Today’s post will be about “Rituals”
There could be a lot of things that the word ‘ritual’ invokes for you. It could mean a lot of things. And all of these could ‘fill your cup’ in various ways.
Here are the links to the rest of the series!
In 2023, I hope each of you is able to set goals/intentions/resolutions/etc. and fill your own cup while doing so. We all know you can’t pour from an empty cup!
Reflection – 1/3/23
Rest – 1/6/23
Movement – 1/9
What does “Fill Your Cup” mean, anyway?
“You can’t pour from an empty cup” – who knows who said it, but it is so simple that you cannot refute it.
The first thing that comes up on a Google search for the phrase “What does it mean to fill your cup?” is this:
“To fill your cup means to replenish those stores of mental, emotional, and physical energy.” from AquaticsPros in September 2020.
This post was about the ways our lives changed in 2020 – we are all more aware, I hope, of what makes our individual worlds go around. The following search items came up in that same Google search – “practical ways to fill your cup when life gets hard,” ways to add meaning to your life, taking care of yourself first, and how to fill that cup so you can “love others better.” I did not go and read all of those articles, but it was interesting how many ways people interact with the phrase. It is very open to interpretation.
I am going to agree with the first definition, though – things that replenish your energy. And the 8 things I’m writing about (Reflection, Rest, Movement, Rituals, Connection, Compassion, Mindfulness, and Nature) are all things that I have identified that help do that.
“What does that mean?” you may ask – the Google search engine answer for that is Self Care. The list of articles and blogs talk about various means of self care – spiritual practice, morning routines, cooking, drinking water, taking a bath. You could do most of these without any sense of ritual about them – they are just the things that you do. But you can also do them with a set intention to take care of yourself.
Your individual definition of the word ‘ritual’ could be religious, daily routines, family or cultural traditions, spiritual, related to playing sports or your favorite teams, myths, rites of passage, births, marriage, deaths…you get the idea. Any or all of these could ‘fill your cup’ in various ways.
The important part is to do it on purpose – to mark these routines as positive and to give them the power to replenish you, especially when you need it the most.
I would challenge everyone to find their holiday, family, spiritual, regular (like weekly or monthly) and daily rituals that replenish them and make them more able to face life challenges.
What fills my cup (a partial list)
When I think of my rituals, I think of things that buoy me instead of drag me down. The phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” kind of idea. That may be because I am a therapist and they have been telling us the importance of self care and the dangers of burnout. Or it might be because I know that I am a better therapist – and a better person – when I am lifted up, because it makes me able to help to lift others.
But what lifts you up is a lot of things. Here is my list from today (in no particular order) sleep, velvet comforters, dogs and how warm they are especially when they’re in cuddle mode, kindle books, hair masks, cherry coke, blotting papers, ginger water, rose quartz, dog snores, free yoga (YWA is my favorite), peanut butter, art in daily life, clouds clearing and the sun peeking through…and that was all before lunch. That is a simple cross section of things that help me fill my cup in any given morning. Things I did, ate, used that I am trying to be more mindful of so I can make sure my intention helps make them rituals.
These are the small daily ones, but what made me focus on rituals are the holidays. Christmas and family and all of it are one big ritual of connection and tradition that means something really important to me – especially twinkle lights and Christmas Cake on Christmas morning and reading in front of the fire with my family on Christmas day.
What are your rituals?
Holidays, Spirituality, Nature & Tradition
We all have holiday traditions – whichever ones we like the best. Do you like the party atmosphere of New Year’s Eve or St. Patrick’s Day? The spiritual aspects of Easter or Ramadan or Rosh Hashanah or Diwali? The spectacle of the Super Bowl or a 4th of July parade? A Solstice celebration? A baby or wedding shower? Graduation? Wakes or funerals? Housewarming?
Whichever one you like the best, what do you like about it? I like the coziness of Christmas – if it were up to me, I would probably do it on the solstice, but it’s usually pretty close, so I’m just gonna go with that flow or tradition. I like the warm fuzzy aspects – I wonder if I would like to live in a Nordic country? They have winter traditions like hygge which is so appealing. But then I think about snow and think “maybe not.” But I will take all the good parts and continue to consider that Denmark is the happiest country in the world (by self report).
All of those winter rituals can be significant – even just unwrapping yourself from all the layers you need when you go outside and come inside. But hygge is supposed to be about the small joys of life, and that is what I like to focus on with rituals. The warmth, the coziness, reading in front of a fire with something hot to drink and a blanket (or a dog, or both) on my feet, the lights on the tree twinkling. Just thinking about it makes me feel warm and relaxed.
The one that I focus on a lot is walking my dogs – I try to take them every morning, but sometimes weather or appointments make it a different time of day. This one is a ritual mostly for the dogs – as soon as I put on my shoes and get anywhere near their leashes, they are raring to go, jumping up and down, and giddy with doggie excitement. I have had dogs most of my life, and there are few things that dogs like more than walks. So it is a way to connect with them, with my neighborhood, with the outside world, and with my family that is wrapped in canine enthusiasm, which makes it much more fun.
These are just some of countless possible examples of rituals – in this case, a religious holiday with lots of other possible associations and a daily routine that gets me outside. I have a lot of them. When I did not get to them, I would feel guilty (especially the dog walking – a sad or disappointed dog is hard to look at) and then they became obligations – that does NOT fill the cup. So my simple metric is this: is it a ritual (something that brings me positive) or a rule (something negative). Obligations (a third category) are just part of being an adult – you do things you have to do for various reasons (like working or going to the grocery store) but on balance, they are neither positive or negative, just transactional.
* side note – I am not a big fan of rules, in general, unless I make them. Ask me how I feel about double standards sometime – you will get an earful!
Rituals versus Rules
We all have rules. It may just be the way you do something and have no particular positive or negative association with it, but most of us have RULES. Things that we do on a regular basis or ways that we make decisions that make us feel more comfortable – or uncomfortable when they do not happen.
It makes sense to have some “rules” – they are designed to help us shortcut decision making and to keep us safe. Some of them may no longer serve you. You could grow out of them. You could shift your values or goals and need to establish new ones.
With clients, I see a lot of “eating disorder rules” or cognitive distortions (like black & white thinking). You can drive yourself nuts with rituals – and that is what makes them RULES instead. If there is no flexibility, if there is judgment, then that is more of a rule than the kind of ritual I am talking about. If it stresses you out, it is not a ritual.
Challenge – what are your rituals?
And that is your challenge – what are the routines that lift you up? That make you feel good? That fills that cup? You know some of mine – what are yours?
If you do not have any that lift you up, what would you be willing to add to your routines that might become a positive ritual?
Update January 15, 2023: Here is a podcast I listened to this week that seems pretty connected – this one is called New Year, New You Why Not? from House Therapy, a feng shui podcast. Is has some suggestions for rituals and ways to connect to your self and your home in slightly different ways. Enjoy!