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RITUAL: The Small Acts of Reverence That Change Us

coffee cup, book and little plant
coffee cup, book and little plant

It can be meditation, it can be prayer… but it can also just be the way you put on your socks.

Has anyone heard of mindfulness? Apparently, being present in the moment can make us happier? I jest – of course you have – to the extent that the word might even provoke an eye-roll for overuse. Essentially, what we’re talking about here is something very simple and ‘easy.’ Unfortunately, we are so conditioned and distracted away from the present moment that coming back to it has to be a practice. It is a practice. You practice; you improve; you falter; you try again.

“Each morning, I will go to the nearest window or outdoor space, and look to the sky. There I express gratitude for being alive and for what the day will bring to me, good or bad. Sometimes I speak aloud or read something previously written that feels relevant. This enables me to start the day with a clean slate, and to connect with the world around me.”

From our very beginnings, ritual has been an integral part of human life. Evidence of purification, gift giving, rites and sacrifice can be found in every culture, spanning thousands of years. Nowadays we largely tend to find less gory ways to connect with a higher power (whatever that means to us personally) but however small the ritual, it is what it means to us that matters.

‘It is helpful to shrink and make the smallest things vast’

Sylvia Warren

One of the things that I find most interesting about people, is their habits. Good and bad (although it has to be said, my partner’s lip smacking still makes me more murderous than intrigued, no matter how much yoga I do). Our habits make up our day – and therefore our lives – and we are often completely unaware of them. Apparently I repeatedly touch my forehead with the back of my hand when I’m tired, “like some sort of operatic heroine.” Who knew? So, yes, people’s ‘ways’ are fascinating and irritating and often completely incomprehensible to us. But I am also interested in the conscious habits people have; small things that over the course of their lives have become a part of their daily routine. And what makes routine into ritual? Mindfulness.

“I have so many rituals. They help me feel I’m doing the best for myself. My rituals help me to feel safe. One of my favourites, for winter especially, is – I rub oregano oil into my feet every night. It’s my version of the Victorian’s chopped onion in bed- socks to ward off illness!”

I thought it would be fun to delve into the minds of others, look at the rituals they have in their lives, and perhaps take some inspiration for ourselves (I’ve chosen a few to share with you amongst the paragraphs). Some were more traditional – prayers or ceremonies – but some were simply about taking the time to be fully conscious.

“The first thing I do when I wake up is – I sit and watch my tarantulas…it makes me feel alone, in the nice way”

I have a new one (born out of necessity really because all this hand sanitising is making my skin fall off). Before bed, I moisturise my hands. I look at them, take deep breaths and do it thoroughly and thoughtfully. I like it. It makes me feel calm and grounded. It makes my skin not fall off. It also makes me feel like one of those rich ladies in the movies that creams her hands in the mirror, whilst scolding her husband.

“You know how your gran always said to brush your hair 100 times before bed? – well, I actually do that now”

I’d also like to point you in the direction of Kitchen Club Podcast where guests are asked about their ‘healthy habit’ before recording, so creators Sarah Malcolm and Serena Louth can try it out and report back. I’ve found it a great source of inspiration. Sometimes you’ll just come across something that clicks, and it becomes a part of your life. I’ll leave you with Sarah’s morning ritual. Maybe this week you’ll find a new one, or just create one out of something routine…

woman's hands holding coffee cup

“A ritual that I’ve really grown to love and appreciate (especially in lockdown) is my first cup of coffee in the morning. A simple thing that can be so easily taken for granted. I allow myself to enjoy it without distractions and to take in the moment. The whole process turns in to quite a meditative experience as I feel the warmth of my first few sips in my throat and really appreciate the taste and smell. It sets me up for the day before the swarm of emails and my to-do list starts whizzing around in my head.”

We’d love to hear about your rituals too – past, present or planned for the future! Comment below.

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