On self-care: rituals

the idea that we can keep little rituals in our arsenal came to me when marlee first gave me a key to the shop. she handed me the key and instructed me to try and take a deep breath before opening up. i do it every time. this small moment is grounding and energizing (as deep breathing tends to be) and coupling it with the act of unlocking the have company door always provides me with an oomph of motivation and the mindset i need to spend the day shopkeeping and interacting with new people.

this is a perfect example of what a ritual should be: tiny and circumstantial and uplifting and personal and able to be shared or suggested. you do not need to perform the same rituals every day. in fact, don't think of rituals as something that needs to be performed. i used to think of rituals as something like having a whole step-by-step routine every morning and night involving candles and incense and chanting-- a whole ceremony. that idea is daunting to me. if it's not daunting to you, then by all means do that! it's easier for me to implement fleeting rituals into my days and actually stick to them.

a small note on habits:

rituals are always habitual, but habits are not always ritualistic. they can be, of course, if they contribute to the connection you have with yourself. you must be engaged mentally to call a habit a ritual. ie, i've made it a habit to palm the ground whenever i am in the shower. i stay in the stretch for as long as i need to relieve the tension in my legs, lower back, and spine, and i take this time to focus on my breath. i would consider that to be both a habit and a ritual. the automatic neck stretches i do when i'm finished brushing my teeth is something i never think about, so it would be solely a habit (a strange one at that, i know).

external rituals are just as important as internal ones. rituals that involve interacting with your environment, whether it be a person or a place, ground us physically and mentally. they help us practice gratitude for what's around us. i'm partial to touching others lightly on the arm and holding hands. light touches may seem casual in the moment, but they are rituals nonetheless. to feel more connected to my environment i like to look out and up when i go for a walk. i try to find spots of light that play nicely on building façades, or focus on the smaller architectural details of neighborhood houses, or notice the way tree branches will quiver even in completely still air. i listen for sounds-- nature sounds, construction sounds, people sounds. maintaining a higher level of awareness in your environment brings you a better sense of harmony.


some rituals i have:


a lot of my rituals involve stretching. i've mentioned the shower stretches i do. i also practice yoga most mornings (more on that, and exercise in general, later)... when i'm in a new situation i will do some stretches to help harness my nervous energy or my excitement.

pinching between my thumb and forefinger

i do this when i feel overwhelmed to the point of tears. the jolting pinch helps bring me out of my emotional frenzy and back into a mental space that is balanced with my physical body

sighing; breathing

i sigh a lot but not out of exasperation; a sigh is a quick way for me to lift my mood and feel calmer

knee-grabbing and tucking

when i am sitting for too long i pull my knee up to my chest or tuck it to the side, with my ankle underneath my other thigh. this helps to shift my alignment as well as my perspective. this position also gives me inexplicable confidence, so i like sitting this way when i am around new people.

light touches

as i explained, i like to touch people on the arms or shoulders or hold their hand. this strengthens our connection and fosters platonic intimacy.

looking up and out

again, to enhance an environmental connection

some questions:

what does ritual mean to you?

reflect on where you might have 'holes' in your day that could benefit from incorporating a new ritual.

try sharing a ritual with others and see how it affects them differently

next week i will discuss the importance of ease in the practice of self-care