Many of us have lost the heritage of our rituals. We have lost our sense of obligation to our religion, to our culture, and even to the commitments of marriage. For this reason, therapists are now prescribing rituals—for stress reduction, focusing the mind, anger management, high performance, and more. Rituals can transform our thinking and help us create a successful mindset. Rituals can also heal the rifts between families and help us shape a healthy identity. Rituals elevate us to what is higher—to our potential, our life’s goals—and remind us that our highest values should always direct our lives.
As we start to come out into the world again after such a difficult year, many of us are prioritizing self-care. A recent poll found that 80% of Americans intend to be more mindful of self-care practices and rituals after the pandemic. Personal rituals don’t have to be difficult or complicated. They should be simple and easy to adapt into your daily routine.
How to Create a Personal Daily Self-Care Ritual
Daily ritual, as part of yoga practice, takes the abstract idea of focusing on an idea, an answer, an insight, inspiration or strategy that can empower, and brings it physically into your muscles so you actually embody it. Through the simplest acts of personal ritual, you can do many things. You can help yourself deal with difficulty or pain, purify and atone for your mistakes, and reflect on your choices. You can also energize and boost your desire with ritual.
A ritual can be something as simple as sitting quietly and repeating an intention or a word, lighting a candle, planting something, offering a flower, or walking 100 steps after you eat (an old Indian ritual). Create an intent in your mind as you do these things. Feel the silence and resolve to bring it into your world. Rituals give form to your life, not just on the surface, but emotionally. You need rituals to connect deeply with yourself. Even the simplest rituals can give you emotional security, contentment, and a deep sense of comfort and strength.
Creating a personal ritual is important because of its enormous power to comfort and heal your mind, body, and spirit.
Beginnings and endings are the key to finding this kind of sanity. How you begin and end the day shapes the way you live. Quieting the mind and turning your attention inward, into the world of the senses, rejuvenates your body and mind and allows you to be present, focused and connected to everything around you. Using “personal ritual” brings power to your experience.
In the Morning
The purpose behind your ritual directs your ritual to fulfillment. Ritual isn’t mindless movement. It’s a focusing technique to systematically give you an anchor point within.
Here is a simple ritual you can do before you begin each day:
Sit wherever you are, even at your desk, and close your eyes. Notice how you feel. Then begin to lengthen your breath, both on the inhale and exhale. Keep lengthening the flow of your breath and continue doing this for about 10 or 12 breaths, increasing the length of your breathing as you go along. Pause at the end, come back to easy breathing and stay in the silence.
From that place of silence, begin to repeat a silent intention inside, for clarity and purpose. Wait for a moment and repeat that intention again. You may ask for guidance, for a particular direction. A wish, a goal. Repeat it once more. Then, slowly open your eyes.
Notice the quality of your attention and how you feel.
Take an evening and open the ritual space by turning the lights down and lowering the volume. Light a candle, or just sit quietly in your living room and appreciate the beauty around you. Reflect on your day, your week. Remind yourself that your presence has really mattered, and you have touched people. Listen to the silence and enter into what feels like a subtler dimension, where you feel connected and calm.
Get an alarm clock and leave your phone outside the bedroom. Surrender to rest. Turn your mind gently inward and allow the tensions to leave. Then you can hear what is most deeply true. In the yoga tradition, this is called, pratyahara, choosing freely to accept or leave the external situation and direct your attention inside.
It is as the psalm says, “Be still, and know.”
A Daily Self-Inquiry (Day or Night)
— Stop, and notice where you are this moment. Are you available to yourself? Can you see where you are not?
— Come on and be here right now. Jump into present-moment awareness.
— Can you notice yourself being present? Stay with yourself for a few more moments.
— Keep your attention within. Pull it into focus.
— Trust yourself and your ability to listen. If you are willing to tune in, you’ll find that the energy of your attention will change you deeply. Paying attention means having a listening mind. It leads to the experience of freedom.
Looking for more self-care tips? Learn more about managing your energy here.