Thursday, May 22, 2014


Rituals - Practices that we engage in regularly. The regularity can be daily or yearly. The distances between them don't matter. What DOES matter is that they are our rituals. They might be work-related, self or family, spirit or body, mind or consciousness.

My childhood had rituals. Sundays were days for church and Sunday School, then a drive to Yiayia and Papou's house in Jamaica. The delicious smells - their fabulous, gigantic, glass-topped dining room table. Talking in Greek. The drive home. The Wonderful World of Disney. Bonanza. A perfect Sunday.

At the risk of alienating practically everyone, I'll admit that life seemed to have more sanity, more clarity, more groundedness, more calm, and yes, more joy, when moms were home. Something that could always be counted on. It's important for children for children to know that they can always count on something. And, I'm finding more and more, it's important for adults as well.

All of us kids, no matter our religion, had similar rituals. We all came home from school, had snacks, and then all went out to play. We all knew that the street lights coming on were our signal that we'd hear our mothers start to call.Whether it was matzo ball soup, avgolemono, or borscht, we loved our ethnic food, and especially loved going to friends' houses to try theirs. None of my friends had pasticcio at home, and I didn't have minestrone at mine.

We all had rituals. Our lives flowed in a certain, easy, way. Sure, we got into trouble, and the repercussions weren't easy. But even the trouble was part of the ritual. We knew our boundaries, and as kids, we overstepped them. We knew what would happen on Sunday, or after school, or Passover. As children, we needed that. Of course, we didn't know it at the time.

Life is different now. That stability has given way. We don't do the same thing every Sunday. We have no idea what our friends do. Most of us work far more hours than did our parents and we have far less leisure time. We do more, but somehow enjoy less. Parents make play dates for their children so that they can be sure that the kids actually PLAY.

What might happen if we set and intention to bring some ritual back into our lives? How might we benefit? What about our children? Would they be happier? Would they fare better in school? Might they engage in less violence? I tend to think so.

Consider getting up just 1/2 hour earlier, just for the purpose of ritual. Before rising, take 3 long breaths. Jumping out of bed and starting to take care of responsibilities is fine, but the responsibilities can wait 1/2 hour. If you were still asleep, they wouldn't be getting done anyway.

Stand. Stretch - upward, back, side to side, forward. Hang your head toward the floor. Let your head rest below your heart at least once per day. Preferably more.Take a few minutes to focus your attention on yourself. We rise from sleep and start thinking about what we have to do. Instead, in that 1/2, think about yourself. What your body feels like. How your emotions are flowing. Are you worried about something? Is there a pressing issue? If you were still asleep, you wouldn't be thinking about it anyway. Use your breath to help you regulate and balance your emotions. Find a mantra that feels comfortable and brings you joy. "This day is perfect." Just a few simple words. Don't just say them, FEEL THEM. Pick whatever resonates with you.

What about your thoughts? Should you check your email or get the newspaper? Neither. Remember, you'd normally be asleep now anyway. Just breathe. Feel it. Think about it.

Your children. Wake them 15 minutes earlier. Talk with them after breakfast before they leave. Make this a ritual. Use positive and happy language. Be excited for your day and for theirs. One thing is certain - in 24 hours, this day will be a thing of the past.

Take an extra 15 minutes with them at night. I have a simple practice that I do with my granddaughter, who is now 3 years old.

  • Bath
  • Teeth-brushing
  • Read
  • Lie on our backs with our hands on our bellies
  • Take 3 long, deep breaths
  • Think of 3 things that made us happy that day - talk about gratitude and thankfulness
  • Say "Thank-you" for all the people that love us

Surprise - they don't only make a difference for your children. You'll notice a difference in yourself. Once you start, whatever it is that you decide to start, you'll discover that you want to add more. Do it! Maybe, every Saturday afternoon, go to a park. Half hour. Don't make the times unreasonable. We are all busy, but amazingly, we get more done when we take time.

Days, months, and years will pass. You'll forget the overdue oil bill, the fight with your spouse, the hassle at work. You'll remember the rituals. They'll invigorate and inspire you. Be the master of your life.

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