Tag Archives: Conscious Living

On Growing Acres of Diamonds in Your Yard or A Tale of How Your Rituals Create Your Reality

rituals“We are what we repeatedly do.”

Aristotle

This past year, I found myself floundering — stuck within an alternating cycle of feeling either overwhelmed or paralyzed.  The combination of creative tasks, course work and deadlines typically drives me with a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment. However, though I had both homework to produce and blog posts to write, I struggled to find the words to express myself.  Instead of studying or filling pages with words and ideas, I consoled myself by eating cookies and watching lots of 24 hour news networks. Needless to say, none of this was any help in boosting my productivity or pulling me out of the mean reds.  So, I started working with a coach. It has been a good — if challenging experience. I have learned some great things from him, but I think the greatest lesson is on the power of ritual.

As I put these thoughts to paper, I realize that I wasn’t depressed. The real truth was that I had fallen into a series of bad habits: email before prayer and meditation, stagnating in front of the TV instead of walking, and lunches at buffets instead of healthy, homemade salads and juices.

I had totally forsaken one of the key doctrines of living a life that I love: if you want an extraordinary life, you must have equally extraordinary routines and rituals. My coach, Fred, reminded me of this and stressed (and still stresses) this with every call we had.

I was stuck because I was allowing life to happen around me. I was overwhelmed because I was trying to squeeze as much as possible into each day with no plan of any kind. I was stuck in habits that exacerbate our feelings of stagnation, and I allowed my feelings of being overwhelmed to paralyze me.

“There is a comfort in rituals, and rituals provide a framework for stability  when you are trying to find answers.”

Deborah Norville

So, what is it that I need – that we all need? The twin powers of routine and ritual. Nourishing and supportive routines help frame our lives. Rituals remind us of our own sacredness, our desire to connect with our core, and our relationship with our higher power.

The word “routine” can seem incredibly rigid and dull, but good routines are neither. Rather than stifling your creativity, routines are about managing your energy effectively in order to direct it toward your real desires and purpose. Our daily actions are what create our life, so by creating nourishing and supportive routines, we are choosing to fuel our days and nourish our spirits.

We all need daily time-outs, an excuse to stop and take a moment to celebrate, connect, honor and recognize the different aspects of our lives. This is where ritual comes in. Rituals offer us compassionate discipline where we focus our attention and energy on achieving a certain feeling. They will ground us regardless of what’s happening around us.

Extraordinary routines require minimum engagement in order to let us achieve productive results. Rituals are celebratory, meaningful, and require us to be completely engaged—even if it’s only for two minutes.

One of the first things I did after starting to work with my coach was to reestablish nourishing routines and rituals, thereby creating structure, support, and strong moments of being. I realized very quickly that solid morning and bedtime routines formed parenthesis around my day. This seemingly simple change in my day-to-day living has altered my world.

I’m more productive, more creative, and feeling incredibly grounded. My sense of drive and purpose has returned to me with an underlying feeling of peacefulness. Nearly every person I talk to says that the way they start their day sets a tone for the whole day. Our morning routines set the tone for productivity, and our morning rituals give us a daily check-in with how we want to feel, and who we want to be.

“I believe in rituals.”

Charles Simonyi

So, what should we include in our morning routine?

Choose actions that create an environment of order and support. Simple chores like unloading the dishwasher and clearing the kitchen counters don’t just minimize disorder; they also leave your energy available to help you create and strategize rather than merely reacting.

Similarly, nothing can disrupt your day like skipping a part of your morning routine. Even something as basic as making the bed every morning gives your brain an important message: the old day is over, and today is a fresh, clean slate.

Creating your morning ritual can be just as simple: just turn some of your regular morning tasks—showering, for example, or making coffee — into a time of reflection. Some of my greatest awakening thru prayer has been in the shower. Even transforming the most mundane activity can be a way to choose how you want to feel, to honor your soul, and to show respect for your spirit.

I spend time each morning in prayer and meditation, and writing in my journal —activities that never fail to connect me with my core and remind me of my sacred place in the world. And I give thanks for my blessings – thank you for the blessing of breathing; thank you for the feeling of my feet on the floor; thank you the sun streaming thru my windows; thank you, thank you, thank you.

“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.”

Pat Conroy

More powerful than any morning habits, however, are our bedtime routines and rituals. Bedtime routines allow us to close out our current day as well as stage the coming one. The elements of your routine should be personal to you, but I recommend that they include both self-care (brushing your teeth, washing your face, moisturizing your skin) and preparation for the coming day (choosing your outfit, reviewing your appointments, and staging your bag and keys near the door).

Your bedtime ritual, on the other hand, is a time to focus on connection, reflection, and celebration. Regardless of how much you did (or didn’t) accomplish that day, each evening is an opportunity to reconnect with yourself, your desires, and your spirit. Connecting with our spirit is a vital component of creating a life we’re in love with.

Later, after my own self-care, I write in my gratitude journal, both to remind myself what I’m thankful for, as well as to record the highlights of the day; often I share this gratitude writing on Facebook. Finally, I take a few moments to still my mind with prayer or meditation. Lastly, I proclaim aloud the best thing that happened that happened that day and turn off the light.

Even if I’ve had a bad day, these rituals help me fall asleep feeling peaceful, content, and loved.

Adding small rituals of opening and closure to my days gives tremendous value to my mind and soul. For me, good rituals are evident in how peaceful my heart feels.

I fully recognize that it’s possible to get stuck even in good routines. The routines that work now may not be as productive next week. Dreams and desires are ever-changing, so as I continue to grow and stretch myself, my routines and rituals will grow and stretch as well.

Empowering routines, along with loving rituals, are essential ingredients in the recipe for living a daily life that I love. By creating your own rituals and routines, you’ll be taking the first steps to creating your own recipe.

On In Chaos, There is Fertility or A Tale of Today Being the Day I Turn Things Around

“In chaos, there is fertility.”

Anais Nin

“How did I get to this point?”  This question pulses through my brain daily.

Some days I’m done. I have nothing left to give. How did I get here?

“Gradually, then suddenly.”

With eternal gratitude to Ernest Hemingway, three simple words so summarize how I ended up in a situation I didn’t want or expect.

“How did you go bankrupt?”

“Gradually, then suddenly.”

Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises)

It happened so gradually, almost imperceptibly. And then suddenly, unequivocally, shockingly, I had suffered my fall, my breakdown.

Looking back, I can see that I had willingly immersed myself in anxiety, perfectionism, comparisons, sleep-deprivation, a lack of mindfulness, poor health, and pride.  Gradually, these things took their toll — until suddenly I found myself in a dark and frightening place.

This gradual, then sudden decline is not reserved for dramatic breakdowns. It’s not reserved for high-achievers, or emotionally sensitive people. Trust me, this place I find myself in is open to us all.

We each face sudden declines. Moments where we realize what we’ve been neglecting, treating poorly, or taking for granted. It could be:

Weight/Health – the moment we step on the scales, try to walk three flights of stairs, or look at a recent photo.

Addictions – the moment we realize we cannot cut ties to a substance, an emotion, spending, sex, or a person.

Debt – the moment we are brave enough to look at our credit card statement, answer the debt collector’s phone call, or realize we’re living beyond our means.

Clutter – the moment we realize how materialistic we’ve become, how much money has been spent on stuff, or how entitled we’ve become.

Time – the moment we realize we’ve watched more than sixty days of television in a year, the months are passing with little to show for it, or the reflection in the mirror is ten years older than we remember.

Relationships – the moment we realize we haven’t spoken to our best friend in months, seen our grandmother since Christmas, played Candy Land with our kids, or told our loved ones we do love them.

Either we’ve stopped paying attention to what’s important, or we’ve decided that not knowing the truth of our situation is preferable to seeing the reality.

Fortunately for us, there will come a moment when things snap back into focus. And that moment will build gradually and arrive suddenly, leaving us reeling.  Believe it or not, this is a blessing.

I have discovered just like the decline, the ascent will be gradual, then sudden.

I’m working now to turn things around; it’s much harder than you would suspect. I am happier, healthier, more engaged, and more content than I have been in quite some time, but I have so far to go. As I realize more and more my life had been one big, precarious balancing act, I begin to see what is and is not important.

I’m taking the time to work out what truly matters. I try to remove the expectations, the comparisons and the “I deserve more from life” thoughts.  As I do it becomes simpler to see what my priorities need to be:  my family, love, creativity, health, spirituality, joy and beauty, and most importantly, making the time, space, and energy to experience each of these fully.

Initially, embracing the mindfulness I’d been reading and studying and paying lip service to for years and really engaging with my family, friends, and life was terrifying. What if I’m lacking? What if I don’t like what I see? What if you/them/they don’t like what you/they saw? (Does anyone really get to a place where are they free from caring about what others don’t like that they see in you? Yes, but it’s hard)

I’m discovering there is so much more to experience in life by practicing mindfulness — taking the time to engage in fierce and real conversations (these are best with Tim Jopek), to notice the exact shade of lavender in a sunset, to discern the subtleties in different varieties of basil, to be completely in the moment. There is depth and joy right there.

I long neglected my own health — both physical and mental. But as I start my ascent I begin to see huge benefits to time spent on myself.

Meditation, chanting, time spent alone, studying, eating clean foods, sleeping more, exercising regularly, rising early—these changes all are assisting my ascent.

When you are unwell or in poor health, you can’t fully engage with those people and things that matter. Too much of your energy will go towards simply getting through the day. So ask yourself, “What is one thing I can change today that will help improve my health?”  For me the answer is moving.  Moving more will improve my health and well-being.

Learning to be content with my circumstance is helping me live a far more meaningful life since my fall. Finding contentment has brought peace and gratitude and happiness, where for years there had been none.

I no longer feel like I deserve more from life without working for it. I know I can work towards goals and dreams—and I do, every day—but I no longer feel entitled to them. It’s incredibly liberating.

If you can find contentment in life where you are right now, the pressure, the anxiety, and the stress of needing to be more simply disappears, leaving you free to actually pursue your goals and dreams from a place of peace and acceptance and tranquility.

If you find yourself needing to turn things around make today the day you turn things around. Or will you wait for the sudden realization that you have arrived at a place you didn’t want or expect to be?  If there is one thing I can impart to you thru this blog it is don’t wait until it is too late to make those changes.

The beauty of it is, you don’t have to wait—you can choose to turn it around today.

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!