Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Importance of Ritual

These last weeks as I've reflected on 2011 and looked forward to 2012, I've been thinking about the importance of rituals in my life. Truth is, I'm terrible at making and keeping resolutions (aren't we all?), but I have found some success in viewing goals not as a singular change that gets added to my life, but as incorporated into a new life ritual of sorts.

As an example, earlier in the year we realized that we were watching too much television in our house. Thing is, we weren't really watching it much of the time, but we'd gotten used to just waking up and having it on as background noise, and as a result, Molly was racking up television hours like it was her job. The thought of just all of a sudden turning off the tv was terrifying, even though I knew I wouldn't miss it. So instead of deciding to simply enact a rule that we would turn the television off, we created a new morning ritual that just didn't include the television. Formerly, Molly woke up and turned the tv on while she woke up and had breakfast. Now, we wake up, read a story, and listen to music in the mornings. Taking away the television was painless because it didn't really feel like we took it away. We merely changed the routine.

When I was teaching, routines and rituals were something I put a lot of thought into before the school year started. I then continued to reflect on them throughout the year and tweaked things as needed. I believe that having routines (especially in a classroom) creates a sense of calm and safety because everyone knows what to expect. Students can arrive at school and start the day off in relative peace and calm, rather than in a state of anxiety over whether they'll be thrown into an uncomfortable situation. Even (or especially) children need to feel like they have some sort of power over their surroundings. I think that is so important for all of us.

In our spiritual lives, too, there needs to be some degree of ritual in order to grow in maturity. This is what I've really been thinking about as I've set my New Year's goals for 2012. Obviously, God is in charge of whether and how much I grow and mature in my relationship with Him. But there are things that I can do, routines that I can set, patterns that I can follow, in order to put myself on the right path. Rather than just saying, "I want to deepen my relationship with God this year" I have decided to say, "I want to set my life in a trajectory that points more closely to God." I want to establish routines in my life, like waking before my children and having a plan for reading and praying, that won't feel like an additional thing to do, but will replace my current routine. I'll let you know how it goes.

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

Caroline and Matt said...

I love this, I did something similar to your idea, but it's at bedtime i was watching TV and now am going to use that time for reading in the bible and reflection over the day. I'll keep you posted as to how it goes, hopefully well!