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Last Sunday I made pot roast for dinner. As I cut up the vegetables and trimmed the meat I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the wonderful meal we would enjoy. The roast was one my parents had sent us from their farm. It came from a cow that they had bred, watched being born, and cared for. And it gave its life so I could enjoy the dinner that I would be having. I’ll never be a person who can give up all meat but I think a healthy respect for the animal is important. In that moment I felt so close to my parents and appreciated the cycle of life. I was truly present in what I was doing: cooking dinner.
So much of what we do with our time is routine. We do not stop to appreciate the miracle of our lives and the pleasure that can be found in the simple things we do each day. I truly enjoy cooking dinner each night. Even if it is something simple, it is time that Rob and I spend together. Being sick and starting chemo for my lupus has really added perspective for me. I find myself appreciating simple pleasures so much more. Enjoying cappuccino on the porch, feeling the sun shine on my face, or sitting quietly petting Daisy and appreciating how soft she is are things that I might have took for granted before or not even thought about while I was doing them. Our lives our truly a gift. I’m trying to be more present in mine.
Ritual isn’t about doing a routine mindlessly. It’s a way of building something good into your life, so that you don’t forget what’s important. Done mindfully, a ritual can remind you to be conscious. Done mindlessly, a ritual is meaningless.
Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Sit in the morning. When you wake up, in the quiet of the morning, perhaps as your coffee is brewing, get a small cushion and sit on the floor. I will often use this opportunity to stretch, as I am very inflexible. I feel every muscle in my body, and it is like I am slowly awakening to the day. I’ll also just sit, and focus on my breathing going in and out. I’m an absolute beginner when it comes to meditation, but this always starts my day right.
2. Brush your teeth. I assume we all brush our teeth, but often we do it while thinking of other things. Try fully concentrating on the action of brushing, on each stroke of each tooth, going from one side of the mouth to the other. You end up doing a better job, and it helps you realize how much we do on autopilot.
3. Eat mindfully. Turn off the TV, put away the computer and mobile devices, even put away the book or newspaper. If you eat with any of these things (most people do), eating without them will seem boring. And yet, unless you do this, you are not truly appreciating your food. I like eating my oats (with nuts and berries — see my diet) mindfully, paying attention to each bite. It makes the food taste better, and I eat slowly and with gratefulness.
4. Wash your bowl. When you’re done eating, wash your dish immediately. Do it while paying full attention to your washing, to the water and suds. Read more.
5. Drink tea. There’s something ancient about the tea ceremony — and when you drink tea as a mindfulness ritual, you’re connecting with millions of others who have done so over the centuries. Make your own tea ceremony — prepare the tea carefully and mindfully, pour it slowly, sip it with thoughtfulness. See if you can set aside one time each day to do this, and it will transform your day.
6. Walk slowly. I like to take breaks from work, and go outside for a little walk. Walk slowly, each step a practice in awareness. Pay attention to your breathing, to everything around you, to the sounds and light and texture of objects.
7. Read in silence. Find a quiet time (mornings or evenings are great for me), and a quiet spot, and read a good novel. Have no television or computers on nearby, and just immerse yourself in the world of the novel. It might seem contradictory to let your mind move from the present into the time of the novel, but it’s a great practice in focus. Also, I love a good novel more than almost anything else.
8. Look at someone gratefully. Each day, find someone you care about. Instead of just seeing what you always see, really look at the person. Try not to do it creepily. See this person for the miracle that she is, and be grateful for her existence. If you’re feeling generous, tell that person how thankful you are for her.
9. Work with focus. Start your workday by choosing one task that will make a big difference in your work, and clearing everything else away. Just do that one task, and don’t switch to other tasks. Single-tasking is a great way to find focus. Increase your Monk Mind.
These rituals aren’t the only time you should be mindful, but they’re great reminders. Today, try a few of them to fully live and fully appreciate this wonderful day.