This year has taken me back to churches more than I would have volunteered to go. As I sat in the funeral of the father of a dear friend under the plaques on the wall of the old colonial church memorializing men lost at sea, men who died at war, and women who played the piano a hundred years ago I reflected on the value of ritual to our lives. A week later in a very different church, ritual came alive to me again as we said goodbye to an old friend. The songs of ritual, the calm of ritual, the sacred sense of ritual, the stand-up-sit-down of ritual. At no point in the depths of the darkest grief did the families and friends not know what to do. Ritual was there to catch them, ritual held them in thrall for the reverence of the moment, ritual gave honour to their grief and to the life that had been lived.
In grief, sometimes the most beautiful things are born. From this experience of grief, I took a valuable lesson. The idea of ritual has been haunting me in a strange way ever since. I had to sit and write it out and with it comes a confession.
I hate the word Routine
The word routine has been on the shit list of my generation probably since we were old enough to spell it. It was one of those building blocks for success that was used by the older generations. It was the automatic car they would service daily, ride from point A to point B on the path to their goals, and when the road got rough the car would pretty much drive itself. Much like ritual for grieving families and nervous brides in momentous life changing events, routine is born of repetition, entrenched over time, and brooks very little variation and question.
I have for many years rejected the word “routine” in my very spirit. The theory of it makes sense – practice makes perfect, repetition creates habit, and habit becomes second nature – but the imposition of it on life just doesn’t feel like it fits. I am not alone in this – it seems to show up for a number of clients of mine. It feels to us heavy, miserable, old and boring.
My role as a business leader for the past 12 years has forced me to see the reality of patterns in the world and the value of repetition and practice to competence and efficiency. The seasons of the year for marketing, sales, financial reporting, broken down into monthly cycles and weekly patterns and behavior trickled down into a daily routine that would start with emails and a cup of tea. I learned that the more I paid attention to patterns the more likely I could predict opportunity and openings in the market and make things work to the benefit of our business. So in one place in my life I compartmentalized an appreciation for routine. I do not miss the implications of this on the fact that this has always been an area in life where I have experienced success.
My Body Blind Spot
Most recently, in contrast, my own blind spot in my personal journey has been flashing sirens and blaring alarms at me to pay attention. Over the course of the past few years I have gone through some of the most difficult and intense changes in my life. I went from a broken engagement, through a company restructure, then a head office sale, then leading my industry through the beginning of a global pandemic, while building a house and planning a wedding, only to learn that my company would be closing and I needed to lay off all my staff. Moving office, moving house, getting married, laying off all my team, closing down the office, and laying off myself before stepping with two feet into the Blue Island Oracle has been a wild ride. The places in life where repetition and boundaries, routine and practice exist have not stumbled. But oh my poor body… I picked up about 20 pounds and realized that this is the area in life where I most reject routine and routine coulda saved me some of the trouble. In this area of my life – food and movement and self care – routine feels like the loss of freedom, it feels like restriction, it feels like self hatred, it feels like punishment. It has never worked, and the absence of it landed me here, in a place where I am not pleased with the body I am in.
Ritual, the missing piece
As I take the time to reflect at the end of this year, I realize that my life has not been absent of repetition and cycles. There is a pattern to everything – my work, my social life, my Tuesday date nights, my Thursday girl nights, my Saturday morning grocery shopping after yoga, my New Moon intention settings and my 28 day biological cycle. Everything is on some form of cycle. Everywhere there are patterns, automatic and intentional. So why does my mind say F-You to the word routine? And how is it that some patterns feel glorious and others feel like the death of my freedom?
The clue for me has been in my most empowered pattern. My morning ritual is so set in stone that I don’t deviate from it, even when I travel. I wake up, let the dog out, and put the kettle on. I make my coffee and take a comfortable seat, sometimes with a blanket, and settle down to journal. I write and sip until there is nothing more for me to say. Then I stop and get up and face my day. Over the years this ritual has not varied. It is a pattern I have embraced, a repetition in which I find great comfort, and it is sacred to my life. I look at the part of my life that is least empowered – my relationship with my body – and I wonder what makes this different?
I realize that to me, my morning practice is not a routine but a ritual. It is sacred. It is spiritual, emotional, mental and physical. Every part of me is engaged in making this a beautiful and empowering practice. To me the difference between routine and ritual is that routine is something you physically do because you have to, but ritual is something that every part of your being wants to do. How can I shift the idea of “fitness routine” which feels like hell and makes me rebel with every fiber of my being into something closer to the way it feels for me to move through my morning ritual in the morning? It clearly involves my mental and my physical, but how do I get my spirit and my emotions on board?
This final week of 2021 will be about clearing out the past, celebrating what has been created, mourning what has been lost, and forgiving all that has been damaged. As I forgive and let go of all that has happened and impacted my body, I will be looking for answers to this question. I am also very open to ideas so please don’t be shy to message me on any of the Blue Island socials or in the comments here.
I invite you to do the same for yourself, my fellow human. In what areas of your life are you disempowered? How can you invite the sacred into these spaces and build your own ritual? Don’t do it alone – reach out to me or others in your life. We all have our blind spots.
Bless you, dear ones, and I’ll see you on the other side of 2021.