Here's an amazing and wonderful and unfortunate paradox: The conditions that make you most comfortable also typically reduce your perceptual power and anesthetize you to the crucial link with the world that we call experience. That's right. The longer you live somewhere, or do the same work, the more comfortable you tend to be, but the more that very habituation dilutes the acuity of your sensation and realization.
In a recent op ed in The New York Times, Costica Bradatan wrote in praise of exile.
Exile? Yes, indeed, exile - which normally means being forced to leave what you know and go somewhere new. And things certainly do happen now and then that can force us into exile from the work, or life, we've known. A big economic downturn, a downsizing, a disease, disability, or divorce can shut you out from what you've come to know. And then, good things can also take you away from what you've known, as well. Sometimes, you may make a choice to go on a new adventure that results in a form of voluntary exile from what you've previously known. And there's, of course, a big difference between involuntary exile and a choice to change places.
I left Notre Dame after 14 years of living in South Bend, Indiana. It's a wonderful institution in a great little town. But a time came for a new adventure and I chose to move to the coast in Wilmington, NC. As a result, wholly unexpected at the time, all my senses were recharged. There was magic all around me again, just like there had been when I first walked the grounds of Notre Dame. But distraction and habit had dulled my perceptions over time, and the magic had faded so gradually that I had forgotten what it felt like. Then, with the change, and the attendant voluntary exile from what I had known, all the sensibilities that were my original doorway into the world of teaching were suddenly reawakened. The magic was back.
Do you have to quit a job, or move across the country to recharge your perceptions? No, not really. What you do have to do is get out of your ruts, have new experiences, try new things, and go new places. You can practice what Zen practitioners call "the beginners mind." Take things in anew. Focus like you haven't focused in years. NOTICE THINGS. Savor what you see. Ask your nose to smell again, your ears to hear. Your brain will respond favorably and shoot you new juice for thinking and feeling that will benefit everything in your life.
So, do yourself a huge favor, and get out of your routine just a bit. Exile yourself from the dead habit of ordinariness. Try something new. You don't have to go into complete exile from your normal life on a permanent basis. Any change can help.
Shake things up with the mind of an exile at your service. Then you'll be surprised at the new insights you can have.