The Luxury of Ritual

fiery sunset :: wil stewart

Each Friday, I will be writing about personal ritual: what it is, why it matters, and ways we can integrate it into our daily life.

definition of ritual
definition of ritual

When I talk about ritual, I am not talking about something that need be elaborate or time-consuming. Ritual, as we know it in 2015, is not relegated to churches and synagogues and mosques. The very act of eating breakfast, or tying on a pair of work boots, can be ritual. One writer defines personal ritual as:

[A] set of actions that you personally determine to be meaningful, undertaken with the conscious intent to become more fully present to yourself and your life.

Conscious intent. Personal determination. Meaningful.

These are the elements in our life that make us exactly who we are -- where we shift our energy and our focus is what we build more of, and what to us we bring. Bringing conscious awareness to these acts -- infusing them with the reverence we hold for the sacred -- can shift our attention from simply living, to thriving.

Why, then, is this post titled The Luxury of Ritual? If I am positing that personal requires little more than clear intent and focused attention, how can I claim it a luxury? It's actually quite simple.

For much of my life, I have struggled: emotionally, physically, financially, professionally. I have had times of barely getting by, and times of flushness. When I reflect back on what got me through the hardest moments in my life, there is one profound thought that keeps returning: the times I struggled deepest are also the times I both ignored personal ritual and needed it the most. When I re-focused my life and brought elements of personal ritual into it, I didn't always immediately change my situation, but I always shifted my perception and my experience of the situation.

The luxury of personal ritual is that it shouldn't be a luxury.

Each day, we move through life fully immersed in our experiences. Some days, we might wonder if there is more. Some days, we go to bed beautifully content and at peace with our experience. The bridge between these is intention. In yoga, our intention is carried on the breath. Each time we inhale, we draw into our bodies what we are seeking. Each time we exhale, we are releasing that which no longer serves us.

In the practice of writing, there are ways to bring personal ritual into our craft. Here, again, we encounter the idea of luxury. Some of us are able to walk to a desk, where all our tools live, and sit down to focus for however long we choose. Some of us are writing in the school pick-up line, on the back of grocery receipts, after bath time and goodnight kisses and in the few stolen moments before the rest of the house awakens. Some of us do morning pages (an excellent example of personal ritual). Some of us journal before bed (again, a ritual).

Beyond these ideas of how and when we write exists the subject of our craft. What are we doing when the words spill out? What are we trying to tell the world about our lives, our hearts, our intention?

What is YOUR message to the world?

Each week, when I share a moment of personal ritual with you, I am asking you this question: how can you bring focused intent to your daily acts?

For me, today, it is lighting a candle and burning palo santo while working at my desk. The flicker of a small flame reminds me of my own creative spark, the light from which all of my creativity and connection flows. The palo santo reminds me of New Orleans, of a circle of women coming together to create and to enjoy. It reminds me how alive I felt in those days we gathered, and to bring that aliveness into my every action.

What is one thing you can do today, right now, to focus your intention and infuse your life with a moment of the sacred? I'd love to hear it in the comments below!