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Ritual and Habit
Many of us have a morning ritual.
Often it involves coffee.
But does it involve ritual?
When we say “ritual”, we often mean “habit”.
Habit is unconscious.
Ritual is conscious. It is focus, attention, devotion. It is love.1
Next time you make coffee2, make it a ritual.
Next time you make coffee, focus on the making.
Next time you make coffee, examine every tiny detail of your cup.
Next time you make coffee, linger with the smell.
Smell without drinking for as long as you can bear.
Sip and taste the coffee. Use every part of your mouth and throat.
Sip after slow, slow sip.
Next time you make coffee, give thanks for the coffee.
Then try ritually washing up.
Humans crave ritual.
Ritual is available to us all, every day.
Some years ago, the artist Becky Bowley asked me to photograph her art performance Grace Waves and Cherry Blossom, which included a Japanese tea ceremony. The ceremony moved me almost to tears. I had never imagined that silence, slowness, focus, devotion, and servitude, could bring so much to the simple act of making and serving tea.
Also have a listen to The Emerald podcast - it is often about ritual, but it is also produced in a ritual manner. Make sure you give it your full attention.
This is my definition of ritual. I think it’s a good one, but yours may differ: I’ve written often on the tricksiness and subjectivity of words.
If you don’t drink coffee, adapt these instructions for tea, or for the drink of your choice. Or for cooking a meal. You can even turn washing the dishes into a ritual. In fact, ritual dishwashing is surprisingly good at soothing the soul.