This article is part of a series called the Magical Effects of Morning and Evening Rituals (MEMER). Before proceeding, check out 4 reasons to fiercely protect your rituals and Why most people fail at developing rituals that stick.
Pleasure gets an interesting rep, don’t you think? Spiritual traditions all over the world have told us that we need to “transcend” pleasure, or at the very least not get too attached to it. In American culture built on puritanical principles, we feel we should be wary of anything that is too pleasurable, or that comes through pleasure versus hard work. Layer on gender, and we have a whole other conversation about so many of us women – especially good girls – who feel guilty about experiencing pleasure, as if we’re doing something very naughty, or getting away with our Goddess-given right.
And even in one of my last articles, I applauded the virtues of discipline, practice, and grit. And I still do. I love that stuff. When honing a craft or skill, deliberate practice is essential. Note: Pleasure and discipline aren’t totally mutually exclusive, since becoming skilled at something allows us to enter a state of flow and bliss.
Most of our morning and evening rituals (MERs), however, shouldn’t be too skills-based, but should focus on creating pleasure and rest. MERs are the pleasurable bookends to your day-job or your career work, which requires the kind of discipline needed for deep work.
MERs are about letting go, feeling the delicious pleasure of lighting a candle, reading a book, taking a bath, going for a nature walk, making a smoothie...MERs are about the simple things in life.
As such, we couldn’t possibly approach MERs with the same kind of grit mentality we use to approach our deep thinking or skills-based crafts. We must connect to the feelings therein, to the pleasures underlying them.
Here are three steps to working backwards, starting with feelings and then backing into your rituals.
Step #1: Identify how you want to feel everyday
How do you want to feel everyday? Often, this question brings up a very heady answer, like “empowered” or “confident.” Whenever it does, I like to ask a follow-up question: How does that feel in your body? Then we get somewhere interesting. Often, “empowered” becomes more barebone – it becomes “strong,” or “rooted.” We want to feel like a thick tree trunk with massive roots. “Confident” becomes “spacious” and about taking up physical space in the environment, the way a bird might when opening its wings. What I’m trying to say is feelings relate to the body, which relates to nature. And feelings are what we must understand when designing MEMERs, because we want to make sure that whatever we decide to do, we get to feel that way in our bodies.
Step #2: Map actions onto those desires
Once you’ve identified how you want to feel everyday, from the body’s perspective, we can look into the actions that get you there. Focus on “ing” verbs here because they remind us about process and fluidity. Let’s get back to the feeling of spacious (which is one of my core desired feelings), and map on certain “ing” actions that would help me feel spacious. Here might be an example list:
- cleaning up
- doing yoga
- smelling the fresh air outside my window
- listing only 3 things on my to-do list
- writing a minimalist poem
- dancing like a wild lady all over the house
Step #3: Group actions into MERs
One of the benefits of MERs is that they allow us to group pleasurable and relaxing habits into a sequence in a set window of time. It’s a really efficient and effective way to boost our energy while creating a positive loop (the morning ritual enhances your evening ritual, which enhances the next day’s morning ritual, and so forth). Once you’ve identified your actions, group them together in ways that will feel most natural in your home (I discuss this at greater length in an upcoming article, The key steps to developing your MER).
Though the way I’m framing MERs in this series has to do with finding what gives you pleasure, energy, and slowing down, they are just as important to your leadership as the skills-based, “thinking” work that gets us ahead at our jobs and in our productivity-focused culture.
MERs boost the energy and deepen the wisdom that become the foundation for the kind of work that requires a lot of intense focus.
What do you think? Comment in this post.
P.S. This article is part of a series of articles on rituals called the Magical Effects of Morning and Evening Rituals (MEMER). I’m so excited to share this with you!
Once a month, a wisdom article will focus on helping you develop morning and evening rituals (MERs) that you love, including:
- Why most people fail at developing rituals that “stick” (you’re not alone)
- How to align rituals with your core motivations (the foundation)
- The key steps to designing your MER
- How to evolve your ritual as you evolve (because you’re not a robot)
- How to develop a “reset” mindset when your ritual decays
Photo by Jaclyn Le.