Building Your Wisdom Ritual
A ritual is akin to a long keel on a sailboat that keeps it upright in strong winds. It is a compass that keeps us moving towards the goals we deem worthwhile.
A good ritual reinforces the mythos of one’s life. By mythos, I mean the guiding storyline, the direction, the goals. The most important ritual is the wisdom ritual, because it is the ritual that encourages continued growth and exploration and it is the ritual that prioritizes emotional self care. A good ritual will align your days with your weeks, your weeks with your seasons, your seasons with your years.
I propose a set of hilltop rituals, rituals of mental digestion, rituals of mini-retreat. They occur three times a day and they can last for five to fifteen minutes each. The key is to build a ritual that is not a chore, but a small gift that we give to ourselves. It must be something that we find useful and life-affirming. However, in the beginning, any new ritual takes some effort to establish. This is why I have designed this as a six-week course, to get the ball rolling. After that point, if the general ritual has taken root in you, it will evolve and become your own.
The Evening Ritual – Digestion
It may seem strange to begin at the end of the day, but I would argue that this is the most important ritual of digestion. With apologies for over-simplicity, let’s argue that there are good days and that there are bad days. And there are some days that are a mixture of good parts and bad parts.
For the good portions of our day, we can allow this to fuel our gratitude. Gratitude is about understanding how good or bad a day in the life can be. Gratitude is born out of this perspective. This view of ‘how life works’ allows us to both accept the tough days as just a part of life and to be grateful for the good fortune that befall some of our days.
So let us be grateful for the good. To revisit the joy it provided in all its forms: the co-worker who makes us laugh, the nice conversations, the enjoyable book we are reading, the pleasant walk after work, the great meal we had with our brother, the hope felt for the future.
Next we must focus on the bad, the tough, and the challenging aspects of our day. If we climb up to that wisdom hilltop, we create some space from our immediate emotions, our reactions of distaste towards ourselves, towards others, and to that which happened on this day. Once we establish this distance, then we are free to learn, then we can transform. And if we can learn from the tough times – and these are the best teachers – well then we are well on our way to a life that we can feel proud of.
If we can receive the day with gratitude and learning each night, every day can be a rich day. And the toughest days, even if they are tough to make it through, can be embraced for their rich lessons. If a good day is made, a good week is probable, and a good life is possible.
I know it seems simple, but most wisdom is simple. It just takes practice.
The evening ritual questions to be reflected upon to be written in a notebook:
1) Was today a good day, a tough day, or something in between?
2) What made it good? What made it tough?
3) In response to the great times: ((gratitude)) what can I be grateful for before I rest?
4) In response to the tough times: ((learning)) what can I learn from today that can help me grow a bit? What were today’s challenges? How could I have responded better to today’s challenges?