The Value of Ritual

Do you have a morning ritual?

If you look at the Wikipedia entry on ritual, one might wonder why I’d ask the question.  Ritual is described as inflexible, where one is governed by rules, and the term is sometimes used by psychologists in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior that is seen as a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorders.

That’s not my experience with ritual.  Writing in Forbes, the author Alexandra Douwes encourages millennials to establish a morning ritual.  Her reasoning is aligned with mine.

“Establishing a morning ritual, preferably one that does not involve a screen, can set the tone for your entire day.

Whether your morning ritual takes place at home or in the office, it’s important to ease into your day, and do it on your own terms. Before you let external factors such as screaming children, urgent emails, and smartphone notifications send you into a state of anxiety, start the day by focusing on the things you can control. A consistent morning ritual will put you in a proactive versus reactive state from the get-go: instead of feeling like you’re playing catch-up, you’re composed and ready to tackle whatever obstacles come your way.”

I was reminded of the importance of ritual—regular, habitual, thoughtful action—while having breakfast with a long-time friend and colleague who now serves as the Master of Emmanuel College in Cambridge.  Fiona joined me for our meal and mentioned that she’d just returned from her two-hour walk, a long-held ritual that she honored every morning, even after enduring a trans-Atlantic flight.  We spoke of how this part of her day helped clear her mind and focus on what’s really important now and in the future.

For many years, my morning ritual involved a partner: Lilly, our Sussex Spaniel.  There was never a question that we were going out for a long morning walk around 5:30, rain or shine. But I soon came to see it not as a chore, but as a daily ritual when I was free to let my mind roam. To think of the day ahead. To begin to stretch my limbs and awaken my bones.  To put me in a proactive rather than reactive state of mind.  After talking with Fiona and being reminded that I didn’t need Lilly to continue that wonderful part of my daily ritual, I’ve added it back into my life.

Lilly at Blessing of the Animals

My long-time partner in morning ritual

Rituals vary, and they should be personal.  Some people read in the quiet of the morning before stirring out of bed. Yoga practice is a key part of many morning rituals. Others play piano before facing the world. Douwes has five tips in her article for how to make a ritual that works and that sticks, and she suggests that a vacation period or a weekend may be a good time to try and begin a new ritual.  As we approach the July 4th holiday here in the U.S., consider whether something small—reading, a walk, taking the time to grind your beans and make a great cup of coffee—could help you begin the day in a proactive state.

Have a good week and enjoy the holiday.

More to come…

DJB

The Last Sunday in the Year…A Ritual

In our household (even transplanted to South Florida) there’s a ritual that is as sure as opening presents on Christmas Day:  Andrew and I will read, laugh loudly, and quote liberally for the rest of the day from Dave Barry’s Year in Review.   This ritual drives Claire and Candice up the wall.  Claire just stormed away from the breakfast table as Andrew read,

In non-economic news, a Las Vegas jury convicts O.J. Simpson on 12 counts of being an unbelievable idiot.  He faces more than 60 years in jail, which could end his relentless quest to find the killer of the people he stabbed to death in 1994.

“Stop it,” she cries.  “Dad’s already read it and I don’t care!” but he continues on with,

Meanwhile John McCain, still searching for the perfect running mate, tells his top aides in a conference call that he wants “someone who is capable of filling my shoes.”  Unfortunately, he is speaking into the wrong end of his cellular phone, and his aides think he said “someone who is capable of killing a moose.”  Shortly thereafter McCain stuns the world, and possibly himself, by selecting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a no-nonsense hockey mom with roughly 114 children named after random nouns such as “Hamper.”

I understand her pain, but in my family having the father and son read loudly from the newspaper – while cackling at the jokes – is a family tradition.  (Thanks, Dad.)  Candice and Claire  just have the burden of living with two more in the Brown male line.

Laugh out loud today.

More to come…

DJB