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March 30, 2019

The Art of Ritualization.

 

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A few years ago, I decided to make a change in how I do things—and what an amazing impact it had on my life.

I lose sight of it sometimes and forget to do this practice, but every time I go back I wonder why I ever stopped. When I don’t practice it, my life gets hectic and messy; when I do practice it in everything I do, my life is filled with tranquility, and my home is impeccable.

Life distracts us sometimes, and it can be easy to stray from the path in favor of convenience.

I used to really hate coming home from a long day of work just to be stared down by all of the chores and things I needed to do around the house. I’d just put in long hours, and the last thing I wanted to do was more work. I wanted to relax, sit back, and have a beer—not fold laundry. So I didn’t fold the laundry or do the dishes. I would quickly iron the front panels of my shirt in the morning and hide the wrinkled arms and back under my blazer and wash dishes on an “as I need them” basis.

All of that changed when I stumbled across an article on Gong Fu Cha, a Chinese tea ceremony. I really love tea, and years prior, an old woman in an obscure tea shop showed me what it was. She had even gifted me a handmade clay ceremonial tea set, which I still had in the box years later since I was such a regular patron, and we got along really well.

So when I saw the article, I remembered the old woman carefully measuring out tea leaves. I remember as she brought water to a boil and heated the teapot before starting to brew. I remember her counting down the seconds for how long it would take the water to drop down to the exact temperature.

She brewed the tea for 16 seconds and poured the first brewing into a bowl to remove bitterness from the leaves and to open them up (she called this awakening the tea). She added more water, and again, timed an exact brewing time, at which point she poured the tea from one teapot to another to stop it from continuing to steep and then poured me the most amazing tea you can imagine.

Since I had the general idea, as well as the tea set she had given me and a memory of the single best cup of tea of my life, I started studying and practicing Gong Fu Cha for myself. From warming the clay teapot and teacups first, to the precision in measurements, temperature, and timing, to setting everything up in a presentable manner. The end result of Gong Fu Cha is the best tea you can imagine.

I do credit the process for the tea’s amazing flavor, but in my heart and mind I knew that it tasted even better because of that single-minded precision, focus, and intention that I put in to brewing it. Not only did I love the end result—great tea—but I loved the process of brewing it. It’s amazingly therapeutic.

So, I got to thinking one day while practicing: what if I expand this to more things in my life? Why couldn’t I make a ritual out of pretty much any activity?

I gave it a shot.

I ritualized my cooking. Instead of just turning the burner on high, throwing in the ingredients, waiting for the food to heat up, throwing it all on a plate out of my cupboard, and then eating it so I could get back to being unproductive, I tried cooking as ceremoniously as I could. I laid out a tea towel on the counter and neatly arranged all of the spices I would be using. I sharpened my knife (for the first time in my life) and slowly and carefully sliced the vegetables and meat. I added the ingredients together, slowly and properly, cooked at lower temperatures, stirred mindfully, and even heated my plate beforehand.

The end result? You guessed it. Even though I had made the exact same meal countless times, it never came close to how amazing it was after preparing it in a ritualistic fashion.

Laundry, tidying up, cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming—whatever it was I had to do—I did it like this. Carefully, mindfully, with intense focus, and with an end goal of perfection. The impact on my life? Every activity you can imagine is immensely enjoyable. I walk away from everything I do with a feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment.

I suggest you try it for yourself. The next time you cook, make tea, fold laundry, or perform whatever task you’re undertaking, imagine it to be a sacred ceremony you have been charged with displaying, and turn it into a divine ritual, of sorts. I call it “ritualization of everyday activities.” It goes hand in hand with mindful living and can have an amazing impact on our lives and our moods. 

The old woman told me that Gong Fu Cha means “to brew tea with diligence and grace.” So let’s both of us, me and you, do whatever we are about to do with diligence and grace, and reap the benefits it has on our mind and soul.

Another big impact it has had on my life (other than feeling great and happy to be doing any activity you can name?) is that I actually press my clothes and wash my dishes now!

~

author: Aaron Soltys

Image: @walkthetalkshow/instagram

Image: Neptunati/Wikimedia Commons

Editor: Naomi Boshari

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Aaron Soltys

Aaron Soltys is the author of the book, Inner Peace Made Easy: A Simple, Practical Guide to Living a Happier Life. Once jaded and bitter toward life, he spent hundreds of hours reading, watching, attending workshops, and practicing any material he could find on living a happier life. Much of his inspiration came from studies of the teachings of different religions, and practicing different meditations, but he accredits most of his learning to watching plants and animals. If you want to learn to have a happy life, watch what a dog does for a few hours, then copy it.