By JG Lewis
Again, today, I fell into my morning routine. We all do.
Routines: we have them, no matter how strict or subliminal they end up.
Mornings we bathe, dress, eat breakfast (alone or before anyone else is awake), check the news feed or your bank account on your ever-present mobile device, and then set off to work (the same route, the same streets or street car number); perhaps a stop at the coffee shop, banal chatter with the barista-of-the-day, obligatory greetings to office mates or tales of last night’s game; you get the picture. It’s an everyday day—most days.
If you substitute one item for another, an instance here or there, and we all do the same things, mostly every day, whether we pay attention or not.
For me, during these pandemic days, it begins with a morning walk before the streets get crowded or well before much of Toronto’s humanity is even awake. I like the silence. I’m not ready to talk to anybody, except for the aforementioned banter with the barista, and rarely get more than 1,300 steps into the day without my morning cup of personality. Then I wander.
Following my morning constitutional (maybe an hour and a bit later) and prior to preparation for whatever I am about to do, I will take a moment for only my self.
I sit at my desk every morning, before tearing into whatever needs to be done, and reach over to the bookcase on my left and, without looking, grab a book of poetry. With the same attention to detail, I flip open a page and I read aloud the poem in front of me.
Now, I will often read a poem or selection of poems at different points of the day, but the first poem of the day, selected randomly, is the most important to me.
I know it is the most purposeful reading I will do today. I know, often depending on the day, that I will eventually (and undoubtedly) come across some disturbing news, critical information, or must-read utterly repugnant corporate missive that will surely set the remainder of my day off kilter.
For this reason (and many ancillary excuses) this ritual is important to me, especially after a protracted period where many of our rituals—personal or public—have been stripped away by this pandemic.
We are only now able, after some 15 months, to gather for small ceremonies like weddings, funerals, or birthday celebrations. We are now into the second year where graduation from any form of education has been limited or prohibited. These are all time-honoured public rituals that signify dramatic changes in our lives. Weddings, birthdays, even graduations can somehow be worked around, but grief is a ritual that must be acknowledged.
Rituals. We have them, or are meant to have them. COVID-19 and its variants have taken many away.
The Oxford dictionary defines a ritual as “a prescribed order of performing rites” or “a procedure regularly followed”. A routine, in the same dictionary, is described as “a regular course or procedure, an unvarying performance of certain acts.”
There is a difference, however slight, between routine and ritual.
A ritual might not be the early-morning jog, or yoga practice. It might however be that moment where you roll out your mat, kneel into your space and whisper a slight prayer or mantra that will pull you through the class.
Your ritual might be sharpening three or four pencils to their finest point, so you can begin your morning pages; that 11 or 17 minutes of a timed state-of-conscious writing that brings your thoughts into focus and helps define your purpose.
Perhaps you light a candle, or incense, each night as settle in with a novel or some self-help book or another. Maybe the candle is better spent next to a hot bubble bath where you cleanse both body and mind of the residue of the day.
Your own ritual may, in fact, be a daily meditation. This may take place while you sit cross-legged (or not), eyes closed or wide-open, and ponder where you are or what you have experienced. It may also take place while you walk around the block after sunset, each step expanding your thoughts or intentions.
Purposeful time to yourself is a ritual you shouldn’t ignore. You are the only one that can do that for you.
It is your choice.
Choose what best serves you. Realize; no recognize, what breaks up your routine. Feel the difference. Know the difference. Know it is your ritual, and not so much routine, that gets you through the days.
Not only is it a rite; it is your right.
Editor: Dana Gornall