February 22, 2014

The Importance of Ritual. ~ Anne Jelinek

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I spent years assuming that I didn’t have a meditation practice because I simply “lacked discipline” and ate chocolate instead of drinking tea at night because I “lacked willpower.”

Yoga teachers talked about the power of focus, self-help books told me I simply needed more discipline and I read countless blogs about ways to increase willpower. But, somewhere in the past year’s journey into myself, it dawned on me that there is nothing lacking in my true Self keeping me from doing the things I wanted.

My schedule as a yoga teacher and kettlebell coach is fairly fluid and I found was struggling with a feeling of chaos.

It seemed that no matter how hard I tried to plan lifestyle changes into my day, they simply wouldn’t stick. Despite teaching students on the mat how not to “muscle” it, I was trying to force parts of my life to look like I thought they should until one day I ignored my emails in the morning and sat down with a cup of tea and my journal.

It was so nice.

I did it again the next day.

And the next.

One night I poured a cup of my favorite coconut oolong tea and simply inhaled before taking a drink.

The next night, I took two breaths.

Then five.

As I instituted simple “tea rituals” in my life, I noticed that there was time for meditation in the mornings and that I found myself craving tea instead of sugar at night. In addition, other parts of my life slowed down and I became more mindful.

Rituals have been part of human existence since the beginning of time, but much of Western culture has opted for iCalendar and punishing, exacting schedules instead.

A Japanese tea ceremony can last up to four hours soaking up the simple beauty of color, smell, temperature and sound. We slug our morning coffee on the way to the train station, while reading our emails.

Ritual can bring a softness to your everyday life, gently offering the following things:

1. Consistency

The key to success is not—contrary to popular belief—force or skill, but consistency.  

The gentle pattern of repetition creates an energy in our lives that is far more powerful than short spurts. Do something that brings comfort on a daily basis to remind your deeper self that doing something regularly doesn’t mean fatigue or frustration.

2. Comfort

Adults need a consistency of comfort just as much as children!

When we are small, comfort rituals are innate. We have a special blanket, a special bedtime song, a favorite food. Somewhere along the line we are taught that comfort is somehow “less than” hard work. As adults we no longer have parents to care for us, the responsibility of creating a loving ritual falls to us and should be attended to just as caringly.

3. Grounding

The process of ritual creates a deep sense of manifestation and grounding, no matter where we are. 

I have moved across the country three times in the last 10 years, and it feels like Home every time I sit down with my tea and my journal in the early morning hours. No matter where we are in time or space, there is a part of us that is always present and never changing. Ritual grounds that part of us in a very primal way.

4. Inspiration

Don’t underestimate the power of a soothed and rooted subconscious!

When I am most myself, most at ease and most grounded, inspiration comes in waves rather than spikes and spurts.  When our minds can gently rest in something each day, it frees up incredible amounts of space for new ideas and powerful images.

The quiet pulse of something familiar creates space for beautiful shifts in life and can bring healing to places long hidden.

Ritual can be as simple as lighting incense before bed, taking a deep inhale before you enjoy your morning coffee or pausing for a moment before meals to center and ground. There are books upon books telling us to “try harder” and “do more with less time.” I would offer up the idea that taking time each day to rest harder and do less with more time, partnered with the sounds, smells, tastes or feelings that recur each day with our ritual, can exact monumental change while we’re not even looking.


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Editorial Assistant: Alicia Wozniak/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: elephant journal archives

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