One of the ways we can start to develop more intentional acts of kindness and compassion toward our body is to create rituals for our daily life that remind us about our body.
- is a set of activities
- includes gestures, words, or objects,
- is done in a particular place,
- follows a set sequence.
We’re already doing rituals
We perform rituals in everyday life, without even thinking about it. It might be appealing to take on rituals from other cultures because they seem more special than our own, but, a beautiful way to value-add our existing daily life is to recognize the ritual already in our daily movements and to use ritual to support self-care.
All of us have some forms of self-compassion rituals. These might be as simple as recognizing that that headache has just reached a state we can no longer simply ignore and making our way to the medicine cabinet to select the right headache tablet, tipping a few onto our hand, making our way to the kitchen to pour a glass of water, and making sure we drink enough to wash down the tablets. All of that can be considered a ritual, especially when we intentionally decide to think about it as a ritual. As described in Tehya Sky‘s book A Ceremony Called Life: When Your Morning Coffee Is as Sacred as Holy Water, we can imbue our everyday existence with ritual just by bringing our awareness to those things that nurture us, that we do regularly, that we can potentially slow down to appreciate even more.
Ritual to value-add
Value adding is a cottage industry term that means we are increasing something’s value by transforming it. Value-adding strawberries might be making strawberry jam. Value-adding cucumbers might be to make pickles. We can use this same concept in considering some of our daily activities anew as self-care rituals.
There is a teaching in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing community that invites us into ritual with every daily task. He invites us to “wash the dishes to wash the dishes,” rather than washing the dishes in a distracted way in order to get past the activity of washing the dishes. We
- reframe this every day activity as something of value rather than something that is getting in the way of our happiness; and then we
- value-add this ordinary activity by
- using it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness,
- savoring the physical sensations involved, and
- practicing gratitude for the invitation into relative stillness during our busy and intellectual day.
This is affectionate awareness in action – being in the moment rather than wanting to rush through to the next moment.
Ritual to Motivate
“I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I workout for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.
It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is … one less thing to think about.”
You might like to add something to a daily activity to help you consider it as a ritual. For example, at a retreat center I worked at there was a little figure of the Buddha sitting on the kitchen sink, an unusual place for a Buddha statue, but a very sweet reminder to slow down, breathe, and center. I’ve taken to having a Kuan Yin statue on my kitchen sink as a way to remind me of sacredness, even while washing the dishes.
Chris Germer says, “A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” Adding in just one extra moment of self-compassion by doing a self-compassion ritual can change your day. And when you’ve added in one, maybe you’ll want to add in another, and another.
Invitation to ritualize
I invite you to think about something in your daily life as a ritual and notice how different it feels when you do this. For example, how does it feel to consider your morning coffee as a ritual? Or your evening bed-time routine? Or your getting ready for the gym routine? Or your preparing a meal routine? How is it to slow down just one thing in your daily life and consider that as special, as an act of self-compassion and self-care? How is it to mark that thing in your day as self-compassion and self-care practice?
If you’d like to explore ritual further, we explore this aspect of practice in Somatic Self-Compassion Online and in the Finding Your Self-Compassion Practice Path program. We’d love to see you there!
- A Ceremony Called Life: When Your Morning Coffee Is as Sacred as Holy Water by Tehya Sky
- Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
- Ritual: Power, Healing and Community by Malidoma Patrice Some
- The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp