As we journey together, I continue to deepen my own inquiry into the connection between the ordinary and the sacred, between habit and ritual.
How is it that the same activity—getting out of bed in the morning, eating lunch, exercising—can be rote habit or sacred ritual?
The only thing that changes is what we bring to the activity. Every time we bring our mindful and kind attention to our actions, we are infusing that moment with presence and holiness. The holiness of intention and attention. The holiness of showing up to our lives as fully as we can. The holiness of simply being in and with our life.
By living with this respectful attention and compassion moment to moment, you sense the sacred in each part of your life.
~ Jack Kornfield in A Path with Heart, p. 197
Another aspect of creating sacred ritual vs. structured habit is that we consciously create the pattern we want to live in our lives. We take the time to consider what we need to make our lives more nourishing on all levels—more ease and wellbeing, more meaning and value, more [you fill it in…].
This can take a little effort to put into place. We have to take an honest look at what is not working and how we might change that. If I’m harried and arriving at work stressed out, maybe I need to create space for some morning practice. If I’m exhausted all day, maybe I need to figure out how to create resting and bedtime rituals. Or maybe I need to look at how I’m feeding myself or moving or something else, and how that is contributing to my overall wellbeing…
Making space for new ways of practicing is part of the picture. It might take a little creative thinking since we can get so locked in and attached to our unconscious habits. We have to be willing to experiment and try something new until we find the right fit for us.
Our patterns organize our reality.
They guide our established way of connecting with life.
~ Elaine de Beauport, Three Faces of Mind, p. 275
As we find the practices that work for us and create space for them in our day, we are setting the new pattern that can become sacred ritual. The familiarity of a repeated pattern provides us with a way to come back to ground, to give our nervous system deep rest. Our relaxed nervous system supports us on all levels so that we have more wellbeing in body, heart, mind, and soul. We are in rhythm with ourselves.
Ritual is an advanced routine, practiced with care, attention, faith, and beauty.
It is a way of elaborating repetitive rhythms ever more exquisitely, until they become ritual.
~ Elaine de Beauport, Three Faces of Mind, p. 301
Creating a life of everyday actions that become sacred ritual also means staying awake while we are practicing. As Kornfield emphasized, it’s the quality of our attention, not the doing of the new pattern that makes it sacred.
This is my challenge—I’m good at creating patterns, but then I have to remember to engage in them with presence, to bring all of me into my practice and not just practice to get it off my to-do list. (Yup, I have been known to fall into that one at times, even with a spiritual practice…)
And then there’s the trap of perfection, another one that has plagued me, especially as an Enneagram type One. I have often missed the sacred quality of presence in my patterns because I’ve put too much attention into doing them the “right” way. I am slowly learning that the only “right” way to practice is to show up—to bring as much awareness, heart, and embodiment to our practice as we can in each moment. That will vary day by day, moment by moment, and that’s OK!
We practice to nourish ourselves with our presence, not to try to reach some elusive ideal of perfection. Your presence matters. Your presence is what makes the moment, the practice, and your life holy.
There’s still time to jump in if you’d like to join!
I’d love to practice with you!