Thursday, August 14, 2014

Routine and Sacred Ritual...

...where is the boundary line?  How does one become the other?  How is it that something that seems so ordinary can become sacred to us?  And why, sometimes, does ritual--even the sacred--become routine, even boring?

I suspect, in my case at any rate, that it has to do with mindfulness.  Paying attention.  And with gratitude.

Our morning Dayspring--stepping outside to greet each new day, whatever the weather--is sacred ritual.  It feels good. I pay attention. I notice more.  I am ready.

I enjoy the small things.  I like chopping vegetables--for a tagine, a stir-fry, soup, whatever.  I like my old oak cutting board, stained with the rich patina of a thousand meals, and the knife that Joseph fashioned from a bone-handled 19th C. table knife.  It is sharp, it is useful, and it is beautiful.  It does what it was created to do--and isn't that a wonderful thing?

I like the quiet silky zip of the knife as it cleaves a zucchini or pepper, the chunk of the blade hitting wood at the end of the stroke  I love the colors and shapes and textures and scents of the vegetables as they tumble together into the old kitchen bowl.

It's a homely, comforting ritual, for me.

I used to enjoy ironing the fair linens for church, when I was with the altar guild; the touch, the scent, the silky smoothness of linen pleased me inordinately.

I like folding clothes.  I even enjoy the quiet whish-whish of my old broom on hardwood floors--till my back begins to ache.

Entering my shed studio in the morning has elements of the sacred, as well.  I made a mezuzah-like creation that hangs by the door that I remember to touch each morning with gratitude and attention.  It's made up of things that are meaningful to me, mounted on a piece of wood found in the yard--the comforting, eternal aspect of rocks and fossils, a spiral given to me by my late mother-in-law--I do love my spirals!--a tiny sterling sun-face, a crystal...

Below it hangs a tiny glass vial with tightly rolled scriptures, particular favorites of mine.

And yes, of course, one is from the magnificent Job 38.

Tea can be a very personal ritual, as can writing in my journal, or preparing to begin my work.

And of course, drawing can become meditative, contemplative, as I did in the drawing at the top of the page, or even the slow, careful drawing of a piece of our ancient plumbing, below.  We focus on something outside of ourselves, something other.  I can lose all track of time. (So much of our lives is on fast-forward, as if multi-tasking really accomplished much besides inattention--and tension!  Slowing down to draw--or to pay full attention to anything--is antidote to that scattered, harried, White-Rabbit state.)

My brother-in-law reminds me about walking meditation--and I find that when I walk mindfully, paying attention to the feel of my feet on the earth and the air on my skin and the coming and going of my breath, my knees don't hurt as much.

My life has a great deal of sweet routine, and I love it that way.  I've worked consciously to create those routines, and they are important to me.  Comforting.  (I try not to border on OCD, but hey...I DO like my colored pencils in a certain order, points up, in their box...)

When I rush through life without paying attention, when I'm thinking of ten things at once, when I resent what I'm doing and wish, oh, I WISH I were finished--then ritual is out the window and my beloved routine becomes truly routine.  Boring.  

And I must, on occasion, remind myself that "routine" is not the same as "rigid"...I try not to trap myself, or get anxious if the routine must vary from time to time.  It just does.  It's all right.  What is happening in this moment is all right, if I truly pay attention, if I honor it as this particular moment in time.  It's my life.  It's unique.  It won't return.  You really can't step in the same river twice.

And yes, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.


  1. Beautiful words Cathy...I love this blog!!!

  2. wonderful!!! much to remember!

  3. Thank you, as always, for your reminders to live mindfully, to enjoy routine (I, too, find it to be so calming when I embrace it), and so slow down.

  4. Thank you for sharing these; routines are essential to a good life/home. I've always loved C.S. Lewis's comments on them. You can google "C.S. Lewis" and "routine", and find them.

  5. Thanks for this. Your words have reminded me that I need to be living more in the present.

  6. This is such a sweet ointment for the scratches and scrapes of daily life. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Ditto to all the comments. This is such a lovely reminder to slow down, live in the moment and really see and feel life. I just read through all of your recent posts and am definitely a follower now. Thank you!

  8. I find that if I'm not mindful of the moment, if I'm just going through my day, checking one thing off my list so I can get to the next thing and the next and the next…then what I'm really doing is wishing my life away, wishing I was somewhere else doing something else. So it's important to honor our traditions and rituals and routines with attention and gratitude, as you so beautifully said.

    Love your mezuzah-like creation! I'd never heard of them before, so I looked them up. So interesting!

    1. Oh Susan, what a good point...wishing our lives away as we make "progress!" I need to guard against that too...

      All of the things on my mezuzah are personally meaningful to me; rocks and fossils remind me of the timeless nature of time; I love it that I live in a place that was once the bottom of an inland sea, and may be again some day. Change is part of life, and yet there are these slow cycles that are also natural.

  9. Thank you so much, all! I don't know why I didn't get notices of your comments, but I have read them all and am truly grateful for kindred souls out there.

  10. Just looked up Job 38, to see which one it was, and yes, it's a wonderful passage. Job has many good things to say.

    1. Might be fun to try to illustrate, a verse on each page, in a meander book....

    2. I do love Job 38, always have! That would be a wonderful meander...


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