How to set yourself free with ritual

How to set yourself free with ritual

Almost all ancient cultures and religions have some form of ritual.

In some way or other, these rituals and routines are set up to remind us to do “the right thing”.

That “right thing” might vary, but we can still all use ritual and routine to develop habits for health and wellbeing and happiness.

In fact, happiness really is just the ultimate result of healthy and positive habits; habits that provide the framework for freedom to live your best life …

via Psyche by Alan Jay Levinovitz

Ritual is not about stale traditionalism

When I first read Confucius, I was disappointed. He seemed like a stick-in-the-mud, obsessed with enforcing the status quo. ‘As for music,’ he grumped to his disciples, ‘listen only to Shao and Wu. Prohibit the tunes of Zheng.’

This was the great sage of ancient China, who wandered the country lecturing disciples and rulers on how to live? Maybe his approach worked 2,500 years ago. But for me, in the 21st century? I preferred living freely like the iconoclastic Daoist sages who mocked Confucius.

Central to Confucius’s teachings was submission to li (禮), typically translated as ‘ritual’. I wrote it off as more stale traditionalism. But then, while preparing a course on classical Chinese thought, I re-read the foundational collection of Confucius’s teachings known as the Analects.

It was a revelation. Cherrypicked passages such as the one about music were deeply misleading. Li wasn’t about fastidiously obeying fusty old rules.

No, this was a different kind of ritual. My default understanding of the word had misled me. What Confucius taught was life-as-ritual, the transformation of everyday actions into sacred activity. ‘When we say “the rites, the rites”, are we speaking merely of jade and silk?’ he asks rhetorically. The answer is no. Confucian ritual goes beyond formalised activities that require the proper use of jade and silk. Ritual is – or can be – part of all human activity. It governs greetings and conservations. It’s how you harmonise your life with the rhythms of the world. And if you take ritual seriously, submit to it and practise it, then transforming your life for the better will go from difficult to effortless.

Ritual is about reverence

One of the first things I transformed with Confucian ritual was my relationship to my phone. Like so many of us, I was constantly tempted to check it. While driving, while bored by a story my nine-year-old daughter was telling, while out on a hike, anywhere. I knew I shouldn’t, but I did anyway, with terrible results: a near-miss of a pedestrian; a daughter who saw I wasn’t paying attention; a lousy hike.

And yet, in certain contexts, keeping my phone where it belonged was easy. I have never taken it out while teaching a class and scrolled through Twitter. Why? Because doing so is ritually inappropriate, and I took that seriously.

To embrace Confucian ritual is to treat all contexts the way I treat my classroom, as sacred spaces with their own rhythms and patterns. Driving a car is not a time to check my phone. Likewise for talking with my daughter and for hiking. As soon as I began treating those contexts with the reverence they deserved – as soon as I submitted to ritual – resisting the pull of my phone became effortless…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE