Tag Archives: prayer

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 Doing Battle With The Adversary or A Tale Of Learning To Love The Station Master

But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5:44

Today I had the blessing of attending mass with Father Daniel Schuster.  I’ve only heard FR Schuster preach a handful of times, but each homily he’s preached has moved me; to me FR Schuster is the real deal, a rock star among priests.  Today’s homily was on becoming a sanctuary.  Today’s homily rocked me to my very foundations.

The foundation of this homily was a Gospel reading from Matthew, Chapter 5.  Matthew is my favorite New Testament work with chapters 5 – 7, The Sermon on The Mount being my favorite of all biblical writings.  “But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  WHOA.  This hit me hard and in a new light.  Love your enemies – and then it hit me — I’m my own worst enemy.  Pray for those who persecute you – no one has every persecuted as painfully as I persecute myself.   Who do you need to pray for Kenneth? You need to pray for you Kenneth. Not a prayer of vanity or a prayer of asking, but a prayer of forgiveness and love.  “Help me God to forgive myself for the way I have abused and treated myself.  Teach me to be more loving of myself so I may love others more fully.  Fill me with light and illuminate my mind.  Help me to be worthy to be a sanctuary.”

Of course this isn’t as easy as it sounds.   We all struggle with.  Yes, we’ve all heard the saying “I am my own worst enemy.”  But hearing this today was different.  I heard this with my inner hearing – my spiritual ears.

“Your actions are your only true belongings.”

Allan Lokos

Instead of loving myself, I obsess over whether or not someone could find me loveable and used superficial targets to validate my existence—possessions, grades, jobs, friends, cash, and degrees for fancy coursework.

I feel like a voracious black hole of yearning.  I consumed everything that was closest to me—food, love, validation — in an attempt to fill the void that I experience on a daily basis. That feeling of not being good enough, of seeking desperately for the last piece of the puzzle, the piece that would round me out and make me whole.

I micromanage those around me, offering help that has not been asked for, repairing others because I don’t have the courage to believe I’m repairable.

I require my own love and support. I need my actions to resonate with the deeply hidden spark thriving inside my spirit, that light that hopes someday I’ll come to retrieve it and be a worthy sanctuary.

Now, I often tell people that the spark inside of them, no matter how dim or deeply hidden, is like Tinker Bell as Tink’s light is being extinguished in Peter Pan. That, like Tinker Bell, that spark is enlivened and emboldened by the clapping and cheering and belief in its relevance – belief in yourself. 

That spark represents your inner wisdom, your inner light — the light that will guide you directly toward a life that is tailor-fit to your specifications, a life that is in harmony with all, a life that is worth of being a sanctuary.

And yet, there are times when I doubt its integrity, I doubt myself, favoring instead the words and programs and gospel of experts and gurus, wanting desperately to be fixed, to be whole.

There are those days where I’m certain that if I just read enough or I’m kind enough, that I will be transformed into a person deserving of a beautiful life, deserving to be a sanctuary.

I forget I am the one that I am waiting for.

Who looks outside, dreams;

who looks inside, awakes.

Carl Gustav Jung

So how do you shift this perception?  You do the work.

We can bury our magnificence, but it’s impossible to destroy.  Loving ourselves isn’t a onetime event. It’s an endless, moment by moment ongoing process.  It begins with you, enfolding yourself in your own affection and appreciation.  So despite all the things that you think may be terribly wrong with you, love yourself – LOVE YOURSELF.

The best way to create this is to begin your day with love, not technology – don’t start your day with email, voice mail or Good Morning America; turn the phone off. Remind yourself of your worthiness before getting out of bed. Breathe in love and breathe out love. Enfold yourself in light. Saturate your being in love.

Take time to pray, mediate and journal. Spend time focusing inward daily. Pray is talking to God and meditation is listening to God.  Begin with 5 minutes of pray and meditation and 5 minutes of journaling each morning. Gradually increase this time.

Journal to remember all the times you’ve been your best, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Break these moments down into distinct parts, like a chemist in a lab distilling the most significant components.  If there was a place that felt injured or broken or if you can’t think of a time, give yourself the permission to imagine what might feel really good there. Let yourself dream.

Take that list and boil it down to five needs.  My five daily needs are: adequate sleep, plenty of hydration, spiritual study, moving my body, and silence.  Those are the five ingredients that I could provide myself to concoct a truly supported and nourished day where my body felt whole, my mind felt alive and my spirit felt encouraged. Your list might look radically different than mine, but the importance is that it is something that works for you. Try to meet those needs in whatever way you see fit, however imperfect or intermittent.

Over time, you’ll begin to see yourself as a person worth loving. You’ll begin to believe you deserve a life that is deeply immersed in and led by your own inner wisdom and self-love.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters

compared to what lies within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yes, I know; learning self-love isn’t easy. I look at it this way. Throughout the day, I’m confronted with many opportunities to disregard or attune to my feelings, to judge or to honor them, to keep commitments and be responsible to myself, and to act in accordance with my needs, values, and feelings. I have an opportunity to learn self-love all the time. Every time I talk myself down, doubt myself, exhaust myself, dismiss my feelings or needs, or act against my values, I undermine my self-esteem. The reverse is also true. I will make healthier choices, because you and I will both benefit from this.