Updated: Jul 16, 2018
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” - Aristotle
I was patiently sitting on my mat ready to learn, ready to change. The teacher pulled out a white board and drew this simple graphic below (which I re-created painstakingly in Word Art). In an instant she changed my life forever.
This woman's name is Gitali and she became my forever teacher in life. She introduced me to Bhakti chanting and I would sit in her classes and sing my little heart out with tears rolling down my eyes so full of love. She taught me to save spiders and that when flowers and plants die to offer them back to Mother Earth. She has shown me Divinity in human form just by being who she is. And she has taught me that kindness never ever fails.
And that day she showed me in the simplest way one of my greatest life lessons: Action leads to change. Even a small action if done consistently can quickly change the trajectory of your life.
Learn: The Difference Between Routines and Rituals
Routines and rituals are both equally important for mental growth and lasting change in our lives. While the two go hand in hand and are both necessary, there is a subtle difference between the two which is important to understand.
Routines: Forming a routine means repeating a behavior for the effect of producing a result such as forming a good habit or getting rid of a bad one. Routines refer more to the action rather than the intention behind the action. Routines are a powerful key to rewiring neuropathways and restructuring our brains so that they work for us rather than against us. Routines are what takes us from wanting to change something to actually creating lasting change in our lives. Implementing a routine can sometimes be uncomfortable at first, but consistency is the key!
Rituals: "Ask yourself: What do I want to honor, pay tribute to, or attract?” says energy healer and Reiki Master Jenni Finley in reference to creating rituals. Rituals refer more to the intention of an action rather than the action itself. Rituals are sacred, ceremonial, and fuel certain beliefs in your life. Rituals are what gives meaning to our routines and makes them special, personalized, and sacred.
Key Point: We need both routines and rituals to work together to create lasting change in our lives and to retrain our brain for happiness, success, love, abundance - the list goes on. Our lives reflect not our external circumstances, but rather what the mind is telling us. If the story is negative then we need to change the story. Changing the story starts with routines and rituals.
Play: Implementing Routines and Rituals (R&R's) in Your Life
Here's the fun part: You have complete freedom in making your routines and rituals. There are four guidelines I follow when creating routines and rituals for myself and when giving advice to others. Here they are:
Excitement - Your routine or ritual has to be exciting to you otherwise you won't do it. When creating your R&R ask yourself: Am I excited to do this? Am I excited enough that I will make time to do it?
Viability - Your routine or ritual has to fit in your schedule and match you and your lifestyle. If you are a parent with 3 children then a 2 hour meditation in the morning might not be feasible. Or if you work a night shift then maybe a morning R&R doesn't fit with your schedule or personality. When creating your R& R ask yourself: Can I actually make this work in my schedule? Am I a morning person or an evening person? When is there an actual chunk of time that I can make this a consistent R&R in my life.
Justifiable - Your routine or ritual has to make sense to you and your brain. When we tell the brain we are going to change something it immediately goes into fear mode. The way to combat this is to give it a positive reason for that change so it can get on board with it. When creating your R&R ask yourself: Can I convince myself (my brain) that this is of interest and of benefit to me?
Consistency - This is probably the most important guideline when creating a routine and ritual - it has to be consistent to have any effect on your life. When creating your R&R ask yourself: Is this something I can do everyday? Taking a vacation or going for an 8 mile run might be beneficial to your life, but most likely they aren't things you can do everyday on a consistent basis.
Discover and Adjust
Play around with your R&R and see what works for you and adjust accordingly. You'll know if it needs adjusting because you won't be doing it. Go back to the list above and see if it fits those guidelines. If not, try and tweak your R&R so it does. A friend recently told me that at the end of every night he took a shower as a cleansing ritual to get rid of the energy he had picked up throughout the day. I thought this was a wonderful idea so I tried to implement it in my nightly routine. Turns out I don't like showering at night. I figured out that this ritual didn't work in my routine because I never did it, I wasn't excited to do it and it just didn't work in my life. So I shifted the practice and instead implemented a similar but different ritual for shedding energy. Play around and don't forget to adjust!
Resources: A Few Ideas As You Create Your Routine
Gratitude: This is at the top of my list for instant life-changing R&R's. Start a consistent gratitude practice by journaling what you are grateful for everyday when you wake up.
Meditate for a set period of time every evening or morning. Start with something short and feasible like 7 minutes. Then extend once you get comfortable and/or have more time.
Breathing Techniques: Breathing is a great way to cleanse your body of any excess energy and to get the mind to slow down. My favorite technique is this Earth/Sky Fire Breath.
Sage: Saging is a wonderful ritual when setting the intention to cleanse.
Cord Cutting: Cord cutting is a wonderful technique I learned during my Shaman training and has been a part of my nightly routine ever since. Click here for a cord cutting technique that I use.
Learn: Set aside time to learn. Read a blog, listen to a podcast, or read a book.
Exercise is always a great practice to implement in your R&R and a great way to start or end any day.