What do you think of when you see the word “ritual”? Do you picture candles and chanting? Or do you visualize all the things you do when you first wake up in the morning?
Okay, okay. The things you do when you wake up in the morning are probably just a routine. Or are they?
Let’s start by figuring out the difference between a ritual and a routine. Wikipedia says…
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers, or dictated purely by logic, chance, necessity, etc.
Routine is a course of normative, standardized actions or procedures that are followed regularly, often repetitiously.
For me, a routine is something I do from habit. It is a program I have created in my life, much like one would craft a computer program, something that runs without having to think about it. It’s the route I take to get to work in the morning, or to drive home at night.
A ritual on the other hand, is a series of actions I take mindfully, that prepare me to transition into another frame of mind.
Using our example of getting up in the morning, let’s say I wake up, drink some water, have breakfast and get dressed. If I do all of these things every day without thinking about it, because it’s what I’ve done every day for the last several years, then it is just a routine.
However, if I drink the glass of water because I understand that it gently starts my digestion process and moves my body from fasting to eating while hydrating my body; if I eat breakfast and get dressed mindfully, knowing that these actions are transitioning me from sleepiness to wakefulness, and as preparation to go to work, now I have made my morning routine into a ritual.
In my case, on work days, it is more of a ritual. On my weekends, it is routine. It happens a little more haphazardly over a much longer period of time.
Another thing that helps me distinguish between routine and ritual is my intention. A sense of sacredness and purpose turns a routine into a ritual.
Next week I’ll talk more about why I would want to have more ritual and less routine in my life. See you then!