Every morning I do the same thing: I let the dogs out, push the brew button on the coffee maker, begin my day’s routine. Routine gives order and rhythm to my progress. Yet much of my routine is ordinary…just the regular steps required to get myself out the door in the morning.
Then there are the moments of my day that are about ritual. There is a subtle difference between routine and ritual in my mind. Both are words that describe repeated events. Yet “routine” captures the ordinary, “ritual” describes a more deliberate and elevated experience. Although commonly associated with religion, “ritual” can refer to any repeated behavior. For me, rituals represent choices that are about comfort, serenity, peace.
Lighting a candle at dinner, choosing soft music, brewing an evening cup of tea, reading something inspirational…these are all rituals in my day, small luxuries that soften the hard edges of life. One of the best ways to infuse a sense of serenity is through scent. I have a special herbal soap that takes me (however briefly) to spa mode as I use it. One of my husband’s rituals is to light incense or a scented candle when he comes into the living room. Music can also contribute to ritual. My husband and I love classic Frank Sinatra and music of that era and frequently choose that genre of music to play during dinner. Or on a Saturday afternoon, the tunes may be classic rock and roll, Johnny Cash, Jack Johnson, or Southern rock …each type of music evoking a different mood, unique to the day.
Rituals can be simple, yet significant. When my husband is home, one of our favorite meals is a plate of fruit and cheese and a bottle of wine as we watch the sunset. Or we watch an evening sitcom with the dogs curled up beside us. Sometimes we look at each other and say, “this is the good stuff.”
Rituals slow me down, make me more contemplative. Rituals soothe me when I’m anxious, warm me when I’m chilled, and remind me that days are not meant to be just routine. There is a void in life that only the addition of ritual can fill.