A Fusion of Rituals
Each morning I wake up at about 4:45 am or so. Usually prior to a preset alarm.
I rise, get cleaned and head downstairs to our sitting room. There’s lots of open space in that room. Some days a candle is lit in the early predawn. There is peace and quiet there.
My wife Chris and her warm, calm presence is there with me. We together spend time moving through yoga in silence, or reading, or both. Talking or not.
At some point we meditate — time to enjoy the silence in the company almost nothing.
Then, I do my gratitude and my focus practice for about 15 minutes and by the time I’m ready to be moving outside. The dog gets walked by one of us on alternate days.
Still predawn (depending on the time of year), I hit the road or the trail from my run. If I hit the trail I see an older Asian woman who, just before sunrise is at the open space canyon. There, she’s practicing her Tai chi in the silence of the morning with her sword or pole-staff, slowly moving slowly stretching and gliding. She’s flowing into the day. And she’s a welcome sight.
This graceful contact of her flowing ritual and my running ritual is met with a smile. Even though I see her each day, there’s no conversation, just a pleasant greeting. Honestly, I don’t even know if she speaks English. And it doesn’t matter. What she communicates is beyond the reach of words.
We exchange our warm smiles, sometimes we bow to one another, and then go off to continue our rituals.
I see most of the same people each weekday morning; my beautiful wife, the Asian woman, the people out walking their dogs, or running, or just taking in a morning stroll. And there’s the man on the bike and never smiles, never looks at anyone, never knowledge the presence of anything except for the bike and the road 3 feet ahead. I suppose this, too, is a ritual.
“This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn’t have the specific ritual you are craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert
The importance of a daily ritual, a practice, or routine is that it helps us gracefully transition from the deep night sleep into the dreamy daytime. For me, these rituals set the foundation to enter my world as I enter it, so that my day is created, as much as I can, in the manner I want to enter it.
We each have an endless amount of doorways that we can choose to enter our day. The ones that are mindfully chosen are the ones we can enter with more presence and, if we choose reverence, and therefore have a deeper connection with all that is. In accumulation, over time; days, weeks, months and years, it creates more and more of the life I want to live. It’s true for all of us. Our choice of daily ritual is a choice of priority, commitment and importance. That which we choose to practice on a regular basis is, like it or not, is what we hold most important and what we become. We reap what we sow.
Paradoxically, with all this sameness, these rituals reveal deeper and newer aspects of my self every day. The ritual is not routine for keeping things the same, but rather a designed practice to infuse purpose and intent into our lives, so it is renewed each day.
We ritualize to gradually become the best version of ourselves.
“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”
― Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth