Rituals and why I do them

I don’t remember having a lot of structure in my early years. My parents believed in letting us decide for ourselves on many issues. So much so that I wasn’t baptized till I was 13, at my own choice. An action, which, almost simultaneously resulted in me not setting foot in church again till I was 30.   My father became a US citizen when I was 16 or so. He could have applied for my sister and I at the same time. But he didn’t. The jury is out on whether that was a choice or an oversight.

Now, as a parent myself, I have deep regrets about that methodology. In my experience we all need structure.  Knowing what you can’t and can do leads you later to decide what’s important. What is one willing to give up to gain something else. Instead of flopping around all over the place, you can actually put down some roots and grow tall and strong. 

So, I make the bed every morning because it sets the tone for the day. I have things to accomplish, sleeping is over and there’s no sneaking back for a doze. The same idea supports no dishes in the sink; boundaries, order, goals. I’ll admit I’m a little teensy bit of a neat-nick. I don’t like leaving my work space in disarray at the end of the work day.  Otherwise, when I return I’m distracted and get anxious. 

I walk because it helps me percolate to clarity whatever is roaming around my brain. I’m lucky to live near a beautiful old Olmsted park called the Emerald Necklace which, as the name implies, circles the city. In the midst of this urban landscape is green grass, towering trees and fresh streams and falls. I come back home grateful which is the best gift of the walk by far. 

For exercise I study Pilates. I say, “study” because there is endlessly more to learn about doing it correctly. It reminds me of my dancing days when I struggled to train my body to its correct posture and performance. Pilates gives me the same feeling of power, grace, height and youthful agility. 

Meditation is probably the best thing anyone can do for themselves PERIOD. On top of all the health benefits lower blood pressure, heart health, reduced stress, etc. etc) is the gift of acceptance. Training the mind to be quiet is never finished. My mind is always jumping around to various laundry lists of activities to accomplish rather than focusing on my breath. How precious then is it to know that THIS IS NORMAL. The key is being gentle with myself when I catch myself doing it. Just go back to the breath. You can always start over. No punishments. No judgements.

Mason Gehring