The importance of personal ritual

Every evening around ten o’clock I take a walk on the beach with my daughter. As I was walking on the beach tonight I began to think about my own rituals and the roles they play in my life.

Walking on the beach in the evenings has been a ritual of mine for a long time, and now that we have been blessed with Scarlet I have begun taking her with me. This walk with my daughter, although she is only seven weeks old and sleeps the entire time, has become very special to me as it gives us a chance to bond, and gives me the opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a father. The walk also gives us both time to decompress at the end of each day and get ready for sleep.

I have other rituals, although none quite so important as the nightly walk on the beach. My daily run helps me relax and stay healthy, my nighttime reading (for pleasure, usually a novel) helps me further unwind and take my mind off “serious” things… I even have a ritual for cleaning and making dinner.

All of these rituals help define who I am. In addition to serving some very practical purposes, my rituals help me make sense of my world and sometimes escape it, if even for a few minutes. They help focus my mind, making it possible for me to live in the present (some of the time, anyway!), and keep view of the things that are most important to me. They keep chaos at bay, and provide order to my life, which reduces stress and makes life more pleasurable and productive.

I encourage everybody to think about the rituals they have in their lives, and the roles that these rituals play. Which ones serve a positive purpose in your life? Which ones may be negative or unhelpful? What does each mean to you? Take stock of them and keep the ones that help you grow and maintain balance, and discard those that hold you back.

By thinking deeply about your rituals you may learn a great deal about yourself and your world.

So, what rituals do you hold most dear?

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