We all have our own rituals in our day. Even if we don’t call them that, it is what they are.
My morning ritual often looks like getting up, doing a couple yoga poses to come into my body, hopping in the shower, and then making my first cup of coffee. Some mornings this flows one thing into the next without interruption. Most mornings though one or both of the children wake up somewhere in there and need my attention and focus and so my morning ritual gets put aside for a few moments or hours so we can go through their rituals.
Throughout the day there little things I do also. While making meals or folding laundry or washing dishes, I allow myself to daydream or do a little meditation or focus on my breath. Four nights a week my daughter and I watch a show on Netflix together while eating a bedtime snack and cuddling. Many evenings I curl up to watch a show by myself before I go to sleep.
These are all things I do that bring me a sense of centering and grounding.
These daily practices are one form of ritual.
I was raised Catholic, and certainly the Catholic mass, or really any religious cerebration, is full of ritual or really is one giant ritual with many smaller rituals within it.
These high holy celebrations are another form of ritual.
Celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, are both rituals in and of themselves and contain within them many smaller rituals.
We can use ritual to celebrate. To honor. To mark time. To notice who we are now and who we were before.
We use ritual to come home to our Self.
We use ritual to connect. To our body, mind or spirit. To our community. To our ancestors. Ritual is all about the being of connection.
Yes, there are a thousand different things you can do for ritual, and yet, if they don’t have meaning for you, if you aren’t somehow connecting in some way, then all you are doing is doing and if all you are doing is doing, that is a habit (more on this below).
None of us need more doing in our lives.
All of us need more connecting. More being. More feeling at home in our own skin.
That, to me, is the point of ritual.
Rituals can be sacred without being religious. I consider my morning ritual sacred, it guides me into my day and being and even when interrupted I am still always able to connect to my body, mind and spirit during that time.
Rituals can be time that is specifically set aside to do a certain thing (like my morning yoga or going to mass) or they can be found in the in-between time. For example, while waiting for something to finish on the stove, intentionally stopping for a glass of water and counting your breath for a moment, voila: a mini-ritual of connecting to your Self.
Habits, on the other hand, can look a whole lot like rituals to an outsider. The difference is subtle and sometimes we aren’t even aware ourselves when a ritual has crossed over into a habit.
Rituals are practiced intentionally, mindfully. We are aware we are doing them. We are aware of our Self while we are practicing them. We are connecting, either to our Self or to others during ritual.
Habits are mindless. We do them without much thought or awareness. We often do them because that’s just what we’ve always done. We don’t think about them and we don’t really get much of anything from them. They are about doing. Keeping us busy, filling up space, not paying attention.
A ritual can become a habit when we find we are doing something rote, on pure muscle memory, without thinking. A ritual becomes a habit when it stops being about connection (to our Self, to our ancestors, to our community) and becomes just about the doing.
Ritual = mindfulness, connection and being
Habit = mindlessness, disconnection and doing
When we notice that a ritual has become a habit, we have choices. We can reconnect with the ritual, become mindful of it again. Or we can decide that its time has passed and it is no longer part of who we are or what we need. We can stop the doing and allow the space for a new, intentional, and meaningful ritual to come into being.
I invite you look at your own habits and rituals. Examine them and intentionally decide what you want to keep and make time for your life and what you can let go of. Imagine letting go of all the habits that don’t fill you up, that don’t bring connection into your life, and how much space that would create for new, meaningful, rituals to enter.
I talk more about ritual in this video below. It’s just over 20 minutes long, so go ahead and make yourself a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine and settle in.
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This blog post and video are part of a series to introduce my 12-month circle Wild Woman Within :: (Re)Connecting to our forgotten knowing. You can learn more about the circle and request an application right here.
Want to see the other posts in this series? Here’s a list:
Ritual vs. Habit (this post)