One thing about life is certain, it is completely unpredictable. Life hums along a bit and you find your rhythm and feel like you are juggling all of the balls in the air with some measure of ease and then, out of nowhere, a new ball joins the mix or one is unexpectedly dropped.
The uncertainty of life can be a huge source of anxiety and stress for most people. Think of the last time you were really antsy about something. Think of the last time you were really plagued with worry. Did it involve you not knowing how something was going to turn out and desperately wanting to fast forward so that you would know how everything turned out? Yeah. Me too.
There hasn't been a single day in any of our lives that we were able to know for sure what would happen next and yet we feel compelled to wonder about the future, hope it goes the way we believe will be best, and worry when reality differs from our mental script about how life ought to unfold. While we can't predict or control most aspects of life, we can choose to have rituals sprinkled throughout our lives that provide us with a sense of predictability, control, and consistency. A ritual is defined as "a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence." All human societies incorporate ritual. There are religious rituals, rights of passage, sporting event rituals, holiday rituals, and many other symbolic acts that we regularly engage in that are prescribed by tradition.
What if we borrow some of this wisdom to create personal rituals of our own? I bet you already have a couple of things you do each day that bring you some measure of comfort. Starting the day with a warm cup of coffee or tea may be something that you already practice. You likely anticipate this as a symbolic start to your day, make the necessary preparations so that you are sure to be able to engage in this morning ritual, and may even have some sense of order around how you go about preparing your first drink of the day.
In our home, we never run out of coffee. Ever. Even if it's late at night, a trip to the market will take place in order to ensure that the start of the next day will be paired with a warm cup of coffee. It never gets old and I always look forward to it. Some rituals are more deeply engrained than others I suppose. Also, caffeine is addictive, so there's that...
I like the idea of infusing a few rituals throughout the day to sprinkle in aspects of predictability and comfort no matter what the other parts of the day feel like. Perhaps you'd like to set aside some time to think of daily rituals that you can infuse into your day? Think of it as an act of self care, a few moments to engage in an experience mindfully, a time to check in with yourself and step out of the autopilot mode of doing and into the intentional space of being.
Some ideas to get you started:
~ Take time for a few big stretches first thing in the morning before you move on with your day. Really get into it and give yourself permission to listen to your body and move in ways that feel good.
~ Have a morning, afternoon, or evening beverage of your choosing in a specific cup, sitting in a specific place, and allow the first 5 sips to be fully experienced with your senses. If you really want to indulge, have all 3!
~ Take a moment to really notice yourself in the mirror before brushing your teeth and offer gratitude for something in your life.
~ Take a mid day walk around the block, following the same path each day, and really notice the sights and sounds around you.
~ Set an alert for a certain time during the day to engage in a 5-10 minute meditation. If possible, sit in the same place each time. Many days each week I engage in this ritual at 2:00 and after a couple days of subsequent practice, my mind really starts to look forward to this "check in" in the middle of the day.
~ Listen to the same radio station or podcast on your way to or from work each day.
~ Spend a few moments reading the paper (and only reading the paper... no multitasking) in the same place at the same time each day.
~ Take a couple moments in your car at the end of the work day before transitioning into your home to acknowledge that your work is done for the day and will be resumed when you next return to your place of business.
~ If you find that you wash the dishes or fold the laundry every morning or evening, perhaps you could bring a sort of ritualistic care and order to this task as well? Can you imagine if your "chores" became comforting moments of certainty?! Jack Kornfield says "We all know that after the honeymoon comes the marriage... In spiritual life it is the same: After the ecstasy comes the laundry."
~ End the day with a few relaxing yoga poses or stretches and bring your focus to the sensations within your body.
I hope you have fun with the process of building in predictability and comfort into your day. On the days that feel most challenging, make sure you make time for the rituals. You deserve them.
“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?” Muriel Barbery: The Elegance of the Hedgehog