There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.Wendell Berry
We are human. We forget, fall off, get distracted and are pulled off our plans. Ritual brings us back, helps sets the stage, readies us to sit down and focus. Candles, incense, closing a door, a few deep breaths or kneeling in prayer; these rituals tell us we are about to have an experience, and maybe even help us get into the spirit.
Ritual is a means of orienting ourselves. Think of Pavlov’s dog, the bell rings consistently before he is fed. Soon enough, he hears the bell and his digestive juices start flowing, his mind and body ready for what comes next.
People also honor landmark events and anniversaries with regular observance and ritual. Time honored traditions are put in place because they are tried and true in helping us to remember what we are honoring. Here, too, the act or rite is not the essence, more-so the means to an end.
It is easy to write off many spiritual rituals as inane. I try to remind myself when I’m judging a spiritual practice as rote and thoughtless, that that is kinda the idea, to get out of our thoughts and into the center of our beings.
Do you have to recite 108 prayers of the rosary, or mantras with mala beads? Absolutely not–but maybe check it out and you will find out why that number sticks around. Then if that doesn’t work for you, try another way.
In the course of the next 40+ days you will see that there are tons of different kinds of times, places and practices that work for each of us. As my teacher Elesa says, “Be in the classroom of your life.” Observe what resonates and what doesn’t. Honor your instincts. If mornings work well for you, then mornings it is. Late-night, afternoon siesta, whatever works, just set aside some time each day to be mindful. A particular place where you have privacy at a particular time of day works best. It doesn’t need to be a cathedral with an altar, just somewhere you can be private. I’ve got unruly dogs and teenagers, so trust me, it’s not easy, but it’s possible. For me I have two spots; my third floor and my bedroom next to bed. I am not a morning person but middle age has set in and now I’m up with the birds. I’ve come to love it.
“Keep it simple as possible” advises my friend Mark Gerow, an instructor and coach who works with people with addiction and PTSD. Wellness guru Matt Dewar reminds, “ We have to show up and do the work. Talking about water does not quench your thirst.” Be gentle with yourself, realistic and know that consistency will make it easier.
Here’s the truth: My daily routine does change. Some days are better than others. I just need to keep practicing, even when I don’t feel like it. Especially then. Mornings have become fairly consistent; here’s how I start:
- I wake to my phone alarm and go right to my favorite daily inspiration from Fred Buechner that comes to my inbox at 6:00 a.m. sharp. Buechner is a Presbyterian minister and a gifted writer. His messages are profound and touch my heart. It’s an amazing way to start my day. http://www.frederickbuechner.com/blog
- On Mondays I read Jay Sidebotham’s Monday Matters. (They are NOT mundane, Jay!) http://renewalworks.org/2019/02/monday-matters-february-25-2019/
- I then do some form of meditation, either some movement on the floor of my bedroom or just listen to guided meditation. Depends on how cold it is. Then I sit for a few minutes, again depends on the temp; sometimes I talk myself into “sitting” in bed. That works less well. (Listen below to Sarah Blondin–the best!) Other practices are incorporated during the day but this is “my routine.”
- I highly recommend headphones as the best way to listen to these meditations; I do this in bed alot. (note: I sleep poorly, the technology is both a contributor and a savior to put on when I am sleepless.)
- I have a journal I keep next to the bed. I recommend jotting down thoughts for each day. Write down experiences and gratitudes, it’ll enhance your 40 days. (Composition notebook from the drug store is my favorite journal. ) We write so we know what we think.
So: Get headphones, a journal, and start to establish a time and place to be mindful. 40 days–you can do this. And last, the Meditation app: Insight Timer. It has thousands of meditations and timers and beautiful sounds to choose from. (THE. BEST!) I love Sarah Blondin. Listen below.
Please share your thoughts, preferences, suggestions, comments.