The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them. Pat Conroy
Someone once said, “If you do not live your life, your life will live you.” Doesn’t that allude to the easiness, in which our lives, if we’re not careful, can become mindlessly dictated by schedules and external events. Obligations pile up and the next thing we know, stress is hammering at our minds and bodies. It’s as if we place ourselves and our well-being, second to the demands of work, family, even service. Thus, our lives live us, instead of us living our lives.
I suggest that one of the many options we have to live more richly, fully, and freely, is to engage in rituals that keep us grounded in our self care, and mindful of our purpose. Some of us already engage in such rituals. Journaling (“Morning Pages” as Julie Cameron would put it), meditation, prayer, exercise, connecting with others, would be some.
I suggest it’s important to separate “ritual” from “habit.” Habit, as I see it, does not require attention or thought. We just do it. There’s nothing wrong with healthy habits; morning showers, brushing our teeth, being on-time, smiling. Healthy habits add richness to our lives, and should, no doubt, be continued.
Rituals, conversely, require thoughtful application. Some can be ceremonial in nature. Their impact is to promote the mindful awareness we need to “live our lives.” I mean really live them in a state of “conscious awareness.” In such a state, we make our decisions from the source within ourselves, as opposed to external forces making our decisions for us. Mindful awareness is the key!
In his book, The Miracle Morning, author Hal Elrod suggests a morning ritual, that actually starts the evening before. Why the evening before? He refers to those times when we retired to bed, excitedly anticipating the next morning. Children going to bed on Christmas Eve night would be an example (at least for those of us who practice Christmas traditions). Hal says, “Your first thought in the morning is usually the last thought you had before you went to bed.” Makes sense. Here’s Hal Elrod’s suggestion for your Miracle Morning ritual, which are preceded by a one-time step; move your alarm clock across the room. This prevents you from hitting the “snooze” button. When the alarm goes off…get up!
- Set your intentions before bed
- Brush your teeth immediately upon awakening. While it’s a mindless activity, do it with the intention of energizing your day.
- Drink a full glass of water. You’ve been without it for 6-8 hours, replenish mindfully.
- Get dressed in your workout clothes. Exercise, even just a little.
I’ve tried these and the ritual works, especially, of course, when done mindfully.
If we’re going to “live our lives” instead of “our lives living us,” I suggest our focus and awareness must primarily remain in the present moment. Rituals can help. I have a ritual of lighting a candle, which occupies a space on my desk, prior to beginning work at my computer. For safety, I use glass-enclosed candles, just in case I forget when I leave the room. I enjoy their fragrance and, as I work, I’ll simply turn and watch the flame dance for a brief time. Watching it has a calming and yet invigorating effect. The act of lighting of the candle prior to my beginning work, serves as a reminder to me to be mindful.
It is my suggestion to you and myself to create meaningful rituals, times of thoughtfulness, throughout our day. I like Elrod’s suggestion of starting a morning ritual the night before. I’ll offer some suggestions as a start, just to get your mind flowing. These can be enjoyed anytime and can be repeated throughout the day.
- Candle lighting (and extinguishing)
- Giving thanks
- Cleaning, straightening up (just 5 or 10 minutes)
- Looking out a window
- Gazing at photos or images
- Sitting with a pet
- Making a phone call
I know you can think of many more, feel free to share them in the comment section. What’s essential is that we “live our life” by being mindful and present as we engage in our rituals.