July 8, 2011

All In The Ritual

I’ve been thinking about rituals lately – the things we do to relax, to center ourselves, or to be reminded that life has a deeper purpose beyond the mundane goings-on of everyday life. Rituals can be anything as simple as washing your face with a particular facewash every morning or practicing yoga after work or something more indulgent such as getting a pedicure or a massage on a weekly basis. Whatever it is, having rituals reminds us to slow down and reflect, allowing us to recharge so that we have the energy to engage more fully in life, whether in our careers, our studies, or our creative pursuits.

I have practiced the same rituals for a while now – listening to music, drinking tea, exercising, and having solo time. I am lucky that I can share a few of these rituals with my husband, but probably my favorite ritual is that of being alone, such as in the comfort of my own space in my study where I have a nice set of speakers and a subwoofer to blast music from.  (If you're going to take listening music to the ritual level sound quality is important.) There I sit in my stuffed chair, sipping tea (another ritual that I enjoy during this time), leafing through magazines, writing, and/or just daydreaming.  Most importantly, my ritual is experienced by simply being in the moment.  Sometimes I’ll do this for 15 minutes; other times I do this for an hour or more. I always know when I’ve had enough, which is marked by that feeling of replenishment and a desire to re-enter the world.  This is when I know that my ritual is working.

While the technical definition of ritual is a "religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order" (Dictionary.com), I believe the key to practicing rituals is that they be whatever it is you feel like doing, rather than something you feel you should be doing, practiced in a manner that feels almost spiritual or meditative. Sure, my ritual of sitting by myself and listening to music and drinking tea may sound boring and a complete waste of time to some, but to me it’s always the perfect remedy when I’m feeling overworked, overtired, cranky, or uninspired. A little soul time always makes me feel like I’ve regained a part of me that has gotten lost in the shuffle during the day or after a long week.

I watched a great documentary last week called All In This Tea, which, in addition to following an American man in China in pursuit of the finest teas, showcases the ritual of tea drinking, which is what got me on the subject of thinking about this ritual thing. In China, tea drinking is all about the experience of the act itself and relaxing, not letting other distractions get in the way. Whether it’s drinking tea or washing the dishes (whatever it is that you identify with) the notion of being present in the moment is the essence of what participating in  ritual pursuits is all about.


Monica {bohemian twilight} said...

hi there,

funny running into this. i recently posted about silence, and tea.
i need it like i need air. the silence, less the tea.....

Sarah said...

Yes, so true. I will have to check out your post!