string of beads

Personal Ritual, or, How I Get Myself Out of Bed

I wish I could say that I start the day by going outside and sitting in nature. I admire people like Trevanna who have this practice. But this is definitely not how my mornings go. If I’m being completely honest with myself, my “morning ritual” recently has consisted of hitting the snooze button multiple times, rolling out of bed, stabbing some bobby pins into my hair, and driving to work. Breakfast is instant oatmeal eaten while checking email.

This weekend at the Wildwood Path, we learned about the elements of ritual, and co-created a ritual as a group. We were also encouraged to think about what rituals we observe in our own lives, whether or not they’re ones we’re proud of. My morning ritual makes me cringe. But after the weekend, I was motivated and felt equipped to create a ritual that would work for me. I actually already had some elements that I liked—but they needed to be tied together.

Element 1: Reflection, Ritual Action

I turned 34 in February. I have a strange ambivalence about my birthday, and I don’t always end up celebrating it with other people. Last year, I decided that whatever the day holds, I wanted to create for myself a meaningful way to mark the occasion of completing another year of breathing sweet air.

Years ago had I read of this man’s ritual of starting each day by moving a single bead from a jar representing his future into a jar representing his past, while reminding himself not to waste the day. This formed the nucleus of the ritual that I created for myself. I made it my own: instead of a morning ritual, I wanted an evening ritual that would encourage me to reflect on the day. And I wanted to encode more information into my daily bead. So this is what I’ve done for the past year:

On my birthday, I cut a length of thread and knotted it with a single bead. Every evening since then, I stop on my way to bed and select a bead that represents my day. Days that are more or less neutral get one color. Days that contain particularly satisfying elements of nature and community get a different color. Blood gets red. Notable events—births, deaths, new relationships and breakups, world and national news that shakes me—get beads that in that moment seem to symbolize my experience. Looking back at the growing strand after weeks or months, I can’t always remember what a particular bead was intended to represent, and that’s okay with me.

I recently completed my first full year of this ritual.

Element 2: Reflection, Intention

This is new. I’m tying together the night and the morning by setting intentions before I go to bed. First I reflect on how today went. Then I tell my morning self what time the alarm clock is set for, and what I hope to accomplish in the morning. I remind my morning self how wonderful it feels to start the day by treating myself well.

Element 3: Invocation, Ritual Action

Also new. When my alarm goes off, I turn it off and stand next to my bed, looking out my bedroom windows. I greet the North, East, South, and West while stretching high and low, and finally I welcome myself to the day.

Element 4: Inspiration, Nourishment

Reading a poem while eating breakfast. Sitting down. I’ve tried to do this regularly for years, but it’s always the first thing to go when I’m feeling rushed in the morning.poem in book on table

How It’s Going

Awesome. I mean, anything would be more awesome than my previous ritual. But seriously, I’m feeling more rested, I’m waking up before my alarm clock, and I’m prioritizing things that are important to me, which turns out to be a great way to set the tone for the day. Can I keep it up? I hope so. But if (when) I go through a rough patch in the future and am not doing my ritual, at least I now know what the elements are, so I can get back into it.

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