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How ritual can bless our lives

Ritual can be used wrongly, of course. But it can also be used rightly to give us courage and comfort, to inspire us, and help us meet the challenges that life brings.

In my early 20s, I ran into a very difficult time in my life when I returned home to London to “settle down” after spending some time in Southern Rhodesia and New Zealand. I felt confused and alienated from my British middle class background even as an inner voice proclaimed loudly and fiercely that there was a true purpose for my life and I needed to get busy and find it.

The day before leaving Auckland to sail home to England I had bought a book called Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. The little book “jumped” into my hand apparently by chance in a bookshop and went with me everywhere for two years.

I read a little bit of Whitman every day. The book was with me when I went to work as a reporter on the Daily Express newspaper in London. It was with me when I went sailing in my small boat on the Essex coast. It was still with me when at the age of 23 I went to British Columbia to find a new life.

Then one day I didn’t feel the need to read Walt Whitman any more. My "ritual" came to an end as naturally and spontaneously as it had begun.  I still loved Walt but I didn't need his help any longer.

Rituals give structure to our lives. They give us a track to run on. The key, it seems to me, is being flexible, not afraid to follow new routines, particularly when they arise spontaneously in our lives,  and not afraid to let them go when they have served their purpose.

Here are a few rituals that bring joy to my life

1. Abdominal breathing first thing in the morning and last thing at night helps bring calm and focus.

2. Working out at the gym makes me feel strong.

3. Telling JoAnn how wonderful she is makes me feel good.

4. Going to the coffee shop in the afternoon gets me away from my little office and gives me a chance to read and connect with other people, or perhaps not do anything at all.

5. Appreciating little moments opens my mind and heart to life’s magic and wonder.

6. A glass of wine on the porch in the evening lets me commune with Nature and passers-by.

7. Listening to birds soothes my soul.

8. Watching the evening news connects me with the world.

9. Last, but not least -- (please see picture at beginning of post)  -- telling a dog how wonderful it is:-)

What rituals bring inspiration or happiness to you? I’d love to hear from you.

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Goodbye and good luck.

Picture credit:  ecorandagia

 

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Evan Griffith July 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Chris —

I have nothing insightful to add . . . I am simply basking in your thoughts and enjoying their lingering effect. Some artists will use a photo transfer technique to transfer an image or aspects of an image onto another surface. I feel that is what you do in some kind of witchy wonderful way when you write. I feel as if a spirit transfer has occurred . . . and that your spirit and the spirit of your message have layered onto me.

Thank you for your everyday extraordinariness . . . (?) (!)

Evan
Evan Griffith recently posted..He was instructed, firmly, quietly: ‘Move right’

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Christopher Foster July 17, 2012 at 11:40 am

You are a blessing in my life Evan. If I bring a bit of blessing into your life (I love your illustration by the way) then I think it’s fair to say we are in agreement.

Agreement is a wonder. It’s a privilege to share it with you. Perhaps the universe itself emerged or is emerging out of agreement at a level we can’t at the moment imagine? Love to you Evan and by the way I loved your last post with the quote from Castaneda, sent it to my son in Vancouver and he loved it too. Be well.

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sheila July 17, 2012 at 10:31 am

Good day Christopher
I have to agree with comments made by Evan !! 🙂

Daily rituals are what makes our lives incredibly wonderful… thats why we enjoy doing them every day and yes they change over time , evolve from childhood and our ever changing adult life.
We have things that we must do every day, chores etc but its those special moments that we find doing every day that enhances life, we don’t have to do them, we want, choose to…
The first sip of your morning coffee
Having the neighbour dog come over and say hello before you toddle off to work
Magic and wonder…. yes to life itself and everything it brings
Sitting back in the evening with a cup of tea
Being grateful
Rituals of life… simple not complicated…. enjoyable
cheers
Sheila

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Christopher Foster July 17, 2012 at 11:49 am

There’s my friend Sheila, a kindred spirit. Thank you so much for your comment. Just love sharing this journey with you and when you share some of your experiences I feel as if I’m there with you. I’ve found a new canine friend in our neighborhood, a shelter dog. She’s a tiny wee creature named Kelly, very nervous at first, but now when she sees me she looks at her owner to make sure it’s okay and then she makes a beeline for me to say hello. Blessings to you Sheila.

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Joan Peterson July 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm

To me, ritual has always meant what preachers do, or setting a time to TM. Now I find that my glass of wine before dinner is a ritual, as is (like you) watching Brian Williams and PBS News before dinner, playing Double Scorpion during lunch and Mah Jong before Brian, and on and on and on.

I have always thought of it as proof that I am a creature of habit, but now I think of it, I realize how these are high points in my day and I am oddly uncomfortable if I miss one. So now I feel vindicated in my self-indulgence and I thank you for giving me permission to goof off. You are indeed a blessing.

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Christopher Foster July 17, 2012 at 6:17 pm

I really appreciate your comment Joan. Thanks for sharing. This is just a thought, but I wonder if the difference between “habit,” which could imply something unthinking, and “ritual” in the way we’re talking about it is that ritual has the potential to be much more conscious — an opportunity to consciously enrich and enhance our life. Thanks again for taking the time to comment Joan and keep on goofing off eh?

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Elana July 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Hi Christopher! A lovely post, and so true – rituals are a comfort that add rhythm and purpose to our lives. My ritual is a daily walk. Every day during the week, I push back from my desk around lunch hour and go for a long walk, usually an hour. Sometimes I will walk to a quiet spot and sit and watch the sea nearby, other times I meditate on the movements of passersby. Mostly, it is an opportunity to sit in silent contemplation and appreciation of just being in nature and among the living. It is restorative and healing.

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Christopher Foster July 17, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Hi Elana, thanks for your comment. I think you sum up perfectly the true nature of “ritual.” Just as you say, it is restorative and healing. What a need for that in our world isn’t there.

I was touched that you not only enjoy watching the sea (have to say I do miss that a little bit here in Colo) but also watching and appreciating passersby. We’re all in this together aren’t we. Not to get too esoteric here but don’t you think there’s a bit of ourselves in everyone we see. We’re one living moving breathing miracle whether we like it or not.

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Elana July 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Castaneda! Journey to Ixtlan is my favourite : )

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Chu Nam July 17, 2012 at 7:42 pm

I was really interested in 9 things that you do everyday.
I know I can’t do all of those things. However some of them I can do well.
I apply breath and exercise, coffee to connect with people.
Little things help us feel good in a day.

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Christopher Foster July 18, 2012 at 11:09 am

I’m very happy to hear from you again Chu Nam. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m glad you pay attention to your exercise and breathing, they are key things aren’t they. And I’m glad too that you enjoy going for a coffee like I do. Best of luck to you and stay well.

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Linda Hewett July 18, 2012 at 5:10 am

I love the way you explain ritual for us, Chris. I shall look at my day with fresh eyes.
I love it when a magic moment happens, that effects the rest of my day – yesterday in my garden, a butterfly alighted for a millisecond on my bare arm. As I think about it, I wonder at that moment that no money can buy.
My new ritual will be to be alert to those moments and to write them down, as a Magic Moments collection…
Linda Hewett recently posted..You Are Not Alone! Our Brand New Confidence Forum Is Here For You!

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Christopher Foster July 18, 2012 at 11:13 am

Linda, what a magical moment that must have been with the butterfly. But how magical too is your desire to be alert to such moments and record them in a “Magic Moments” journal. I think it’s a terrific idea. Please let me know how it goes. I send you a ton of best wishes. PS My wife JoAnn is 81 today, I gave her a beautiful card with a VERY beautiful illustration of a butterfly on the front.

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m. July 18, 2012 at 11:54 am

Dear Chris- how dearly your light-filled words and shared rituals twinkle in my heart.
They have my heart smiling and wishing Jim and I could time travel AND BE PRESENT
with you and your Beloved JoAnn at the end of a day! Beholding in unison ( wine glass in hand ) the Beauty of Nature you so often speak to and soulfully (simply) be together in radiant communion.

Giving thanks for the JOY and Wonder of Love’s Light-filled Reflection here on earth and the opportunity to behold it (tenderly) in one’s world and in sacred “heart blessing moments” one with another. Your wise and artistic words reminding us “to be here now” (and how to be here now) truly glisten like Leaves of Grass… Chris, I am thankful for your posts and the transcendent nature of friendship they nurture, m.

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Christopher Foster July 18, 2012 at 1:38 pm

I am touched by your sweet, kind words. Thank you so much. They are words of blessing and communion. How important true friendship is and getting more important every day, it seems to me. Love and blessing to you both and take care.

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Stuart - Limitless Believing July 20, 2012 at 2:06 am

Hi Chris,

A very touching post – thank you for sharing it with us! I can relate to you regarding no longer reading the works of an author. The first self-help book I ever read was by Robin Sharma, “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari”. That changed so much in me that I felt compelled to read more of his works, and I did.

Tthat was back in January 2008, and now that I’ve grown and matured as an individual, and read many other authors, I no longer feel it’s necessary to read any more of his works, even though he released a new book earlier this year. Perhaps you could say I’ve moved on.

Take care my friend 🙂
Stuart – Limitless Believing recently posted..The 5 Step System To Finding More Time

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Christopher Foster July 20, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Hi Stuart,

Great to hear from you. I was very interested to hear your own experience with Robin Sharma’s book(s). What a gift Robin gave you, and then one day as you say it was time for a change. As far as you were concerned, Robin had done his job. I think it takes some real honesty and careful listening to our own inner wisdom to sense what is right for us at any particular point in our life, and to follow when we need to follow and strike off on a different path when that is what our own integrity tells us to do.

Well done Stuart. A pleasure to connect with you in this way and thank you again for your comment. Cool.

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rob white July 23, 2012 at 8:33 am

It is apparent you have established some wonderful rituals that bring you great joy and ease, Christopher. I love my daily walks in nature to bring me clarity and peace. I love watching an episode of Seinfeld at the end of the day as well. For me it is a cleansing ritual; I’m cleansing my attitude of unhealthy WOES by seeing the lighter side of life.

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Christopher Foster July 23, 2012 at 10:21 am

Sounds good to me Rob. You know, I’ve never watched Seinfeld, it just didn’t occur to me. I think I should take in one or two episodes, you never know, I might enjoy him too. There’s no law against trying something new, is there? I do appreciate your comment and also the sense of a kindred spirit. The world needs more kindred spirits who love beauty and truth doesn’t it. Have a great day Rob.

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Elizabeth Nunn July 29, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Thank you for these reminders of the simplicity of ritual and of the importance of touching each ritual with awareness. When I first saw this posting, I thought, “I don’t have rituals in my life”. So I let this one slip by except for the little itchy thought that wouldn’t let me walk away.

Last night, I couldn’t sleep so I picked up The Great Work by Thomas Berry and was instantly reminded of the rituals in my life that have to do with taking care of the “livingness” of planet Earth. Twice every day, I feed and water my doggies and brush them in the cool of the evening. I select flowering plants specifically to nurture the bees, butterflies, and humming birds, and care for them all regularly.

So thank you for opening my awareness to the rituals I have in my life. It’s not just about lighting candles and having an altar. It’s about creating and nurturing sanctuary for all life.

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Christopher Foster July 30, 2012 at 9:41 am

Thank you Elizabeth. This is beautiful, and so true. The word “ritual” definitely brings to mind exactly what you say, candles, altars and such. I really appreciate your tangible examples showing how helpful and necessary “rituals” truly are in our daily lives. A lot of potential in this area I believe. Love to you Elizabeth.

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Daniel November 28, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Thanks for an uplifting perspective on the presidential debate. I totally agree with you that it is quite amazing what these men are able to stand up to and how they show no fear.

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Christopher Foster November 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Thanks for your comment Daniel. Lots of good wishes to you.

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