Moments of my life are filled with gestures and movements. These moments are chained together in cyclical processes accomplished for leisure or responsibility. Perhaps every day, once a week, month or year; these movements are my rituals.
The rituals in my life are an extension of my mind, the elaboration of my priorities in time. The sacred objects I possess are an extension of my body, the tools through which I shape my priorities in space.
The word ritual comes from the latin ritus. It means an action that conforms to convention or habit. Rituals are anything done in a repeated and particular manner.
I ask myself, how much of my life is spent doing things I will do again very soon. I find that a great deal of my time is dedicated to the accomplishment of tasks that are cyclical in nature. Some of these tasks have very short cycles, others can be quite long. Think about these tasks; they would be the social activities, hobbies, chores, errands, and leisure that require my presence. Consider now, that these tasks are my rituals.
From the moment I begin my day, my actions chain together and form the prelude to tomorrow. My days chain together forming the thread of my life. When I view every cyclical action as ritual, real benefits become available to me and those around me. When I don’t view these cyclical actions as rituals, there is a disconnect between my mental models of purpose and priority and the way I am actually living.
When my recurring priorities become ritualized, all of the details are established and given order. Everyday I do so many of the same things. Many of these things are just to care for my possessions, myself, even other people. Life simply necessitates certain things be done cyclically but when I view life as a ritual it becomes a well defined workflow of designed habits. As ritual, the mundane and indefinite chores of survival become elevated experiences leading to a revelation in the way I structure my lifestyle.
Perhaps I have a few items in my home or on my person that I once considered sacred. These would be items I revered because they held special or sentimental value. The word sacred comes from the latin sacer meaning holy. Sacred objects are regarded with great respect by a religion, group of people or individual.
Now I know, sacred objects are used in rituals at well defined times. they are mindfully selected to represent a purpose. They are carefully prepared before hand and at the completion of their task, they are respectfully maintained and returned to storage to be used again at the appointed time. Consider now, that all of the items I possess are sacred objects.
I go through my possessions mentally, then I go through my home comparing my mental model to reality. How much stuff do I possess that I didn't realize I had? Sadly, most of the things I possessed I didn’t respect. The mindset of modern consumerism is one that proclaims “I’m just passing through”. My life was littered with disposable and irrelevant minutiae. I was missing what is important by neglecting a mindful plan for what to possess. I was missing a key solution to financial, ecological, and mental stresses caused by overlooking the rituals I perform cyclically using objects in my possession. When I came to realize that all of life is a meditation, and the cyclical chores I do are really rituals, I stopped missing it.
Often, I purchased a thing because I suddenly remembered that I needed it or wanted it. The impulsiveness of these purchases left me with items that don’t truly represent my ideals and aspirations. To own items of value, that perform or represent their purposes well. I participate in a social system that is economically open while living in a natural world that is systemically closed. It demands infinite growth yet predicates its pricing mechanism on scarcity. It artificially induces scarcity while planning cycles of obsolescence and failure in the items we purchase — amplifying wasted resources and transferring wealth and prosperity from the many to the few. These realizations have come upon humanity slowly and with enormous resistance. Yet they have resulted in a large scale collaboration to retool industry and close the loop on the open system — by viewing the materials things are made of as nutrients circulating through metabolic pathways. Not only designing products from sustainable or regenerative materials, but designing materials that exhibit a lifecycle from birth to rebirth.
Upon the revelation that the items in my life that I use for every conceivable purpose are really my sacred objects, a greater mindfulness of purpose and priority took root. I began to design my rituals and eliminate clutter. I began to pair down to the essentials by selecting objects that met a well defined criteria. I began to really take my time and mindfully build my final shopping list, filling my life with the things that last and perform their purpose well. Because with this mindset I came to understand that these sacred objects come from the larger environment. Respecting them will ensure that I use them well, leading to a longevity in their performance, and when I must let them go I can be assured that the materials will be reborn for the benefit of myself and others for many years to come.
When designing my rituals, I start with broad strokes. I think about the routines I perform daily in the morning and evening. Break these routines into manageable chunks. Pick one of these routines to begin with, and imagine myself doing it. Look at every detail of my actions and try to perceive a consistency or convention with how I will do it in the future. Look at the objects I use to support this ritual. Not consumable products, just the tools used to perform the process. Think about their qualities and if they are lacking identify the qualities they lack. Look for the criteria that enhance my sense of purpose and priority.
With a well defined workflow designed, I can enhance my rituals and collection of sacred objects. Selecting a ritual I’ve designed, I think about all of the things that need to be prepared before hand. I consider any other rituals that feed inputs into this ritual, perhaps changing them up or elaborating them will enhance the performance of this ritual. I think about the outputs of this ritual and how they might affect or feed the inputs of other rituals. I get to the stage of design where I can measure everything; energy, feedstocks, finances, material resources, tools, techniques and recipes. That is the point at which I have empowered myself to optimize my designed processes. My rituals are not set in stone, they’re designed digitally and they’re malleable. Intelligently managed they enhance the quality of my life and the quality of life for those around me.
Much of my life was spent meditating on the useless ruminations of The Deep Trance. Now I practice visiting every ritual in my mind and redesign The Default Action in myself instead. I remove The Resistance to Authentic Action. Because, a day in my life, from the time I wake to the time I return to sleep is one long ritual; the way my daily routines connect together across the years form one long ritual lifestyle. All of life is a meditation, stop missing it.
Putting your rituals into perspective as just the cyclical events in life is about managing time and space. The more you can consolidate the time in your rituals, having them feedback into each other, the faster you can manage your priorities. Then, the more time you can free for your chosen purpose.