I feel like the concept of rituals gets a bad rap today. When you think of the term “ritual,” it’s likely you’re imagining one of two things: something -- or someone, eep -- being sacrificed on an altar, or some robe-wearing hippie lighting candles under the moon and chanting. Gross. Why do we need rituals today? We’re a modern, practical people. We don’t need to pretend there are gods out there that need us to give them a cow or a magical invocation. We are flush with logic! Instead I will spend my time staring into my magic tiny computer that ruins my brain, ha ha, take that spirituality.
For a long time, that’s the kind of stuff I thought of when I thought of rituals -- if I ever thought of them at all, that is. A sense of cheesiness, disregard, and generally, not understanding why we would ever need them in today’s world.
Then I read an interview with Marie Kondo, the guru of tidiness. I was struck by this description of the first thing she does every morning:
I wake up naturally around 6 or 6:30 a.m. I rarely use an alarm clock. After waking up, I open all of the windows, let the breeze in, and then burn incense. At home we have a Japanese-style kamidana [Shinto household altar]. On the shelf there is some salt, some rice, and some evergreen fronds, and I’ll give this a once-over, freshening things up. Then I’ll pray for the health of my family and friends, and also for myself to get done as much as possible what needs to be done.
It’s such a small but beautiful concept -- the routine of taking the time every morning to feel the air through the windows and reflect on the day ahead.
It reminded me a lot of the pleasure I get out of my morning pages routine -- the space I’ve created, the expressions of myself that I put down on paper every day, regardless of what’s going on. Lighting my candles, setting down my coffee cup, and getting to work.
Thinking about those spaces in the morning, both in Kondo’s example, and my own morning pages, I felt how much it nourished me day-to-day, I started thinking about both of these routines more closely, and wondering why they were striking such a chord with me.
It was then I realized that neither was as simple as a basic routine. They were rituals. Not the woo-woo-hippie nor the bloody-animal-on-an-altar kind, either. Modern rituals. Practical rituals. And since that realization, incorporating a few of them into my life has made all the difference in balance, harmony, and meaning for me in my daily life.
Sounds pretty awesome, yeah? I think you can incorporate some practical rituals into your life, too -- and that you should.