Details and Rituals
“Every spirit builds itself a house, and beyond its house a world, and beyond its world a heaven. Know then that world exists for you.”
In her book, Living a Beautiful Life, Alexandra Stoddard elaborates on the importance of rituals and details. It is the small commonplace daily acts that, if paid attention to, give life its depth and richness. That's why it's important to give sufficient time to them. Something as simple as preparing one's first cup of coffee (or tea) in the morning, can be a sacred ritual when we approach each step with awareness. That first sip, a communion, an opportunity for gratitude. Even if you get your first cup at coffee shop, bringing awareness to the aroma of the shop, the sound of the grinder, and the smiles and words of the barista imprints the total experience in your mind as a pleasant and meaningful way to begin the day. When we make the small details of our lives count, we bring more awareness to its whole.
I can't tell you how many times someone has asked me, “What did you do today?” or “How was your week?” and I cannot recall exactly what I did. This happened just as often when I was young as it does now. It isn't because I'm senile, it's because I'm not paying attention to details. My mind is in one place and my body is another. For example, I cleaned up a couple of bookcases yesterday, and found the usual books I hadn't looked at in twenty years, but also ones I had never read at all. Living a Beautiful Life was one of the discoveries. I now have four boxes of books to donate to the library, and one shelf-full to peruse at my leisure.
Stoddard recommends some “Grace Notes” at the end of this section on ritual and detail. They are ways to add richness to your life, and slow down enough to pay attention to details. Here are a few of her suggestions:
“Work smarter, not harder. When you feel overwhelmed, take a break from whatever is causing you pressure and attend to some necessary tasks that will please you and bring instant gratification. Organize your desk top or a drawer of two. Then go back with new energy to the bigger tasks.”
“Mark new seasons with childhood reminiscence. In spring, fly a kite. In summer, make a sand castle. In fall, rake leaves and go hiking. In winter, go for a walk in newly fallen snow.” (Today is the first day of summer!)
“Take a few minutes to be alone several times each day. Concentrate on your breathing. Meditate. You will emerge refreshed.” (Prayer works, too.)
Since the natural world is my touchstone, I have made a ritual of paying attention to the wind. Whether it is a small breeze, strong waving of the tree limbs, or hardly a whiff, simply attending to it connects me to the Source. Another suggestion from Stoddard: day dreaming, which she contends helps the brain promote essential cross circuiting for your creative process, and gives it a rest from the pressure of thinking, planning and executing.
New day, new season. Pay attention, so unlike me, you will remember the details of your precious life.
In the Spirit,