I am a creature of habit. It's not something I'm proud of, but it's something I've had to accept about myself. Part of it is who I am; part of it is the wariness of change that comes with age.
My devotion to habit extends to where I sit in shul. There is a Jewish concept of makom kavuah, a fixed place for prayer. The source for this is from Gen 19:27 - "And Abraham got up in the morning to the place where he stood before God" The idea, at least in my interpretation, is that you create your own sacred space that aides in bringing to you that intimate place of prayer. There is a discussion in the Talmud about this, and the outcome is that if you can't be in your makom kavuah, you're okay in a specified distance around the place.
In the main sanctuary on Shabbat and Holidays I've sat in the same seat for five years now. It's never an issue with anyone since I get there early when the few who are there are regulars with seat choices of their own. At daily morning minyan in the chapel things are more complicated.
When I started going to minyan I chose a place. I was able to keep that place until about a year ago when a woman saying kaddish started coming, arriving earlier than me. I changed my place, but it seems like since then I just keep having to move. New people come and unknowingly sit in my space. I want them to feel welcome, it's wonderful to have new "minyanairres," plus I feel silly asking them to move. So I've been moving around my space.
This morning I arrived at minyan just before 7am in a tired state. Once again, my place was taken. I was cranky. The woman in my seat-a new regular-knew what was wrong, and moved, but I was already settled somewhere else. And then I felt bad displacing her. So two people's makom kavuah were disturbed. This is not a good way to enter into prayer.
My solution? I am going to claim a new makom kavua in a space in the chapel that is not so popular. For some reason most people sit on the right side of the chapel, leaving the left side sparcely populated. I think I will move to the left side, serving two purposes. One is to give me a makom kavuah I can count on, the other is to give the few on the left side some support. It will be odd at first, but I'll get used to it.
Just don't ask me to change my Shabbat seat, at least for now. In a few years we will have a new building with a new sanctuary and I will gladly find my new makom kavuah.
UPDATE: To see how I'm faring with my makom kavuah while Beth Sholom is "Bamidabar" - in the wilderness, click here.