Habits are like two sides of a coin. On one side we curse bad habits that bind us to enslaving addictions, activities or consumables. On the flip side our good habits appear to be a blessing allowing us to effortlessly perform thousands of boringly repetitive tasks. Every day you shower, dress, eat and complete other routine tasks on autopilot. Even driving becomes an unconscious habit. How many times have you arrived at a familiar destination without even remembering the details of the drive? These kinds of habits are great, right? Or are they? When our behavior patterns become so ingrained that they are nearly involuntary we are actually giving away the joy of being present.
Recently I was reminded how living life with intention brings meaning to day to day tasks. It can also transform our routines into rituals. Human development scholar Barbara Fiese said that a ritual has three separate parts: preparation, participation and reminiscence. She stated, “Any ordinary occurrence can become sacred when the act is planned for, participated in with purpose and then reminisced.” This can be applied to eating a meal, interacting with a child, cleaning house, prayer and scripture study, church worship, making love and ultimately everything we do.
As we plan and prepare for an experience we can set an intention of what we desire to have happen – whether it’s restoring harmony to a relationship, coming one step closer to achieving a goal or getting the best deal on a new purchase. Intention sets energy in motion to bring you what you desire.
Next, being mindfully present participants allows us to realize and reap the fruits of our daily routines. As we clean our house with mindfulness we can transform the mundane into marvelous, being filled with gratitude for our possessions. When we eat slowly with intention, savoring every bite we can delight in the deliciousness of our food, allowing better digestion and assimilation of nutrients. As we shop with awareness, not only may we discover bargains and treasures, we also might discern someone who needs a smile, a kind act or a helping hand along the way.
Finally, as we reminisce our subconscious can bring to mind something that we may have forgotten or failed to originally noticed. When we reflect on the day we can learn to see God’s guiding hand and influence.
Sacred or superficial, routine or ritual? The choice is yours.