A couple of weeks ago, I was having breakfast with the lovely Cristina A., and we spoke about rituals, and how important these rituals are in nurturing ourselves. Cristina is a massage therapist and therefore spends most of the day nurturing other people. (Side note – if you’re in Sydney, go see her. The woman is amazing). For her, having a ritual where she spends time nurturing herself is vital so that she can continue giving to other people, so every night she gives herself a massage.
Personally, I too have my own self-nurturing rituals. In the mornings I treat myself to complete silence while I have my lemon water and boil my chai. As I slowly sip my chai, I make sure that I am sitting down on the couch with no phone or laptop near me so that I can really savour that bit of my morning. Soon enough, I know my day will be filled with things to do, phone conversations, emails and all my senses will be assaulted in full force. My rituals don’t stop there. At night, I often make myself a cup of chamomile tea, light incense, massage myself with lavender oil and spend silent time writing in my journal. Before the lights go off, I often spend at least an hour without the TV or music on. In a world where we are over stimulated, this is my way of giving my senses a rest.
Last week, I was away at a conference. What this means for me is that I pretty much get up at crazy o’clock and work 12 hour days. A few years ago, I would have added some alcohol and half a pack of cigarettes to my exhaustion along with the socialising. This time I could add a bout of food poisoning. The fact that I am living out of a suitcase in a hotel room also means that I don’t have the stuff I need to put me into a lavender infused stupor, and I go to sleep thinking about the conference and wake up to check my email for last minute messages. My mother goes, “oh how nice, you get to stay in a hotel.” Sure, hotels are great, and I love being able to go for 6:00am swims in places where it’s warm enough to do so, but my rituals pretty much go out the window.
It was only when I didn’t have these rituals that I realised how much they ground me. The simple act of feeding the cat, giving her a cuddle and smelling the tea as it boils brings me to the present. The silence I enjoy in the mornings and evenings just gives me space to just let go and relax. Watering the plants in the mornings and while they’re in bloom, stopping to smell the jasmine gives me a moment to appreciate things.
We don’t realise this, but we do a lot of shit every day. Making sure we have the keys, phone, wallet, and yoga/gym/cycling gear packed up as we check the email on the phone and lock up the house to chase the train to get to work on time is a lot of work. And most of us do it within two hours of getting up. Our brain processes everything that we see, hear, touch, taste, smell and feel, and in our world where things are going all the time, our brains process a lot. So for me, taking the time to do these things sometimes allows my brain to slowly warm its engine instead of going from zero to sprint. Do that to a car every day and see what happens to it. Allow a car to slowly warm up and see how much longer it takes before wear and tear sets in.
My alarm generally goes off at 5:30, and a lot of people wonder why I wake up so early. The thing is waking up early gives my senses the time to slowly come alive. I am not jumping out of bed, into the shower, having breakfast on my feet and rushing to get dressed before running out the door in a frenzy and getting to work 2 minutes late. For me it’s not the length of sleep that matters but the quality of how I fall asleep and how I wake up. If I wake up rushed, then my whole day will pretty much be screwed, not in any other sense, but just because I wake up right into fight or flight mode. These rituals are what work for me. They keep me mentally sane and give me the time to keep physically healthy as well.
I used to think that rituals had to be elaborate productions, but they really don’t. Any act, however small or big that you perform religiously becomes a ritual. It is the thing that you do every day to keep you grounded and sane, and most of all, it has to be right for you. I used to say that I didn’t have the time to do things for me as other people needed my attention so much more. I had grown up believing that other people were more fucked up and needed me more than I did. As it was, the fact that taking care of me made me feel guilty was pretty fucked up in itself. While others knew that I had their backs when they needed, when push came to shove, they didn’t really have mine. At one point, the shit hit the fan and I pretty much had a melt down. Lucky some people actually really do love me so they stuck around, the energy vampires fucked off, and some people still think they have a right to my space, but that’s a different story which we will revisit when I can put it down in a nicer way.
Maybe these rituals already exist but you haven’t been paying attention to them. This might sound a bit weird, but sometimes taking the time for you is a start in making time. Just pay attention to yourself and the things you do, because you know what, nobody is worth your own attention more than you are. As we put prayers in place to celebrate our God, or whatever else we worship, so too should we have these rituals to celebrate ourselves.
So, here are my rituals, what are yours?