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Personal rituals

When you think of rituals, you might think of tribal dances, religious gatherings, Catholic mass or larger events where there are set ways to enter a gathering. These can all be ritual-based and very often bring to mind personal life experiences of growing up or being introduced to other cultures. 

Do you ever think of your own life and when you have your own personal rituals? Everyday, we all have rituals. From the time we wake up, we go about our toilettes, wash our faces, take our showers, get dressed and head to the kitchen for breakfast. The start of our day is a ritual we were taught from the time we were small. There are times when an alarm does not go off and we find we are rushing our mornings or have half the time to prepare for the day, and our rituals are interrupted.

This sort of interruption can impact the entire day if we feel we are not thinking easily or wondering if we forgot something before leaving our homes.

We are creatures of habit and some of those habits are rituals that bookend our days and help us feel organized and on the paths we choose. 

I remember reading a book by Sobonfu Somé, author from Burkina Faso, where she writes about rituals and how they are integrated in the lives of her tribe. Two particular stories stand out. When a young woman is pregnant, she is taken into the farming fields by the women of the village, and she creates a song that is the song of her unborn child. She returns to the village and the entire village is taught this song. When the baby is born, the village sings this song to the baby in welcome. If this child or adult breaks a law, he or she is brought to the village and the song is sung to remind this person who he or she is. The song is sung at major occasions such as marriage and death. Their songs are identities, to bring them back to their spirits. It’s so supportive to imagine music and a song supporting a person throughout a life.

Another ritual is one I use today. Somé’s tribe usually have plants outside the front door of their houses. When a person returns from work after a long day, she purposely leaves all her heavier responsibilities and worries in a plant at the front door to enter her home as sanctuary from the outer world. What a nice ritual to cleanse one of the day’s demands.

I have a close friend who has long held early morning rituals to start her day, and I know to wait until later in the morning to contact her. She awakens, meditates, goes through a yoga plan, and greets the day with a very healthy breakfast. She is meticulous in keeping her rituals.

Are you aware that your daily habits are really rituals or rather, ask yourself if they are rituals.

Looking at them differently might shift your perception of them, your approach to them. In central Beijing there are small dirt floor round homes where several families live together. Back in 1985 those who lived there had dinner together. It was a ritual to them as they often just had enough food for those who lived in one. Led by the matriarch, they all had roles in preparing dinner which often took an hour. When they finally sat to eat, they were grateful for their food and were aware of the collaboration of the community. They ate slowly and enjoyed their food, something we might incorporate in our lives if we are rushing around.

I have my own daily rituals. Before I go to sleep at night, I ask my body to awaken me eight hours later or at the time I need to awake. My body and I are in sync as it always wakes up on or slightly before the time I ask. I often meditate before getting out of bed considering my day and what I plan to accomplish. Most of my day is open with meetings and calls, and I try to leave room for surprises or the unknown. And very often, my friend Barbara surprises me to see if we can take a brief walk together, 30 minutes max. 

Personal rituals are special to each individual whether you call them rituals or not. I encourage you to consider your day and embrace your daily rituals. It personalizes the day and it’s fun!


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