Think of the word ritual and perhaps ideas of tribal ceremonies or ancient practices come to mind at first. But rituals are more present in everyday life than we might notice. And our ritualistic nature might nurture well-being.
The ritual aspect of life goes beyond simple routine. The ritual, unlike routine, always involves some sort of underlying significance that gives rise to meaningful experience.
Let’s have a look at an example of a very typical daily ritualistic experience that occurs even across cultures: the making and drinking of a hot cup of coffee or tea. Many of us have a cup of coffee or tea at some point in the day. We might believe that our primary reason for having that cupajoe or for ordering that non-fat-soy-milk-vanilla-chai-latte is for the energizing effects of the caffeine in it.
But even in this simple, everyday act there may be more than meets the eye. I’m suggesting that if you were given the choice between having a more efficient method of simply ingesting caffeine, say through a pill, or going through the steps you normally take to have that particular experience of holding a warm mug, perhaps a specific mug, and maybe even at a specific time and place, my guess is that you would choose the latter.
The ritual of having a cup of tea or coffee is unique for every unique experiencer, and yet there are overlapping experiences that allow us to relate to one another.
For many of us, going through the steps to make a cup of coffee or tea in a particular way is the only way to have the experience feel just right. We might feel that the taste or all around goodness (the scientific word for rating a cup of tea) is altered if the process goes differently.
But this proclivity to following certain steps might be about more than just the goodness of the finished product. Rituals often involve taking particular steps, and often the steps occur in a particular order. In other words, the ritual unfolds in a way that is predictable, and this predictability is a source of comfort and grounding in the otherwise vast uncertainty of life.
Making that morning brew might really be about mixing together a soulful potion of soothing and comfort, nurturing a sense of well-being that will carry us into the day. And there is nothing wrong with that, in my opinion. The human journey of life can be quite filled with struggle. Everyday there are different stressors and new experiences, and sometimes we’re going through particularly challenging times. It’s these ritualistic moments that can provide relief and remind us of the little gifts for which we can be grateful.
Rituals in our everyday lives give us a sense of connectedness, too. They connect us to the past, to the people and places we love, and to our inner world. A hot cup of tea often provides me with permission to take a soothing break in which I can connect with ideas floating around within me. Heightened creativity and receptivity are often a result of a few moments quietly sipping a hot cup of tea and looking out the window at the birds flying by.
And over time, the rituals in our lives may change. They can be influenced by changes in our lives, changes in our ways of thinking, and changes in the people who are part of our everyday lives. As we learn and grow and experience new things, our rituals grow and change to reflect our new ways of seeing things because rituals are filled with significance. Some things may always stay the same, connecting us to the past, while other aspects take us confidently forward along our paths.
My own tea rituals have changed in a significant way over the past couple of years, as I’ve begun to pay more meaningful attention to my impact on the environment.
Instead of throwing away used tea bags and coffee grounds, I’ve learned some great ways of reusing them, especially in the garden, or even for beauty purposes. So, part of my ritual has been to save the tea bags and coffee grounds to use them later. Below are a couple of links to some creative ideas shared by others. I think I might try these!
Do you have a meaningful everyday ritual that you’d like to tell us about? We’d love to hear from you. Share with us in the comments below.