On Ritual: Cultivating Progress One Day At A Time

Half Dome. Yosemite National Park, CA. Photo taken September 2008. © blissandradiance.com

After the New Year I’ve continued to give a lot of thought to how I’ll work toward my newly minted intentions so that they will become my reality this year. I firmly believe that a series of small, thoughtfully planned actions will be the foundation of how I navigate towards the intentions I desire. Being a very practical person, I then started thinking about the tactics:
– how will I set myself up to succeed and how will I know I’m making progress towards my intentions?
– what habits will I use to help me navigate towards my intentions?
– when am I most likely to make progress towards my intentions during the busy days, weeks, months, and seasons that will make up 2017?

Tools of Intention
Last year I was introduced to the bullet journal and it really complimented the commonplace book I’ve kept for a number of years (both physical and virtual). Over time I’ve merged my bullet journal and commonplace book, transitioned into analog mode armed with my favorite pen so the act of writing fills me with pleasure.

Capturing ideas as soon as they strike has helped me tremendously by creating a habit of writing down those interesting concepts to explore, helpful reminders, and “to do” tasks that would otherwise swirl around in my mind. It’s helped my memory too. Once an idea is safely captured in one go-to spot, I can continue to think expansively, reducing the distraction of thoughts pre-occupying my mind. This new (for me) discovery has opened a “mind palace” (to quote my favorite detective) which I can delve into and build upon when inspiration strikes. To quote Seneca (4 BCE – 65 CE):
“We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application–not far far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech–and learn them so well that words become works.”

Cultivating Rituals and Habits
I recently experimented with using small steps to build up towards an outcome I desired: to bring sense of balance to my morning by developing a morning ritual. My morning ritual has helped to start my day with a clear mind, and prioritize my tasks for the day in my journal and quickly assess whether my actions will bring me closer to those intentions I set at the start of the year. I also wanted to do this to be a little gentler to myself when I wake and avoid springing into action with emails and the like. The ritual is meant to be as brief or as luxuriously long as I have time for on any given day.

My ritual is comprised of my own prayer, meditation to lay the foundation for the way I want to be for the day, writing with the tools I described above to explore what’s on my mind and contemplate my intentions for the day ahead, and exercise to stretch and move. I established and fine-tuned one mini-ritual (my meditation) and added others as I went (writing and moving). If a morning is rushed, I try to squeeze in each step at some point. If I skip it altogether then I feel a little off-center for the day. Over the past few weeks as I’ve made a focused effort on starting each day with this routine I’ve experienced clarity of mind in what was most important and what could be reasonably accomlished as well as how this action brings me closer to my intention. I’ve made a tremendous amount of progress: proof of which is the site you are currently reading because it was completely re-imagined just a few weeks ago. That’s how I realized the power of ritual and why I’m exploring how the rituals I develop around my health, my money, and my interests will help me realize my intentions with grace and ease this year… one day at a time.

To compliment my morning ritual, I’m now building in new rituals for my evenings and for the weekend. My evening ritual has started with reading a chapter of the latest fiction on my nightstand while listening to classical music. I then write in my journal, reflecting on the day and contemplating the day ahead. On the weekend, my end of week ritual helps me reflect on the week just past and contemplate how I’ll approach the upcoming week in my journal. I’m formulating those rituals around other areas of my life too.

How about you:  How do your rituals and habits bring you closer to your intentions and closer to living your purpose? What tools do you rely on to support your progress this year?

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