Making Ritual of Routine
Happy spring, my people. For me, Easter weekend is the bend in the road toward the season of warmth, blooming, revealing. I am writing this from Bali, where I am digging in to this culture of devotion, healing, and lush beauty. There is something about a climate just below body temperature that invites us to exhale and then exhale some more, shed layers and then, slowly, more layers of covering. We notice things about ourselves we hadn’t seen, deep in the comfort routines of winter. Long trips for me have often been times of dedicated prayer, often about major transitions or healing. But setting out, I don’t usually know what I’m holding space for; that emerges with the journey. And some surprising prayers have taken shape here—and shaped the days.
In this place of relatively steady climate—just two seasons, a rainy season with short bursts of showers throughout the day or mostly at night, and a dry season, without them—life is organized around ceremony. The Balinese are the most joyfully devoted people I have experienced. Every structure—home, business, store, restaurant, hotel—has an altar, or many. Homes are built as family communes, structures for each generation, and at the heart: a temple. More than an altar—a collection, a neighborhood of them, gorgeously ornate and elaborate, or simple, moss-covered, stone. Usually set apart from the rest of the garden uniting the commune with a little gate. The gate’s important. That tiny movement, that bending down and unlatching, that passing through into sacred space. It’s a kind of bowing too. A bowing to mystery. An opening to collaboration. Passing through that portal day and night, spending time to make the offering of flowers from the garden, a little rice, maybe, some honey or a sweet (you think the gods don’t want dessert?): a way of marking the day—morning and night. A way of integrating. Of speaking (which requires noticing, naming, articulating) the prayers of the day, of the moment. A way of dropping into the heart, listening, speaking it. A way of not allowing the days to blur, one into the other, a week, a year, a decade, before we listen well enough to try to shape our heart’s demands into prayer. The daily offerings in a home or business are just one layer of ceremony. Each town has its own grand temple, with its own holidays, and the country has nation-wide holidays as well. To be a member of a family here is to have responsibilities in the home temple as well as the town temple. And in addition to morning and evening offerings, there are elaborate ceremonies for all major life events within families, and the nation: birthdays, weddings, funerals, holidays.
All this devotion might sound like an enormous waste of time.
But it weaves the Balinese into each others’ lives. They spend time on each other, and share intimate practices that unite them. They share a common practice of acknowledging their vulnerability and gratitude before the divine.
I’m leaning into these practices here. Playing with making physical offerings, letting prayer take the form of gathered plumeria blossoms, the smoke of incense, deepening my yoga practice, embodying new modes of movement, journaling at day’s close as a way of gathering the fallen petals, leaves, moments of the day into an offering that marks its close, that tattoos me with the day.
I’m thinking about the significance of ritual. And how we can shift routine toward sacred practice that marks time, and us.
What are your daily, or weekly routines?
What are your habits, or practices of intention? The repetitions that induce boredom? The mindless wastes of time, day after day?
How could you bring beauty, joy, mindfulness, sensuality, prayer into them?
How could they become markers of time that invite you to integrate all that’s gone on since you were here, doing this, before? How can they mark your days with beauty, depth, presence?