Ritual- it’s a word that some people love, and some people love to hate.
What was your first reaction to the word Ritual in the subject line? Did you get excited, or did you want to run?
I get it, I really do. It’s a word where something deep within wants it, but our mind tries to tell us otherwise. Having grown up in a Catholic home and attended all-girls Catholic school up until college, ritual was infused in so much of what I did. Wearing a uniform everyday with my LL Bean backpack (you know you had one, initials and all). Church most Sundays. Communion. Confession. Penance (I did a LOT of that, more than I’d like to admit). So when I broke free of school, I broke free of rituals. Or so I had myself convinced.
Instead as I was working in downtown NYC right after college and later in the Marina in San Francisco, I wore the same suit and heels every day carrying a briefcase disguised as a purse. My Sunday ritual went from attending church to attending ‘Sunday Funday’- a far cry from church services but I was devoted nonetheless. Communion became meals with my BFF’s at the same tables every Friday and Saturday at our favorite bars. Confession became crying to my girlfriends on Sunday night about what I had done over the weekend, and penance- well I certainly created my own structures to ritually punish myself for my wrong doings. By the time I left the world of finance, my uniform became Lululemon and a yoga mat, Sunday became ‘Yoga Church’ full of chanting and a lot of sweating, communion became drinking green juice and smoothies, confession came in the form of utter sobbing in full prostration on the mat and penance- well, not much changed there actually. I still found ways to beat myself up for the ‘wrongs’ I committed, for when I felt like I had strayed from my path- the punishments just had a different, more spiritual flavor this time around.
Even when I was in the thick of studying with a very well known meditation teacher and performing puja and other rituals while on retreat, I still felt removed from how they applied to the every day. They were important, but more like something I did to feel connected, without paying attention to the fact that what I really wanted, what I really CRAVED, was to feel connected in every moment of every day.
But here was the problem: if I admitted that to my friends, clients and even myself, then I would be branded as woo woo, new age, religious or spiritual. And Goddess knows there is so much stigma attached to those words and so much in popular culture surrounding them, that I held back. I held back for a very long time.
But up until just a few short years ago, I was sick. And tired. And in tremendous pain both physical and emotional. I craved God and the Goddess in the everyday- and I didn’t want to feel ashamed of it anymore.
Even as I was deep in the yoga world, the word ritual evoked a primal avoidance response- a hell no, I’m not going there again. But as I began to soften on myself, treat my body with more care, and allow the Divine back into my life, ritual creeped slowly back in….. one step at a time. And in very unexpected ways.
Ritual became a lot less about religion and God and gurus, the ‘must-dos’ to be saved in the eyes of our creator, and more about the must-do’s that my SOUL needed to be saved by Myself. Which, if we look at our existence from a truly non-dual point of view, the Self is the creator, is the Divine, is everything and nothing all at once. So really, at the heart, it’s all the same thing.
So if I am the Creator, and the Creator is me, then perhaps that gives me the freedom to create rituals in my life that reflect how I truly need to take care of myself. How I know, deep down inside my heart, what I need to feel truly whole, truly connected, and truly at service in the world to both myself and others in every moment of every day.
Ritual taps into archetypal forces like bonding, purification and severance that are deeply important to us, for reasons more profound than we might at first imagine. A Ritual can be of atonement, of healing, of marriage. A Ritual can be of purification, to mark a transition. It can even celebrate a divorce.- Hugh Milne
Ritual can be profound and transformative in whatever form it takes. On one end of the spectrum, we have what I like to call the Big Rituals- like marriage. They mark major transitions and life events. Then at the other end, we have what I lovingly refer to as the Little Rituals- the things we can do on a daily basis to take care of ourselves every day in just the way that we need to feel loved, whole, and healed. Big and Little are in no way tied to importance or significance, but rather to scale. You wouldn’t invite 100 people to your morning tea, but you would to your wedding.
If we look at ritual in this way, as markings of transition, healing and connection, then really ANYTHING can be a ritual, as long as it is significant to you in feeling whole. Some examples of Little Rituals:
- Sharing your tea in the morning with your loved one or in your silent solitude before a busy day
- Having dinner with your best friend every Thursday night
- The walk to the coffee shop to see your neighbors every morning or drive to your favorite park before getting on the highway
- Taking 20 minutes every morning to apply lotion all over your body
- Walk to your grocery store at 3pm everyday to get the freshest produce for dinner
- Listening to your ‘pump up’ song immediately before walking in your office or that important sales call
- Meditating for 30 minutes in the morning before doing anything else
- Creating “White Space” in your schedule every week to create space for serendipity to take the lead
- Sitting with your bare feet on the earth every day for 5 minutes during lunch.
- And about a billion other actions and possibilities.
The more we each incorporate into our daily lives those things that make us feel the most connected, the more inspired we can be in more moments of our lives. There was a great article a few days ago in Scientific American about just this topic that you can find HERE.
So how can you begin to infuse your life with more Little Rituals? Here are a few steps:
1. Take out a piece of paper and create a column of what you do on a daily basis that lights you up. Include it all. It could be as simple as brushing your teeth to taking a bath every night to walking the dog. Now, in a second column, write in those things you ‘wish’ you did every day but never seem to find the time or think you ‘can’t have’. Maybe it’s lying in bed an extra 10 minutes before getting up, or brewing your own coffee instead of running into Starbucks. Whatever it is, no matter how wild or seemingly mundane, write it down.
2. Now look- do the columns match?
For some of you, they might. Yay- you are already incorporating ritual into your daily life. Is there anything you see in column 2 that you want to add to column 1? How can you become more intentional about these everyday?
For others, the columns may looks like two separate lives. Feel into how this looks for you. What feels good, and what doesn’t. What changes can you begin to make to move items from column 2 into column 1 and make them a part of your day? If you wish you could lie in bed an extra 10 minutes, what change is needed to make this happen? If you want to add 30 minutes of running, how can you change your schedule to add it in? Really dive into this and see what magic you can work to make your what feels ‘special’ part of your everyday life.
3. Take a look at your typical week and see if there is anything on your calendar that really lights you up when you see it. Is there a dinner coming up that you can’t wait for, or a standing date you have that you couldn’t live without? Use the same process as above, and see what comes up as important for you to do every week. Month. Year. And ask yourself how you can add in more of what lights you on fire!
4. Set your Intentions. List out your Little Rituals and how you intend to incorporate them into your everyday life. Example: I intend to walk for 10 minutes a day with no agenda, just for me, and see where it leads me.
5. Commit. Oh, here’s that word. Commitment. Another of the triggering kind (they are so sneaky, aren’t they?). Kind of sounds like religion, doesn’t it? And ritual itself. Yet, this is the key. This is the fairy dust that we sprinkle on the list to make it reality- like what Cinderella’s fairy godmother sprinkled to turn her rags into a ball gown. Commitment= Fairy Dust. There- I said it. Without commitment, the wishes and dreams will just stay that- wishes and dreams.
So what Little Rituals did you add to your list? How are you going to add them in? I’d love to hear your versions and inspire each other!