It’s the New Year,
and with the turning of the year,
comes an invitation to create
some new healthy habits!
Putting habits in place means not having to think so hard—we can just do the things we need to do on autopilot.
Perhaps you want to jump out of bed and get to the gym first thing as a habit.
Or to meditate, do yoga, or stretch.
Maybe you want to go for a walk in the early morning.
Or to cuddle with your kids or your pet or your honey.
The word on the street is that it takes 21 days to set a simple habit in place. But Phillipa Lally found that on average, it takes 66 days, but could range from as little as 18 to as many as 254!!
We probably all have some very basic habits in place that our family and society brought us up with:
- Brushing and flossing your teeth.
- Driving on the correct side of the road.
- Taking your vitamins.
- Taking care of your plants or pet.
And you’ve probably grown specialized habits:
- Practicing to play an instrument.
- Working with certain tools of the trade, craft, or hobby you are involved with.
- Doing an exercise routine.
- Learning dance steps.
It feels good to fall back into a habit well-learned, to flow and glide, and not have to think too much…
But are you really there when you are in habit?
I just facilitated the Winter Solstice Ritual at my Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. It was the first time to bring it to my new church since moving to the Pacific Northwest. I found myself needing to explain to people that it was not a “service”—it was not reading and saying certain things or listening from the pews. There would be no introductions or announcements. It was a RITUAL.
I was grasping to capture something ineffable in words, something you can only really experience by attending and fully experiencing, fully participating… with body, heart, mind, and soul, with bodysoul. And in that full participation, allowing yourself to be touched by life, to feel more meaning and belonging, to sense yourself deeply in place, to receive.
We don’t have to wait for special rituals
or moments of grace to allow ourselves
to be touched deeply and feel fully alive.
We can create these moments by consciously bringing more of ourselves, by bringing our presence to our actual lived lives.
We can create rituals instead of habits.
One way to start is with those habits you already have in place, or any new ones you’re already working on.
Next time you find yourself in some simple habit, see if you can become aware of what is happening. Where is your attention? Where is your heart/your feeling sense? Can you sense your body? Gently bring your awareness back to your bodysoul. What is here right now?
Maybe it’s as simple as brushing your teeth. Try really focusing in on all the felt sensations of this—how you are standing/sitting, the feeling of the brush in your hand, the feeling of bristles and wetness in your mouth and on your teeth and gums, the taste of the toothpaste, the sound of brushing. How does it feel to be taking care of your body in this way? To be companioning your teeth in health?
And as you create something new this New Year, consider making it a ritual in addition to being a healthy habit. Bring your mindfulness, your sincere heart, your willing body to the process.
- To have any chance of success, you need to really want this new thing in your life. Find desire. Feel the gratitude for being able to practice welcoming this new way of living in.
- From this place of desire, create an entry point—how will you remember to enter this ritual? What touchstone will invite you in? Perhaps it’s whenever the phone rings. Or you leave yourself a note to remember. Or going through a doorway is your reminder.
- Enter with awareness of your bodysoul. Engage all your senses—seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting, with the intention to be good to yourself. Carry out this sacred act with your full presence.
One thing that helps me is giving my mind something active to do to keep its attention. Carefully-chosen words can be very helpful here.
Thich Nhat Hanh has many gathas (mindfulness verses) to bring more presence to an action. You can also create ritual language simply using the sentence stems:
Breathing in, I _______.
Breathing out, I _______.
My blog Breathing in the Morning has a bunch of examples of this.
You might try things like:
- Relaxation practice: Breathing in, I know I am here. Breathing out, I relax.
- Loving practice: Breathing in, I feel grounded. Breathing out, I choose love.
- Healthy food practice: Breathing in, I feel my hunger. Breathing out, I choose food mindfully.
- Gratitude practice: Breathing in, I smile. Breathing out, I feel grateful.
You’ll notice that practicing ritual rather than habit slows you down a bit and helps land you in the moment. That makes it easier to be in touch with yourself, others, and with life.
And I bet that it doesn’t take as long to successfully create a new habit when you approach it from this place of ritual! Because you are more fully engaged—more of you is participating in the new way of being, more of you is affected by your practice!
If you’d like more ideas for how to create simple ritual in your life, I have a few free resources on my site:
- An ebook, Welcoming the Sacred.
- A 5-day automated journey, Practice Presence for Life, that explores many of the practices in Welcoming the Sacred with daily emails, a facebook group, and other supports.
- And coming in the new year, a Morning Practice e-book.
May ritual help you to live more fully
into the blessing of your life
and your presence in this New Year!
Come practice presence with a group of like-minded women: