Routine can sometimes feel like a dirty word. Routine is something you long to escape, like your Monday day to Friday office job or your favourite cereal you can’t help buying. When our lives are devoid of spontaneity and midnight adventures, routine is the scapegoat. Routine seems to be something that just ends up happening in between our daily commutes, when we find our lives lack lustre. Metro-Boulo-Dodo (Train-Work-Sleep) – even the French are not exempt!
Routine, in its most black and white sense, is defined as, ‘the things you do regularly and how and when you do them’. The alarm goes off at 6.30am, I press snooze, it goes off again and I either press snooze again or stumble out of bed, drink coffee, write, catch the bus to work…have shower, take off make-up, go to bed about 11pm. I won’t bore you with the in-between. Routine is devoid of the senses. A routine check-up, a dance routine, your daily routine… like brushing your teeth, these are things that can be done on auto-pilot.
Ritual, however, sounds way more exciting, don’t you think? Perhaps it’s the images of tribal initiations that it inspires, but the word seems to be infused with some extra oomph. Rituals are sacred. Rituals involve all our senses.
Take for example…
- The scent of candles burning at Christmas.
- That morning cup of coffee enjoyed while reading the paper or sitting quietly or writing.
- A weekly bubble-bath.
- The cup of tea that you look forward to having as soon as you get home from work every day.
- A nightly walk around your suburb at sunset, a morning swim at the beach.
- Saturday breakfast at your favourite café.
- The annual family reunion.
- A monthly trip to the salon or beautician
- Or champagne and a massage on your birthday.
If you stop and reflect on any one of these rituals, I’m sure you will feel peace and contentment like I do. Just the thought of a cherished ritual can add some sparkle to our day. Rituals give us something to anticipate and look forward to, whether it’s a nightly glass of wine or a monthly trip to the masseuse.
And ritual helps you transition throughout the day. The thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is thinking about the pleasure I’ll get from sitting at my desk with my morning coffee. I want to enjoy that for as long as possible before my day starts, so I get up. The afternoon cup of tea is a signal to switch from work brain, to home brain, an invitation to relax a little. And something like a bath or hair appointment or massage or even an evening walk can totally transport you to another plane of being, if you let it.
So then, to get the most out of our rituals it seems we have to learn to be present and get out of our head and into our bodies to feel what we want to experience. You need to smell the coffee, not just drink it. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has sometimes not enjoyed a massage as much as I’d intended or found it was over before I’d properly relaxed, because I couldn’t switch off my thoughts.
And how do you switch off your mind? Breathe? That seems to be the answer to most problems. We could also really try to notice our surroundings, the details of the room, the smell, taking it all in with sips not gulps. I guess for most of us with monkey brain, we must be alert to direct our attention back to what we want to focus on. It’s an on-going process and so much bigger than this little blog post.
Now I want to get to the best part of what I want to say, which is actually some brilliant advice from the great Tonya Leigh. She says,
‘Look at you daily habits. Are they bringing you closer to the person you want to become or are they taking you further away? Where do you want to go and are your daily habits going to get you there?’
So if you want to create a better body or be more vibrant, you have to make sure your daily habits, your rituals, include movement and fresh food and sitting down properly to experience your meals and not so much couch time. If you want to be more relaxed, you should probably take the time to stop for that afternoon cup of tea or have some bath time where you totally switch off and enjoy the loving embrace of warm water.
You are free to create the rituals you want in your life, because our habits add up to create the life we have.
So, what are your rituals?