I run, always, and I ritual, recently, and while my failures around the former may be primarily minimal, my failures around the latter are paramount. In terms of consciously engaging in ritual and my own self-awareness anyway. And so, if you want to read "Without Ritual (and the Failure to Seek Out the Sacred)" you can do so here and if you want to imbibe on some excerpt you can do so below.
"One foot hits the driveway, then the other.
"There’s an immediate cold slap to my forehead.
"Sharp, crisp, the skin uncovered, exposed to the world.
"The wind little knives coming in from all angles.
"The streets are empty, patches of snow and grit, amoebas oozing across the ground, salt already accumulating in patchy lesions. Stretches of gray punctuated by the occasional bright sign or awning, a moving car.
"It’s winter now.
"It’s also Christmas Day and most people are off in their homes, pajamas and hot drinks, gifts and wrapping paper strewn about the floor around them.
"This isn’t my holiday.
"It is a day of peace, however, a celebration of rest, a refresh, but without the concomitant rituals.
"Though, even that isn’t entirely accurate.
"Since I awoke, I weighed myself, which I do daily, every morning, post-pee, like Hemingway, 195.5 pounds, good for the week, high compared to this time last year, opened the blinds to the outside world, fetched the morning paper, read the morning paper, drank a full cup of water, ate one protein bar, a conscious effort to jolt my blood sugar first thing, poured my coffee one-hour after I got out of bed to ensure I was awake, added cinnamon to boost my metabolism, drank my coffee, journaled, wrote and made the bed, a small success to start the day.
"Then I laced up my running shoes, winter garb in place, including gloves for the first time since last winter.
"I’ve spent much of the last year thinking about ritual, versus merely going about my day as purposeful as that may be.
"In a blog post at Lifehack titled “How Are Daily Rituals Different from Daily Routines?” the author writes (October 2020), “The difference between a daily ritual and a routine is how you think about it. It’s how you perceive your actions. Are they mundane chores that just need to be completed, or are they actions that bring meaning, learning or joy into your life? It’s all about your mindset.”
I’m interested in joy and meaning, though my focus on ritual has been driven by something different, a desire to experience my day and life as a performance where I produce on some level more enlightened than I have been.
"According to the article “How Rituals Alter the Brain to Help Us Perform Better” in Psychology Today (September 2017), “There’s now mounting evidence to show that despite their surface level irrationality, rituals play a crucial role in regulating our performance behaviors.” In particular, “rituals desensitize the brain’s anxiety-related reaction to error, mitigating the negative experience of personal failure.”
"Failure is inevitable and I’ve been focused on embracing it. It’s how we respond to failure that’s crucial, and rituals help us to keep moving forward.
"How can this work?
- Start the Day with a Ritual – Rituals serve as a fresh start and successfully implementing them carries over into the tasks to come.
- End the Day with a Ritual – This can involve reflective-type exercise, looking back on the day and evaluating how things went.
- Be Sure the Ritual Is Your Own – Make it personal.
"I can do that, right? I think so. I’m finding out now."