Each night as we gather together for dinner there are always lit candles on the table. If there doesn’t happen to be a table, there are still candles lit somewhere nearby.
Nearly always we spend time to ‘set’ the table. It’s a thing in our family. When I was growing up, this was mostly reserved for Sunday dinner. However, while living overseas with our own young family it was like this every evening. Partly as the kitchen was all tiled (yes ALL the walls as well the floors) and so we chose to eat in the dining room. Our table was also one that needed placemats so as not to damage it, so every night there would be placemats, candles, napkins, the works. Everything placed… just so.
I have always appreciated ritual. It seems to bring something a little special to the table, so to speak.
What’s the difference between a habit or a ritual? And are they always helpful?
The word ritual comes from Latin ritualis, from ritus (see rite). Rite, often used in rite of passage, or “social custom, practice, or conventional act”. Both, often used in religious terms. I think of them more in terms of transitioning. How might we move from one thing to another, with some sense of it all.
Times of transition are when we often get stuck. Have difficulty. How do we move from one thing to another? It might be a life transition. Perhaps it’s transitioning from our work day to home life (blurred lines at the moment). Seems we are in a time of huge transitions. Or maybe it’s from wakefulness to sleep. Or from sleep to wakefulness. Acknowledging there IS a transition taking place can be helpful.
I like to have a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. This habit makes it tricky for other things to occur afterwards. The coffee leads to breakfast and suddenly I don’t feel like doing yoga asana or movement. My early morning window of opportunity is gone. I’ve worked to change this at times, but it’s ever so easy to slip back into familiar patterns. This habit, not all that supportive.
What if we turned habits into rituals? Rather than these automatic patterns we have accumulated over the years that served us well (or not) we create specific rituals to support transitions with a little more ease.
Waking up and then what? Is there available space or time for … maybe something other than coffee? What can you do that sets you up for your day? A nourishing breakfast. Solitude. Prayer or meditation. Fresh air or exercise. Or it is straight in to the demands of the day?
From work day to evening. Time alone, or with your partner, or family. Maybe allowance for what each person needs to transition from one to the other.
For me, one ritual is to set the table. Place the candles. Strike the match. … the ritual, the transition. This making way from one setting to another. We set aside what came before and meet together in this new space.
Rather than your usual habits what might be some rituals that support your transition from evening to sleep?
Curious to explore this further? Click the link below where we’ll explore this transitioning during the day and into our sleep. We begin tomorrow!
As I write this, feeling deep gratitude for my teacher Anne. Who reignited the significance, relevance of this ritual for me personally. Not just lighting the candles, but striking a match and doing so with purposeful intention.
What rituals are most meaningful in your life? How did you learn them? Why do you choose to carry them forward? I’d love to hear from you.