Genuine, heartfelt ritual helps us reconnect with power and vision as well as with the sadness and pain of the human condition. When the power and vision come together, there’s some sense of doing things properly for their own sake. Making a proper cup of tea means that you thoroughly and completely make that tea because you appreciate the tea and the boiling water and the fact that together they make something that’s nourishing and delicious, that lifts one’s spirit. You don’t do it because you’re worried that someone’s not going to like you if you don’t do it right. Nor do you do it so fast that it’s over before you even realize that you made a cup of tea, let alone that you drank six cups.
So whether it’s smoking a cigarette or drinking a cup of tea or making your bed or washing the dishes—whatever it might be—it’s ritual in the sense of doing it properly…
~ Pema Chodron
I am betting most Americans don’t meditate. Or at least they don’t think they do. They don’t sit on the deck following a guided meditation. Nor do they sit on a zafu, legs crossed. Not even in a chair, breathing in/out, in/out. They don’t follow their steps, as the beloved monk Thích Nhất Hạnh does.
But still, you probably do meditate. You just don’t call it that. You have these rituals — some even daily — that you perform. Rituals that calm & center, as you walk through their steps. You do this already, w/ only one small thing lacking.
For me, it’s often tea — the cup, the pot, the water. The spoon, the sugar, the milk. Although sometimes it’s coffee — packing the espresso filter, watching as the crema foams. It can be consciously feeling the pain in my knees as I do stairs, going up to fetch something for my beloved. Often it’s sitting down to write.
Some days — not as daily as I would like! — I do sit on the deck, listening to my day’s meditation lesson from Headspace (great program, just FYI). Immersed in the birds catching up w/ each other, the sound of weekend leaf blowers providing the tympani, I gently refocus, time after time after time.
I meditate, for the most part, to be a better me — to meet my beloved’s illness w/ more patience & support. To be a better mother to my sons, my DIL. A quieter and more listening friend. To have more equanimity in general.
But I also meditate for me. Just for the quiet it brings me, the soothing healing quiet.
This isn’t a popular position, I confess. Even my meditation program notes that ‘being aware of the impact on our meditation on others is important.’ I get that. I really do. It’s also one of the things I do just for me. Like my morning cuppa, or my gratitude journal. Each a ritual, an island of softness in a sometimes hard day.
Today, as I sat in the highbacked deck rocker, reminding my mind that we were sitting, not playing tag w/ every thought that came up, I am grateful for rituals. The obvious — morning meditation — and the not-as-obvious, the ones we do almost unconsciously.
And that’s the point: just make them conscious. Then they become a kind of meditation, a way to focus you on what’s important. YOU. Because if we don’t love ourselves — whom we know so painfully well — how will we ever find it within to really love the other flawed human beings in our worlds? So when I go weed the walled garden today? I”m going to try to remember: this can be ritual. Just pay attention, and be here. Now.