“Men will lie on their backs, talking about the fall of man, and never make an effort to get up.” — Henry David Thoreau, Life Without Principle
I’d recently fallen back into a cycle of drinking coffee from a K-cup. There was a lot happening in my life, and it was a fast way to caffeinate. But what I missed in the instant was the ritual of grinding my coffee beans, boiling water and sending bliss through an AeroPress into a favorite mug. Sure, the coffee tastes far better, but the ritual itself also rewards with moments of contemplation. The mind is free to consider what it will, free for a few minutes from the instant gratification of our modern world.
When we unconsciously work our way through a ritual, the world opens up for us, or maybe it falls away altogether. A space is created in the cadence of the familiar, and in that gap we find our true voice. Think of it as a quiet conversation between friends, but the friends reside between the same set of ears. It’s as essential in our days as brushing our teeth or building something of substance with the tools available to us at this moment in our development.
Ritual places us on auto-pilot, offering clearly-defined stepping stones in our day that carry us to a place we very much want to arrive at. We’ve all seen what happens to the days that lack ritual: they slip away into lost opportunity. Indeed, we may wonder either way; “Where did the day go?”, but with ritual we’ve at least tackled a few of the things we most needed to to make that day a success.
At the end of the day, isn’t it fair to ask if our time was productive? And where is our most essential work but on ourselves? Ritual gives us a leg to stand on. We lift ourselves up from the our previous state and get on with the business of becoming. We’re rewarded for the rituals we fold into our lives with the delight in becoming who we’ve wanted to be. And also in those moments of profound richness the ritual itself offers.