to my personal happiness, prayer is self-sustaining because it moves me from seeking happiness in myself to finding happiness in Jesus.
But I’m putting prayer last because that’s when it happens. Once my mind is clear, once I’ve had time for reading and thinking and writing (once this essay is over), that’s when I’ll pray. There’s a certain perverseness to it, too. The reason I don’t pray first (and by this I mean “effectual, fervent” prayer, not little ejaculatory bless-it prayers is that it will cut into my open blocks of free time. In other words, even though I know that prayer is self-sustaining, I can’t help but categorize it with the inconvenient chaos that I’m trying to regimentalize. It’s listed in my mind right next to my morning exercise program. But the exercise is a requirement for my job; the prayer is not. And when I look at my schedule, I tell myself that I’m a marathoner, so I don’t have time to sprint.
It ain’t right, but it is what it is. My schedule is too tight to pencil in an hour of prayer every morning, and I don’t do well with 15-minute blocks. My mind wanders (see point the first). I’ve toyed with writing out my prayers, but it hasn’t happened yet.
In the mean time, the more I’m writing, the closer I am to prayer. If you see me writing 4-5 times a week, there’s a good chance I’m spending some quality time in prayer as well. And writing and prayer are the best proof that I’m happy.