Making the “ordinary” special: the hidden power of rituals.
Here’s something you can try that allows you to see with fresh eyes the beauty of common things and everyday experiences.
I’m talking about the power of rituals.
Rituals are not about doing things over and over without thinking. They are a way of helping us to slow down and remember there is beauty in everything if we take the time to look for it.
Rituals provide a way to focus on the detail we may otherwise miss, a way that helps us become still and somehow realise we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves.
And they can add quality periods to our lives that can be anticipated with joy, savoured with appreciation and remembered with gratitude.
The whole process of choosing an everyday task and deliberately turning it into a ceremony, when you deliberately focus on each part of what you’re doing, seems to add something special to what would otherwise be ‘normal’ occurrences.
Recognising the familiarity of what you’re doing yet choosing to consciously savour the experience somehow provides a depth to the experience that transcends the act.
Done out of habit without any real thought, rituals can be meaningless.
Undertake them with intention, however, and they can be gifts to yourself, for when you slow down like this you often experience a sense of well being that generalises into other areas of your life and lasts long after the actual ritual has been completed.
You can make a ritual out of virtually anything: making a cup of tea, greeting the new day, reading something you regard as sacred, switching off from work responsibilities, meditating. The list is as endless as your activities.
Here’s a morning ritual I used to practise until my health circumstances temporarily changed. It’s one I am looking forward to restarting pretty soon.
It’s possible that when you’re reading it, it may come across a little pious or ‘holier than thou’ or even a bit flaky but actually practising it, it’s none of these things but is rather grounded in reality.
MY MORNING RITUAL (albeit one temporarily Suspended!)
I agree with myself the night before that I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities of the new day and before going to sleep I acknowledge the achievements and challenges of the day that has just gone. I deal with any mental or emotional left overs of the day and prepare for sleep.
I wake around 5.45 a.m. and lie for a while allowing gratitude for the very act of being alive to seep into my consciousness. Usually as I’m lying there I take the opportunity to offer simple prayers for people and situations.
I rise within five minutes of waking, stretch for a few minutes then brush my teeth slowly, consciously naming things for which I am thankful as I do so.
Next I put on the exercise clothes which I laid out the night before and go down for a large glass of water and make myself a hot drink. It’s usually coffee or tea, (not perhaps the best beverage before exercise but I enjoy it) and I take my time as I smell the aromas, and slowly and appreciatively sip my first hot drink of the day. I go outside and start walking.
I have several fixed routes which I know the distance of, so, depending on how I feel and perhaps the weather too, I either challenge myself to beat previous times (I rarely run though, I stick to a fast walking pace) or walk at an average speed and watch the countryside waking up to a new day.
Back home, I stretch and do some light exercise with small weights and then linger under the shower before going into the still empty den where I may do several things: listen to music, read something inspiring, pray, meditate or simply sit and savour the morning.
Finally, I outline my day….and by then it’s time to breakfast with my lovely wife.
I tend to do this four times a week when I’m fit…I still usually get up early on the other days but will do a variety of activities depending on what I feel like on the day. I always include prayer, reading and quietness for I find this helps set me up for the day.
Remember this is just one example. You can choose practically any activity you want and make a ceremony out of it; though you probably wouldn’t want to do so every time. The payback on practising rituals of one type or another is immense.
Try it for yourself and note how the regular and conscious observance of a routine can imbue it with a degree of mystery almost, and can add meaningful pauses to your life. Have fun.