Finding your true north in a crowded world

Ritual is the passage way of the soul into the infinite.   Algernon Blackwood

In our society many of the old rituals have lost much of their power. New ones have not yet arisen.    R.D. Laing

Each year it’s the same. The new year rolls around and the tabloids and media are brimming with the latest trends, top ten things to help you get fit, be happier, smarter, more likeable. What we really need is less input. What we really need is less information, fewer overwhelming statistics, fewer fads to follow, superfoods to eat or workouts to try. What we really need is some simple rituals.

Rituals? I don’t mean dancing around naked under a full moon. Though you could if you were inclined. I refer to small practices that hold meaning for us. Small truths we can return to daily, weekly or when needed to replenish us. Practices or customs that allow us to step away from the constant focus on the physical and material. Everyday rituals act as compass points that bring us back to ourselves, not our personas as mother, executive, fitness fanatic. But truths that help us shrug off all the labels and hats we wear and remind us of who we are under the layers of societal silt. Small, everyday rituals allow us to settle into our skin and know who we are.

I have written before about the void a lack of religion has created in our daily lives. Many of us would not recognise or admit this. But I believe the constant seeking, looking for more, trying to have more, be more, do more is a result of a shift in our society away from community, ritual and ceremony. If you aren’t particularly interested in returning to dogma inspired worship you can enrich life with some everyday rituals.

Ritual is not to be confused with routine. We have routines that help stave off chaos: we rise and eat breakfast at the same time each day, we catch the bus from the nearest bus stop, and we go to the gym or yoga on certain days of the week. Routines keep us on track and make us feel in control. Routines provide structure and order and allow everything to run like clockwork. Routine is good; it reduces decision-making and ensures things get done. It can also strangle and constrain. Rituals, while also offering a stabilising anchor in the craziness of an overcrowded life, are gentler, less rigid and bring a sense of mystery and, dare I say, magic to life.

Ritual strengthens me spiritually. You may prefer to think of ritual as providing a sense of belonging and stabilisation. Ritual brings the beauty of life back into focus. Ritual reconnects us with the natural world, the inner world and rewards us in ways status, money and the latest HIIT workout cannot. In essence, ritual provides time out from daily routine, it helps us re-evaluate our path and provides us with ways to author our own lives.

Certainly some rituals may become habits and thus thought of as routines but the distinction is always there. Rising early to watch the sunrise could become a habit but the ritual comes from being present and enjoying the sights, sounds and the emotion of the moment. Soaking in a bubble bath each Friday could become a routine but the ritual comes with the intention for the week’s worries and stress to recede as the bubbles pop. Other everyday rituals might include investing in our loved ones by setting the table, serving a meal without television, phones or distractions but a focus on conversation and listening. Lighting a candle on the anniversary of a loved one’s passing. These small practices enrich us.

Like many, I suffer when my inner world is ignored. I love tarot, astrology and psychic stuff. I am also a realist. I work in the mainstream, need to address people in a range of settings so I understand and respect conventional societal norms and boundaries. I don’t have the luxury of casting off and living atop a mountain to brew my potions and commune with the elements daily, though I am invested in developing spiritually because it makes me whole points me toward my true north. With this in mind I’ll share a couple of rituals I have been practicing in the following posts that aren’t too ‘woo woo’ or freaky that help create balance in a crowded, information driven world.  Do you have some you could share?

A year of inspiration. Inspired by: Sunday Telegraph January 7, 2018

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Where’s the magic gone?

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
― Roald Dahl

Last year I decided to take a photo a day and post the image. Just anything that caught my eye, stood out, was beautiful or intriguing or quirky. It was a fabulous challenge. Most days the challenge was selecting just one image to share. Why share? I think initially it was to keep me accountable. As time went on people enjoyed seeing the world through my eyes and they started to look for the odd, exquisite and satisfying in their lives too.

At the end of my experiment I had become so habitually used to snapping that photograph that I kept reaching for my camera well into the new year.  In fact, I often still take random photos, though more often I stop and drink in the image before me and really enjoy it, in the moment.

My friend Nick, the Breakthrough Adventurer, recently took me on a half day adventure with a camera. The premise was to seek out the awesome in the everyday. When given certain parameters and actively looking we can find real beauty in the world around us that we might otherwise pass by without a second glance.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hubbub and routine of life. Many people live for their next holiday to get away, explore and enjoy life. For many, the magic is only in the special moments. My view is that there is so much life between holidays why not live each day and find the adventure, the beauty, the magic in the everyday?  Some of us are conditioned to do that, we’ve had practice, or we’ve been forced by external events to see the world differently.  If you need a helping hand might I encourage you to carry a camera. A mobile phone with a built-in camera is handy, portable and oh so convenient. But, there is something intrinsically different when you look through the lens of an actual camera. So, when you can, say on weekends or days when you don’t have too much to carry, opt for a traditional camera. It enlivens the experience somehow.

Magic? What sort of things am I talking about? Well, your kind of magic and mine may differ greatly. Among the things that have  intrigued me recently are

  • seeing a purple balloon float past my ninth floor window
  • a crumpled and discarded black serviette  on a wooden table
  • the sight of our Brisbane wheel being dismantled
  • The patterns of black mesh with young seedlings entwined within
  • a pile of bricks on a building site
  • fungi on a fallen tree trunk, shadows on a wall, the silhouette of trees on the horizon.

For me it’s random, though nature inspires me. It’s the unexpected and unlikely, the discarded and easily missed that rouses gratitude in me.

As you go about your day press that ‘shutter’ to capture the special events or objects you come across. Record the magic in each day. It’s a satisfying and enriching activity. When you have a collection you can review your anthology. You might notice themes, particular colours, textures, places that recur and bring you joy.  You will have created a map of your world. Instead of seeking joy elsewhere or only on special occasions you’ll bring joy into your everyday awareness. Seeking and longing will dissipate to be replaced by a solid peace with what is here and now.

The magic hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s right here, right now, in front of you. Can you see it? Go ahead and look for it.

Happy snapping,

Shannyn