Some might say there’s a fine line between ritual and routine, but I think it’s a line worth pondering. If you’re like me, the word ‘routine’ will instantly put you to sleep, or worse still, make your heart retreat into a hard, resistant shell. Ritual however, seems to offer a golden sheen. I like the feel of it, the way I want to savour the taste of it, and the effect it has on my whole body.
So how can two seemingly interchangeable words create such a contrasting effect?
Routine has always felt synonymous with boredom until I started reading Brianna Wiest’s 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think. She explains how routines create a feeling of safety in children and a sense of purpose as adults.
“The point is not what the routine consists of, but how steady and safe your subconscious mind is made through repetitive motions and expected outcomes.”
- Brianna Wiest
It got me thinking about the practices I commit to consistently, and the others which feel obligatory and echo guiltily when there’s an absence of actually doing them, e.g. staying on my yoga mat rather than wandering off to put the kettle on.
What I am more than willing to show up for however, is cacao. Without resistance, every single day I make time to sit with this cup of heart-opening elixir and sing my praises to the earth, moon and sky. I will prioritise my meeting with her over all other appointments, making sure there is at least one hour in my day when we’re present together. This ritual has become an anchor to myself. She has revolutionised the way I move in the world.
She has taught me that we can truly do anything we want to, as long as it’s our heart that desires it.
What do I mean?
Well, have you ever thrown yourself into the pillows sobbing over the lives you’re not living? Do you gaze lustily at other people’s photos, wondering enviously how they got it so good? Do you casually daydream about abandoning your life and setting sail towards a horizon you made up in your mind as an escape mechanism before you knew any better?
I know some of you are answering yes because languishing over how to best live our lives is the topic of books, songs and poems since we’ve had the freedom to decide!
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
- Mary Oliver
If the heart pulls you somewhere, day after day after day, examine that. Look at it from a thousand angles. Why is it so meaningful? What makes it yours? Rather than lament over what we’re not doing, Brianna wisely suggests, “Happiness is not experiencing something else; it’s continually experiencing what you already have in new and different ways.”
I think as long as it holds meaning for us, and showing up consistently is aligned with where we want to go - and more importantly - who we want to be, that fine line between routine and ritual begins to blur. Ritual invites a sense of ceremony, of intention, perhaps offering our pursuit to a higher power or calling in spirit to be our guide. Routine is matter-of-fact, rational and necessary for when we need actionable steps and tangible results. Balancing the two could be the key to joyfully experiencing what we have, whilst leaving the door open to new and exciting possibilities we didn’t see before.
I know this to be true in yoga practice, when one day you can balance in a headstand when you couldn’t the day before. I know it to be true in creative pursuits, when you can go from staring at a blank screen for days, to wishing there were more hours in the day to express all that’s inside you.
Life is the wonder we meet when we consistently show up to our practices. Routines and rituals are the containers for self-discovery and continual growth. They are spaces of transformation, manifestation, where we meet our inner child’s need for security and our heart’s desire for purpose. Brianna summaries succinctly:
“You affirm not only your choice to begin, but your ability to do it. It’s honestly the healthiest way to feel validated.”
Thing is, we’ll only show up if our hearts are in it. Do you know what feeling your heart longs for? How can daily practices support you in tapping into this feeling everyday? This is how we create a life we love, by feeling connected to our purpose in the seemingly small, but extraordinarily expansive moments where structure meets flow; where routine becomes ritual; where milestones soon become memories, and the dreams we once believed out of reach, we effortlessly start creating for our waking life.