Why You Need Rituals Not Routines

If meaning, joy and happiness are things you value and want to experience everyday…keep reading. I’m going to give you 7 components to implement into a daily ritual to replace your routines. This will begin to change your life from the first day you decide to commit to it. This is not one of those quick fix “how to” outlines. Cultivating requires more than a single effort. You can’t water a seed one time and expect it to grow. Consistency is what produces growth and change. This is especially true in regards to building a ritual practice.

Let’s first discuss routines. Frankly, it really needs no defining. You are already intimately aware of them. It’s how you’re living your life right now. Trapped in the fictional power of time. Your days are filled with “deadlines” that are slowly killing you whether you meet them or not. It’s sleep deprivation, constant worrying about what has already happened (even years ago) or anxiety about what may or may not happen in the future. You rarely experience the NOW except in moments of suffering or crisis. Suffering has a unique way of getting our attention. Few things are more powerful at keeping our attention far beyond any value that it may provide.

Ask yourself three serious questions. No one has to know the answers. It’s enough that you know. Are you happy? Are you joyful? Does your life have the meaning you desire? When I’m consulting others I always ask them these particular three questions. If they have read my writings or have heard me speak they likely know I’m going to ask them these questions in our first session. I still ask them knowing they may be anticipating my questions and perhaps have prepared a response. To date, every time I’ve asked these questions no one has responded with an authentic and resolute “yes.” The lack of this response is no indictment against people but simply a recognition of the pervasiveness of the lack of happiness in our society.

Generally, when I ask these three questions I get one of four responses. One answer is “no.” It’s honest and straight to the point. A second response is an attempt to answer my question with a question. For example, the person will respond with: “Well what is happiness?” or “What do you mean by joyful?” This is effectively equivalent to a “no.” Trust me, if your life has the meaning you desire, you’re joyful and you’re happy you will absolutely know it. This is not an intellectual or philosophical matter. Another common response to the questions is “sometimes” or “at times more so than others” or similar words. Lastly, some respond with ” I was until x, y or z” occurred.

All of these responses are indications of lives experienced through routines rather than rituals. This state of being is not unique to mature adults. This same sentiment is expressed by young adults ( I work with men & women 18 years & up) as well. Routines deplete your energy. Routines are monotonous. Routines require no conscious effort. This is how a sense of nihilism creeps into your life. So, once you have accepted routine as your way of life, you then seek to make it your meaning, joy and happiness. Then you can count yourself as being  among the respectable, or responsible, in the eyes of others. This is never sustainable long term. It’s a sure path to a life of complacency, boredom or something far worse.

Enough with routines. As I stated earlier, you’re already too familiar with them. Let’s talk about rituals! Does this word scare you? Does it sound odd to use it in the 21st century? It should not. I like to ask people about their rituals during our sessions. Again, there are usually three or four common responses to this question. One response is a blank stare, or knitted eyebrows, as if to say “I have no idea what rituals are” or  ” I don’t know what you’re asking me.” A second response is “I don’t have any.” A third response is “I’m not religious” or “I’m not into that kind of stuff.” Lastly, given the nature of my vocation on very rare occasions someone will respond by describing their rituals.

Rituals are the polar opposite of routines. Rituals are not “work.” Rituals build. Rituals nourish and replenish. Rituals sustain. Routines require you to squeeze your life into parameters set by everyone and everything else. (i.e. friends, family, jobs or “commitments”) Rituals allow you to establish boundaries that others may not trespass upon unless you allow it. Rituals have a unique way of self-sustaining the initial boundaries they set. People who know you are committed to them tend to respect this space. However, they must learn to respect it. They will absolutely try to intrude upon your rituals by calling, texting, e-mailing or otherwise interrupting you. This will decrease with your consistent practice. People who regularly communicate with me are aware of the times that it’s virtually useless to try to communicate with me or contact me. My lack of response, and the reason for that lack of response, has become clear.  It’s ritual time. Respect it.

I’ve created several components to build a ritual practice guaranteed to change your life. The seven components are: Awaken, Move, Align, Affirm,Purify, Energize & Devotion. Each one of these components is essential to get the maximum benefit out of your ritual practice. Each component contributes to nourishing and fortifying you everyday. Now, what activity to engage in under each component is 100% customized to the individual. Likewise, how much time is spent engaged in each component must be customized. While the majority of people in the west are living life draining routines some may need more or less of an individual component for their ritual practice. Once I have assessed a person’s particular circumstances I can then customize their ritual practice.

I can give you a sense of my own ritual practice. I prefer to complete my major ritual practice in the morning. Not “before my day starts.” That is routine type of thinking.  My day “starts” with performing my rituals. I like to begin promptly at 5:45am. My morning practice usually takes 2 hours to complete. Don’t be alarmed. You may not have that much time in the morning because of your routine. The nature, duration and intensity of my personal ritual practices are commensurate with my vocation, purpose and lifestyle. You may only have 10 minutes to complete your ritual practice. As previously stated, when I design these for others, I take into account their particular circumstances.

Your ritual practice does not have to take place in the morning. It can be done anytime of day. Worst case scenario, you can perform each individual component of the ritual throughout the day. Sometimes due to travel or similar circumstances you may have to shorten the duration of  your ritual practice. This would be preferable to spreading it out throughout the day or opting not to do it at all. The most important thing is consistency not duration. Also, I believe you gain the maximum impact of your ritual practice when it can be completed all at once. Lastly, the right mindset is absolutely essential to a successful ritualized life. If you become really skilled at your ritual practice, you will also be able to transform the seemingly mundane tasks of your day into something better. This will happen as a result of the mind and heart that you’ve cultivated from consistent ritual practice. Changing your child’s diaper, preparing your meals, getting dressed or even commuting to work will be experienced with new eyes.

I extend a warm invitation to create a customized ritual practice for you as part of my Meaning & Purpose Architecture services. Click here: Get A Customized Ritual Practice and send me an email to schedule a brief 15 minute “Tea Time” session to get started. This can be done in-person, by phone or Skype/video conferencing. Peace and blessings…

-Derek

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