May 11 • 4M

VoiceNote #006

The transformative power of Ritual

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This audio newsletter explores what happens when you apply a bit more curiosity to life. The art of being curious is spotting the difference between a good question and a great question. As a practice, curiosity embraces the magic of a great query. It takes audacity to say "I don't know" because a search for an answer is so special. Because asking the greater question even is just as valuable as alighting upon an answer. Trading the safety of cynicism that is so prevalent in adulthood for the possibility of adventure is my invitation to you. Consider the possibility that the joy and pleasure of childlike curiosity can move mountains as powerfully as seriousness and pain. Like Alice, I invite you to unabashedly pursue wonder. Doing so means allowing yourself to fall down the rabbit hole.
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The word ritual has been around for centuries, but it is difficult to find a concise definition. The most common way to describe a ritual is as a specific set of actions that are performed repeatedly by individuals who belong to a particular group or culture. Within any given society, rituals can be seen in religion, sports, and even art and music. I’ve been fascinated lately with how rituals can affect our lives both personally and professionally.

open book beside white ceramic teacup on saucer
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

I don’t think we realize how powerful rituals are—we often treat them as a daily to-do list. Rituals can help improve our relationships and shape our identity. Rituals aren’t about getting things done—instead, they force us to slow down and be with the activities and people that really matter to us. They are ways to engage in the practice of mindfulness—to remind us that we are, in fact, Beings and not Doings. They remind us that there is more to life than labor and productivity and that it’s important to do something that focuses on ourselves. They help make time for self-reflection and personal growth. And even when you feel stressed out or tired, performing simple rituals can be an easy way to relax your mind so you feel ready for whatever comes next.

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Part of what makes rituals so interesting is how flexible they are, and how different from one person to another. Are rituals born from daily habits? Are they one and the same? Can rituals have a negative impact on how we live? I think there are negative aspects to ritualistic behaviors, but not necessarily personal rituals. As someone who has to manage anxiety every day, I know how easy it is for comfort routines to become unproductive, harmful, or ineffective. For example, people who feel compelled to drink every night before bed aren't doing themselves any favors by depriving themselves of sleep over their addiction issues. Are you paying attention to whether your habits are adding or subtracting value to your life? There will always be times when we have to evaluate if a ritual isn't serving us and choose to set it aside and replace it with something more useful. Through journaling or contemplation, you can come up with a new way of interacting with life that serves you better than old habits ever did. This is called creative non-resistance and I think it's pretty powerful.

Like so many other aspects of our daily lives, rituals are an integral part of what makes us human. At its core, a ritual is a repeated act that fulfills certain requirements and serves certain purposes. Being intentional about creating rituals, can be transformative. When we allow ourselves to create rituals in our everyday lives, we can tap into a tremendous amount of power. Whether you want to create a morning ritual or an evening ritual, there are many things you can do. In fact, start looking for those opportunities today—may surprise you how much life opens up when you create rituals for yourself or become more mindful of the ones you currently practice. Evaluate the current practices in your life that bring you joy, pleasure, bliss, and peace. Make time for people who reflect the parts of yourself that you love or like—and just spend time. Our rituals can help guide and inspire other nourishing behaviors throughout the day.

Self-reflection is a powerful practice that helps us identify our core values and sort out who we are; it also reveals things like thought patterns that lead to building effective personal rituals. If you want to gain greater insight into yourself, make building personal rituals a habit. Identify at least one routine you can engage in every day — and use it as an opportunity to start connecting with the power in the small, everyday moments in your life.