Rituals have been used throughout the centuries and are practiced in cultures around the world. Most people think of rituals in terms of organized religions. However, there is a vast array of rituals connected to our traditions and values that also play an important role in our lives.
It can range from birthdays, weddings or funerals to planned events or casual get-togethers.
Saying grace before a meal, lighting a candle before starting a project, burning incense before yoga class, remembering our loved ones, celebrating family traditions, drinking from your special mug, all have important significance and mark important milestones, events and transitions through activities, gestures and words.
In this strange new, ever-changing world, we need the consistency of rituals more than ever, especially in the last couple of years filled with added pressures, stress, and distractions.
As we are trying to find ways to cope with our hectic lives, our souls are often sidelined and malnourished. Many people feel lost and disconnected as they have strayed away from their true sense of purpose and meaning and that sense of belonging, of being part of something bigger than themselves.
People are starving for a deeper connection but end up looking in all the wrong places and placing their values and worth on external, superficial things. Rituals are quickly disappearing and are being replaced by materialism. It looks like money doesn’t buy happiness after all.
Basically, we have forgotten how sacred life is. We’ve lost our sense of divine connection and are wandering around aimlessly looking for the next quick fix. We need to reawaken the sacredness of our daily life and tap into the restorative powers of daily rituals.
It’s time for a reboot to refresh our lives by developing healthy habits of routines and rituals that restore a much needed sense of calm, control, and balance in our lives.
Rituals and routines work well together, but the fundamental difference between the two is the attitude and intention behind the actions.
Routines are mindless, monotonous, boring chores that we have to do, while rituals are mindful tasks that have deeper meaning and purpose, and that we enjoy doing.
Routines are subconscious, repetitive activities that function on autopilot, whereas rituals are performed with intention and awareness in order to give special meaning to our actions.
Rituals force you to be present and to focus, while routines do not require a lot of conscious thought.
Routines are important for us in order to create structure in our lives, along with a sense of security. This makes everyone’s life easier, less stressful, and more productive. Consistent routines lead to habits, either healthy or unhealthy ones, depending on the choices you make. The danger of not paying attention to what we do may lead to bad habits such as mindless eating, excessive drinking, and other careless behaviours.
Rituals can help us press the pause button and slow down by changing our perspective. We feel calmer and more in control of our lives as opposed to feeling rushed, overwhelmed, and distracted. Rituals enrich our lives by providing more meaning, depth, and enjoyment.
Routines can be transformed into rituals with some effort so you can get more out of your experiences. Rituals are like upgraded routines and come with many added benefits:
- Reconnect to ourselves by being fully present and aware in the present moment, which results in more peace and less stress. Rituals help you feel grounded and relaxed. They also help you manage your emotions and act as a buffer for the anxiety and uncertainties we face when dealing with life’s challenges.
- Reconnect with our life’s purpose and meaning by reflecting on and prioritizing our values and what is important to us. Rituals teach us about appreciation and not taking things for granted. They also teach us respect and honour.
- Reconnect to a bigger picture and a higher power that is within us and can help guide us to see how all the parts of the picture come together and realize the importance of certain things we may not understand at first. Build the faith and keep our hope alive.
- Reconnect with our community by bringing people together and creating a stronger social bond. Rituals forge a sense of belonging and of human connection, and promote solidarity.
- Reconnect to nature by respecting Mother Earth and recognizing our own life cycles and how interconnected we all are.
- Reconnect to the magic, wonder, and creativity of life. Honour the gift of life and see the greatness and beauty all around you every day.
To elevate routines to rituals, change your mindset, add intention, and take deliberate actions. This minor shift can make a big difference.
It’s more than doing, it’s about being.
It’s not what you are doing, it’s how you are doing it.
Everyday rituals start with commitment to making your time sacred and your day successful. Reflect on what is getting your attention and ask yourself if it is serving you or not. Align your actions with your visions, values and goals and the force will be with you.
Rise and shine with morning rituals
Getting up early gives us a head start and sets the tone for the day by starting our day off on the right track. Robin Sharma emphasizes how important the first hour of our day is and how it can have a positive impact on the rest of our day. The following may seem like a lot to do, but in one hour we can break it down into three segments of 20 minutes each; one for exercise, one for meditation, and one for continued learning and growth.
- Greet the day with gratitude. Benjamin Franklin would start his day by asking, “What good shall I do this day?” And he would finish his day by asking, “What good have I done today?”
- Avoid reaching for the phone or opening the computer. Have designated times instead of endless streaming.
- Drinking 2 glasses of water upon rising will hydrate our bodies, flush out toxins and increase our metabolism. For better results, it is best to drink lukewarm water and add the juice of half a lemon.
- Exercise, do yoga or go for a walk. Get it done first thing in the morning, if not, find a suitable time and stick to it.
- Practising meditation in the morning will give us a good foundation for the day and keep us centered. Create a sacred place where you can retreat to when you want some quiet time.
- Journaling is a great tool to boost our confidence with positive self-talk and affirmations; to express our thoughts; to explore our emotions; to release tension; to gain a better perspective and deeper understanding of our life and relationships; and to set and achieve our goals. Pick the top three things off your to-do list to better manage your time.
- Now you are ready to eat a healthy breakfast and to enjoy your coffee/tea.
Have a good night with evening rituals
- Set a cut-off time to stop all activities and start winding down.
- Take a soothing bath.
- Read a book, listen to relaxing music, or watch something inspirational.
- Use mindful breathing to clear your mind and relax your body.
- Do gentle stretching exercises.
- End your day by counting your blessings and saying your prayers.
Everything In Between
- Practice conscious eating and cooking.Try not to eat on the run or in the car while driving.
- How we get to work is important. Instead of complaining about the traffic, leave earlier or take a different route; realize that stressing out about it will not make it any better, so enjoy the ride.
- The pandemic has created a change in the workplace for many people. If you work from home, dress up. It prepares us mentally by putting us in work mode. It also creates a sense of structure and boundaries as well as keeps us focused, motivated, and productive.
- Work smarter, not harder; allocate time blocks and do more single tasking as opposed to multitasking, which, at the end of the day, is more productive and brings more satisfaction along with less stress.
- Unplug regularly. Short little breaks are better than waiting for a big energy crash. Instead of taking the time to go for a cigarette break, take a breather. Literally, take a few minutes to do some breathing exercises, which will reduce stress, calm your mind, and give you more energy.
- Engage in a hobby; find a creative outlet. Find something that is fun and challenging at the same time. It will rejuvenate our minds and feed our souls. It will keep us mentally productive while we unwind, learn new skills and create special bonds with people who share the same interests as us.
- Create conscious holidays traditions to reflect their true meaning and not get lost in how over commercialized they have become.
- Make time for family, like family dinners to share food, stories and create memories.
- Find time for the important people in our lives, even if it’s just a phone call or on Zoom.
- Take time to embrace nature and enjoy the gifts that every season brings us.
Our lives are like a sacred adventure. Inviting the sacred back into our lives can help us find clarity, peace, and balance along our journey. Rituals serve as powerful anchors that give us meaning as well as remind us to stay connected to ourselves and humanity. Nourish your soul by integrating this mindful approach to create your special life.