By Priscilla Smikle
Rituals. What does it mean to you? What is the reason for having one? For me, when I was first introduced to the concept of rituals I immediately thought of religion. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to look to religion to find a rituals to aid you. It can be entirely tailor made as well as a personal activity for you. I didn’t always find it necessary to develop one. I was what you may call spiritually lazy. I always seemed to be running around like a chicken without a head and could not understand why! I felt like my life was in chaos and actually entertained myself with the thought of what else could go wrong. It was like a game of how bad can it get and laughed at myself when life met that challenge. It was like I was trapped on a crazy train, that I happened to be driving! It was exhausting. Thankfully after some self-reflection and study, I raised my standards. I realized I didn’t have to live that way anymore. Having rituals to me is about having and implementing daily habits that can improve your life greatly. It has for me. I went from a depressed and very angry person (with a sense of humor) to a person that now goes with the flow. I have the innate knowledge that I am responsible for my own life. I now have control of the direction of my life, even if it seems like outside factors have contributed. Implementing this new way of life has allowed me to be centered and genuinely happy. The way I see it, rituals gives you a solid way to accomplish your daily goals in the easiest and most efficient way possible.
Rituals, when done in an intentional way, can bring about the calm needed to focus and navigate the day. I know for some, the idea of adding something else to their day seems like mission impossible. Many feel that they can’t manage to fit yet another thing into their busy life. What if I told you that you are already engaging in rituals? Yup, every and each day! Sure it might not be a formal ritual, or something you have put thought into but it’s still one. Granted you may not have been doing it on purpose or were even aware of it. Most times it just happens by default. Let’s go through a typical day and you’ll see what I mean.
Wake up maybe cursing the sun that you must get up or hitting the snooze for the 5th time. Check email, social media, text messages, news sites, etc. before even getting out of bed. Finally get out of bed and start your particular grooming routine. Maybe have breakfast before rushing out the door to work or school. Or maybe you have to take the kids to school then you shuttle off to work. Get to your destination and depending on how much you like your profession or workplace, engage in conversation with coworkers before you officially start the day. Then by say 9:30, you start the task in front of you. Then by about 9:35 you start the countdown to lunch (let’s be honest). By1:00 you maybe high tail it out of there before the crazy lunch crowd eats into your precious hour or enjoy a blissful hour at your desk catching up on social medial (oh how you’ve missed Facebook). Then let’s say by 2:05 you slowly get back to work silently counting down until 5pm. 5:00 comes and you can’t get out of there fast enough (don’t even look at me with that question you should have asked a half hour ago random colleague make your way to the exit and head home sweet home. Get home, maybe with kids in tow and get ready for round 3 of the day. Get some dinner and settle in for the night. Now it’s time to get ready for the next day. By now about 10:00pm so you might collapse into bed and hopefully fall asleep quickly. That is of course if you haven’t checked in with email, social media, news sites, etc.
Sounds more or less like a typical day right? Now imagine doing that every day, let’s say 5 days a week for just a year. That is a whopping 245 days (excluding vacation days and holidays)! Now within that 245 days how many of those times were devoted to your spiritual self? Or your dreams and desires? Or even deliberately intending how your day played itself out? How much of that time was spent expressing gratitude to all that you do have?
Now just think about this, what if you were able to just insert 10 to 15 minutes for yourself? Not just doing mindless activities but really working towards improving the life you want. That could be finding more time to feel centered, improving focus, or attracting experiences that you want.
The rituals that many of us do employ, really does nothing to serve us. More often than not, it reminds us of what we are missing or aching for. With all the distractions we happily welcome into our lives sometimes has a surprising side effect for us. For many focus is the casualty or side effect that is often seen. Sometimes it can also bring us feelings of the lack in our lives. This creeps up through boredom, pessimism, frustration, worry, blame, anger, insecurity, etc…you get the picture. How does this make you feel? Not good I bet. I’ve been there for way too long myself. Sometimes we are just in a crummy mood and can’t understand why. Society and our own social circles may have us believing that this is perfectly normal. I mean who the heck is happy all the time? I would like to counter with this; who the heck wants to be miserable all the time?! Now, what if I told you that yes, you can happy…Anytime YOU WANT. Please don’t get me wrong this isn’t a condemnation on social media, not at all. Social media can be a great resource for connection and many of you have connected to Real Life Renewal or our blog the Love Bar because of it. So to put it into perspective it is a resource that has its place, but not a place to model your life on.
I’m going to share with you one of my rituals that I use to start my day. Now a little background on myself: I’m single mom of two boys; I’m self-employed and I drive every day to and from Manhattan from Brooklyn each day in rush hour (if you’ve ever driven in through NYC during rush hour traffic you know why it’s important to be centered). My arsenals of tools in no particular order that can be used on any given day are:
Music/dancing. I know this seems like a lot but some days some methods work better than others and it’s always good to have variety.
My daily ritual starts even before I get out of bed. I sit up and do a meditation which consists of deep breathing exercises during the work week which takes about 15 minutes. On the weekends I prefer to do a guided meditation as well as my breathing exercise. Then, I get out of bed, wake up the kids and we all do our morning prayers. On my commute I try to make my time work for me and try to build up my day with some good energy I’ll put on the music and dance right in my seat. I try to avoid angry and sad songs and opt for upbeat music to reflect what I would like to see my mood for the morning. You want to listen to something that not only makes you move, but also feels uplifting to you. Most times, I would see traffic lighten up right before my eyes or most times I’m just having such a great time I don’t even notice. When I get home I will get a brief workout in about 20-30 min before I head into work. My workouts are pretty what I prefer to do. It can be something fun like the “Just Dance” game for the Wii; a workout DVD; a walk/ run routine in the park. While I’m settled in working on a project I make sure I’m totally present and I certainly utilize my Do Not Disturb feature on my phone. When I find that I need a break I entertain myself with a little daydreaming or visualization. I focus on how I want a certain project or certain goal to play out. I know it won’t necessarily pan out exactly the way I envision, but it’s still fun to feel those feelings of having or achieving it. Even well before it comes to pass, it just feels good to know it’s possible. That’s just my extra motivation I give to myself without all the real world pressure that can attach itself to it. By the end of my day I’ve probably used pretty much all of my arsenal, but one thing I do without fail every night is to replay my day. Then right before bed, I find peace and quiet then employ my breathing exercises to help me relax and be ready for a restful and rejuvenating sleep. I do this to reconcile my day and take stock of how it went. I forgive myself for whatever I found lacking in the day. Then I feel a little excited that I can start the day over and feel better. I can then give my offering of gratitude to source for allowing me to enjoy another day; good or bad.
Now, what will your new ritual consist of? What would you like to see your day to day turn into? You don’t have to use all that I do, just do what’s right for you. I hope a glimpse into my day has inspired you to see what’s possible in our hectic lives. I hope you are able to change your current ritual and bring a little joy to yourself each day. Being spiritually lazy is no longer an option for me…don’t be that girl (or guy). Be the person you look forward to being with each and every day. With a few new habits you can cultivate just that. Remember YOU are the first cause in making a better YOU one day at a time!
-Priscilla Smikle is currently the Editor-in-Chief of RLR E-Magazine as well as a RLR Performance Coach