Art Practice,  Blog,  Daily Thoughts,  Mindfulness

The Importance of Ritual

To make the point that is the point of this post, I need to illustrate with a personal story.

My sweetie and I, in an effort to cold turkey clean up our health in a desperate gambit against sloth, stress and age, and joined in by my mom and sort of by my dad, have decided to go for a month without any alcohol, fried foods, white grains, or white sugar, and drinking an approximate crap-ton of what they call ‘sassy water’ which is water with cucumber (bleh), lemon, mint and ginger. Added to this, I decided to lean into this whole thing, and I added a rather radical screen time limit on my phone. Here’s the thing, though-these activities, screen time, drinking happy drinks, and eating happy foods, are some of the most common coping mechanisms out there. While you want to tell yourself that going on a long walk, or eating kale smoothies, or cleaning your room, or working out, trigger the same reward and happy centers of your brain in the same way that things like they do, and while those great and healthy activities do indeed make you feel awesome in other ways, there’s a specific reaction that your brain has to eating fat and salt, drinking drinks, and zoning out on the screen. That’s science. And we’re no different. So, this turned out to be an experiment without us realizing it. What happens when you take it all away?

Well if you’re stubborn about sticking to it, which we are because of the systems we’ve cooked up to keep ourselves accountable, and if you’re dedicated to self growth and are keeping an eye out, in whatever way you do, for signs of it, then what happens is that all of your demons and all of your angels come out to play and the volume on your shit turns way, way up. As I’ve said before, for people like my sweetie, that’s all well and good, and she takes moments to stop and pay attention to that volume and process it bit by bit, but I’ve learned that she’s incredibly efficient about those moments, because getting back to the action is paramount. She stops and contemplates when the volume is too distracting for her to act through. Otherwise, she lets it sort of drone on in the background and keeps chugging. It helps that she has an incredibly strong sense of self and confidence.

Then there are those of us who realize that this-this demuffling, if you will-is much like opening the door to that room you’ve crammed with all of the crap you didn’t want to deal with at the time, and having the mountain of said crap fall on your head bit by bit as you insistently keep opening said door. You’re still determined to deal with the crap, you’re still determined to keep things demuffled, you’re still determined to see things through. You’re also still under a sudden mountain of crap you forgot was there, and maybe forgot how to deal with.

Today is one of those days, and I realized something. We all, every one of us, have things that make us feel more centered, more balanced, more quiet, and generally better. You might not, after these things, be completely off the cliff, but at least you’re now a few steps back. Today, after coming back from a workout, after realizing I really wanted a cup of tea..and not just the result, but to go through the act of making the tea, steeping it, letting it cool, drinking it…and deciding that in the absence of my usually automatic activity of grabbing my phone I was going to write another little essay here, I realized I felt better. Like I said, maybe not completely off the cliff and back down the forest path, but well back from the ledge of general mental/emotional crappiness. And I was reminded how important that is.

Physical, actual actions. Not just sitting there thinking. That’s well and good, and has it’s place, but there are things that you can physically do, that are your wellness rituals. For some it’s making tea or coffee, or going on a run, or doing yoga, or making the bed, or dancing in the kitchen to Mary J. Blige at full blast. Whatever it is, it’s crucial that you identify it, and engage it regularly. As artists, we’re super prone to getting overwhelmed by the crap-room and the mountains that seem to accumulate there. As humans in the world right now we’re almost definitely going to have a pile of anxiety dust and dirty socks pile up in the corner as we continue to take in the dumpster fire that the world is right now.

So what are your rituals? What are your go-tos that, whether you want to admit it or not when in the dregs of a bad mood, result in your feeling more centered and even keep again?


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