There is a distinct difference between a habit and a ritual. A habit is something you do automatically, without real thought or consideration. It is simply going through the motions to get you to the next piece of your day. A ritual on the other hand is something you do with intention. Something which gives you a bit of a lift and a sense of peace. It does not matter what your spiritual belief or even if you have none. Rituals are not specifically tied to a God or Goddess. People use rituals to bring their thoughts into the present moment and prepare for the day or a big life event.
Setting up a habit can take up to 14 days (or more) for it to stick in the mind. A truly ingrained habit takes at least 30 days. These numbers are somewhat fluid as our understanding of the brain, the psychological aspects of conscious and subconscious, continues to grow.
Using this current understanding of habit, one can imagine how much harder and possibly longer it takes to creature a ritual. Or does it?
By giving the habit a meaning, by consciously doing what would otherwise be a mundane routine perhaps the ritual will stick faster. Recently I have taken up a 30 day challenge with myself. Since October 28, I have made it a goal to do my morning routine every morning. It seems like this would be an overly simple thing to start with. Yet, it is challenging to wake up and not immediately go get coffee.
For those that might not have read a previous post about my morning routine it is this: Scraping of the tongue, using my neti pot, using my Flonase, washing my face and toner. The bathroom is right across the hall from my room. So this should be cinche to do. Not so. While I have not yet hit the slump (there will be a period where my mind will begin to argue that a few more minutes of sleep or getting the coffee is more important) there has been the fleeting thought of, “Do you really need to do that?” Without the sense of meaning, of purpose, I would give in and go to the kitchen to start breakfast without my routine. The purpose though, the thought of one more day I am one more day closer to my goal, moves my feet to the bathroom.
This is the beginning of a ritual. It has been transformed from a habit which is good for me, a routine experience, into a special accomplishment for the day. My other habits in the morning, making coffee, making instant oatmeal and getting a bowl of yogurt, are still habits. I do them without thinking. However, two other things which I do in the morning continue my rituals. The opening of the blinds in the livingroom and the lighting of a single tealight. The latter of the two does actually hold a spiritual significance for me. I light the candle in honor of my God and Goddess. It is my way of requesting their blessing for the day.
How does this influence my writing?
These rituals and habits all happen before I turn on my computer. Both the rituals and the habits give me a chance to focus my mind on what needs to be done during the day ahead. They also help bring me into the present moment so I can find the words I need to create my vision or share my thoughts for the day on a blog post. Using the simple act of clearing out my sinuses, cleaning yesterday’s gunk from my tongue, and washing my face I am ready to face the day. Using the lighting of the candle and the opening of the blinds I am focused on creating and being open to the opportunities I know will be presented.
Rituals and habits. They are an important part of our lives and more often than not the habits over take us, ritual, intention, taking a back seat to simply getting through the day. I have decided to refuse this premise of simply getting through. Instead by taking what might seem simple and mundane habits and turning them into thoughtful, reflective moments I am getting more out of my day, out of my writing and out of my life.