Thursday, February 12, 2015

On Rituals and Practice

I remember the first time I returned to my parent's house after I moved out to go to college.  I woke to the sound of my mom clumsily washing pots and pans in the kitchen sink as she waited for the coffee to be ready.  Prior to this, I had some how completely ignored the habits of my mom each morning and/ or saw no significance to her actions each day, other than the fact that she insisted on vacuuming the house at 6:30 am (which, at the time, seemed like an ungodly hour to be doing anything other than sleeping). On this visit, I decided to get out of bed and see what she was doing, and for the first time noticed my mom's calculated practices and rituals:

-Wake up
-turn on the coffee pot
-wash the dishes and or vacuum
-sit down to read with her coffee in hand
-water the garden
-fix breakfast and lunch
-leave for work.

I was fascinated at her ability to commit to these tasks each day, all before heading off to work, and I was inspired and determined to create my own morning rituals when I returned to my college dorm room.  That inspiration lasted all of one day before I returned to previous ritual of sleeping-in as late as possible without being late to class.

Fast forward a number of years and there I am listening to Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder give an informal talk to promote a new book they had out, and I hear Wendell and Gary discuss the ideas of daily practice and how these rituals we enact each day can be, and are, means to practice living the best way we know how.

As I thought about these words I began to realize that I had already, myself ,without knowing, created my own daily rituals that I practiced each day in order to help create some sort of structure.  And so, I began to write down lists of theses rituals.

This is a list of practices that mostly created a healthy and productive day:
-Wake up
- Make Coffee
- Meditate
- Drink coffee and eat breakfast with Jess
- Get out of the house for a run or workout

Unfortunately this list often included other things that weren't always so productive:
-Social Media
- Email
-and a bunch of other computer related time wasting techniques...

There were also weekly lists:
- Tend to the garden
- Yoga
- Read
- Wash dishes
this list goes on and on.

And of course there are all of the running related weekly rituals:
- AMRC group run
- Tempo Run
- Weight Train
- Long Run
- Yoga
- etc.

With all of these lists on hand I had began to think why? Why do these things? Of course some of these are necessities, but what about all of the others? In the running community we are constantly trying to answer the question "Why do we run?" Perhaps the answer to this and the answer to the  "why?" of all the rest of my practices is simply because the practiced ritual helps to create some level of structure to my day to day life, and this structure provides the necessary friction for movement and change.  I found, through this exercise, that the noticed ritual, over the arbitrary habit, has a profound impact on one's ability to enact this change on the path toward being the best version of our selves, if this is indeed our endless goal. Thus, I run, garden, wash dishes, read, write, and whatever else merely as a means to practice my own life.

And now for the real reason for this post: I write all of this nonsense to say that I realize, just as in running, the consistency of my blog posts are indeed important to the success of me as a writer and of my blog.  Thus, I will try my best to have something written down here each week from here on out.  Sometimes it may have to do with mountains and running, sometimes it might not, but all of it will be something, all will be practice.


- E

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