“Routines are concrete repetitive actions that help us develop skills while creating continuity and order. Rituals are routines elevated by creativity, driven by intention, and imbued with meaning.” Esther Perel
I’m sure this last year we have all learned much about our routines, about the old ones we have had to let go and what they did for us, about newer ones that we established, and then perhaps had to keep changing, and even about the routines we think might serve us as we go forwards, although our increased uncertainty about what the future will hold surely means we hold them all a little more lightly.
I like Esther’s distinction between routines, and rituals. She ways both create a grounding rhythm, they are predictable structures that have a reassuring and calming effect, they stabilise us. However, rituals do a little more than that, they use creativity, have deliberate intention behind them, and have meaning for us. They help us through key moments in our lives, beginnings, endings, changes, and give us ways of making meaning. They help us to let go, and to embrace the new.
You may well have made many new routines since the pandemic started, but which of these are also rituals for you? What is it that gives form and meaning to you? As we gradually loosen the restrictions we collectively face, what is it that you want to keep doing that has symbolic meaning for you?
From daily family time, to ways of being with nature, to digital connections with those you don’t see in person, to preparing meals and other creative pursuits, there may be much that nourishes your soul in important ways. Intertwining the new with the old, and those meaningful things you let go of and did not yet recover, the future is an opportunity to create new routine and ritual, to find new and evolving ways to bring meaning and love into your life.
Esther talks about ritual as routines to which we have brought mindfulness, and it’s an observation that resonates with me. We can do anything on autopilot and render it meaningless, or we can bring our whole self to a simple task and embue it with magic.
So, which rituals and routines will be important to you in the coming weeks and months? And how can you bring mindful awareness to them as you move forwards?