Rituals: "Doing is Believing"

Published by Happy Girl Yoga August 6th, 2016. 

I’ve never been one for rituals. Not for bedtime, not for the morning, not for any time in between. I’ve always done what I wanted, when I wanted. I’m a “live-in-the-moment” kinda lady. (I am an Aries rising, after all.) Rituals and traditions always seemed so arbitrary to me. Consistency never served me because I never let it. 

It wasn’t until I returned from backpacking across Asia and had to start my life back in New York from the ground up that I began to appreciate the value in creating routines like boundaries, or a figurative structure, like a house to live in. 

Routine has become essential to my recovery. And although it took me a while to develop... behold, my newly found bedtime ritual:  (Ahem.)

  1. Light an incense stick with an intention for the next day
  2. Meditate for at least five minutes
  3. Journal at least one page + gratitude list
  4. Place a healing stone of my choice under my pillow after giving it a prayer
  5. Spray pillow with lavender essential oil
  6. Turn out the lights.

This routine is now the difference between 8 hours of peaceful, rejuvenating sleep vs. a night of restless, erratic sleep that leaves me pulling my past behind me like a bag of bricks for the rest of the week. 

To be honest, there’s a part of me that resents the dependency I have for this “consistency.” To me, living in the moment is contrary to all things tradition. Tradition is living in the past. It’s blindly following guidelines someone else wrote, even if it was you...yesterday. 

But, but, but...then why is it helping me heal so quickly? I’m sleeping better, feeling better, working better and I feel happier and more "whole" when I remember my rituals. And damnit, if I don’t write in my gratitude journal for AT LEAST two minutes each night, my sleep schedule goes to hell. 

So I started to think about this idea of ritual more. Where did it come from? Why do humans and other animals feel so inclined to ritualize events? Making ceremony out of life, death, love and ideologies? 
And when the answer didn’t come to me quickly enough (cough, Aries rising, cough cough), I googled it.
That’s when I found this little nugget on Wikipedia:

The performance of ritual creates a theatrical-like frame around the activities, symbols and events that shape participant's experience and cognitive ordering of the world, simplifying the chaos of life and imposing a more or less coherent system of categories of meaning onto it. As Barbara Myerhoff put it, "not only is seeing believing, doing is believing."

Of course! Performance. The ritual of acting. Something I can relate to. 

For the same reason we act, watch theatre, and go to the movies--we tell stories so that we can better understand our human condition. It’s like looking at life in a mirror, so that we can sit in the seat of the observer and reflect on what’s important. Who we are, how we got here, where we’re going. 

And that’s when I realized, routines/rituals/traditions etc. are not about reliving what is already past in order to somehow dodge what’s really the present, but in fact, lays the foundation for us to absorb the present moment even more profoundly.

In other words, rituals are a homecoming. A safe haven from your journey, to touch base with where you’ve been, where you are now, and a place in which to situate yourself, with conscious deliberation, in order to succeed in where you’d like to go. 

Eli WalkerComment