(photo credit: A Shinto shrine in these very Buddhist hills, Yoshimine-dera by Rosewoman on flickr.com. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode.)
We finished making our way through the buffet line and found a table with some of the other people who were on the same yoga retreat with us in Costa Rica.
I sat across from one of our instructors. We put our plates down on the table and began to eat. Except the woman across from me didn’t start right away. She looked at her plate then closed her eyes for a few seconds then opened them and began to eat. When I asked what she’d done, she explained that before she ate, she said a silent prayer in thanks for the bounty set before her.
I’ve been to many dinners where a prayer has been said. My mother-in-law, before meals, often has us hold hands and bow our heads as she says a prayer thanking God for our food. Still, watching this woman silently pray had a huge impact on me. After this meal, I sneakily watched for her at every meal so I could see her giving thanks in her own private way.
Part of why I watched her was that all day long, even when she wasn’t saying her silent prayer, she exuded a spirituality that was all encompassing, a spirituality that I wanted to be a part of.
Rituals give something a sense of importance. When we take our time to behave in a certain way, such as praying silently before a meal, we tell ourselves that we care about this thing we are about to do, that this thing matters to us.
After the yoga retreat this past January, I wanted to create my own rituals because I wanted to feel the way this woman seemed to feel after she gave thanks for her meal.
I took on a few simple rituals surrounding getting up in the morning; before breakfast, every day, I do the following: tongue scraping (I know this grosses out some people but it has the effect of getting rid of germs and keeping your breath smelling clean), brushing teeth (which I’d clearly been doing for most of my life), nasal rinsing (another oddity but since I’ve done it, I haven’t gotten a sinus infection, which previously had been a frequent occurrence), and drinking lemon water.
These few rituals, which aren’t quite as spiritual as the silent prayers, still have had a calming effect on the start of my days. I know what I am going to do when I get up, I do those things, attentively, and then, I begin my day. For the first time in my life, I love my mornings.
We can create rituals around any activity. It doesn’t have to be about getting up or about eating. It can be around work or around exercise or around pretty much anything.
Doing something the exact same way every day is powerful. While I only deliberately use ritual in my morning routine, I realize that I use ritual in many things that I do. For example, when I sit down to write, I always read something that I find inspirational before I begin, then I sit and let my mind be quiet for a few minutes before I dive into the writing.
If everything were a ritual, there wouldn’t be space for the randomness of life that opens us up to creativity, but by creating rituals in some areas of our lives, we discover ourselves and the depths of our control while we open up space and time to let in those things we don’t have control over.
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