Have you ever heard of a man cave?? Well, in the Conway household we have what I like to call a “meditation cave.” Sure, there’s no TV and no mini fridge stocked with snacks and beer, but I love this room just the same. To me, my mediation cave is a sanctuary. It’s where I go to improve myself, learn about myself, and work on myself. I can’t tell you how many inspirational and even challenging moments I’ve had while in my cave. Sometimes I leave my mediation space feeling energized and sometimes I leave feeling as though I have just discovered a hard and difficult truth. Either way, to me, the experience is priceless and my mediation cave has become an important part of my life.
Every encounter with my mediation room is designed to make me a better person. In fact, I won’t even go into my mediation cave if I’m not doing something to improve my life. Whether it’s meditating, journaling, writing, or working, I try my best to reserve those activities only for this room.
By limiting the activities in this room to only those that will improve my family’s life, I’ve reprogrammed my mind and body to react accordingly. In other words, when I turn on the light and enter the mediation cave, I know it’s time to be present, work and listen to my mind. On many occasions my brain adapts to the surroundings before I consciously make a decision to slow down and focus. Before I realize it, I’m in the zone and I’m locked in. Often, it feels as though my mind and body know what to do before I do.
It’s amazing to me that the brain can work in this way. When I built my meditation cave (which doubles as an office) I had no idea that I was effectively creating a space for rituals.
Now, when I use the term “rituals” I’m not taking about religious rituals or cultural rituals. I’m talking about those activities we reserve for a particular place and for a particular time. For me, my mediation cave is where I performed the rituals of sitting in silence, working and writing down my thoughts and ideas. Eventually, these rituals became a deeply reinforced habit in my life and my meditation cave evolved into the catalyst for performing such rituals. To put it another way, after a while, my mind and body understood how to act when I was in my mediation room.
In my eyes, this is the magic of rituals: they prime and prepare your mind and body to respond according to the activity at hand.
For some, rituals can be complex and complicated. For others, a ritual can be as simple as lighting a candle or saying a quick prayer. Either way you do it, science suggests that rituals can improve one’s ability to accomplish goals and achieve desired states of mind. You can save serious time and energy by programming your brain to respond to rituals.
When do you it right, these rituals can be a tremendously helpful shortcut in life because they allow you to jump right into an activity. A well-established behavioral pattern (aka rituals) will inform your mind that it’s time to get ready without you consciously having to do so.
In many ways, rituals are like a powerful computer startup system that allow the CPU to boot up instantly with little effort and is readily available to perform computations at an optimum level. If you think about it this way, it’s easy to see why starting your own rituals can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
When it comes to our surroundings, I think it’s safe to say that most of us underestimate the amount of influence it has on our behavior. We go from one activity to the next without considering our environment and because of this, we waste copious amounts of time and energy trying to get the computer started so to speak. Hopefully by now, you realize that rituals can be a short cut to this time and energy sucking process.
To create your own rituals you will need to be your own guinea pig. I always recommend the iterative approach in that each time you perform an activity, notice what worked and what didn’t work for you. If you do this enough, you will eventually drill down to a set of behaviors that are optimal for the desired activities. Once you pin down the positive behaviors that are most conducive to performing the activity successfully, you double down. You don’t deviate from those behaviors and you treat them as sacred because rituals lose their power the more volatile they become.
If you think about this it makes sense. The more you change your behavior the more you confuse your mind. If you always do it one way then there is no confusion.
The beauty is that once you create your own rituals, you’ll be able to go deeper into whatever activity you desire.
For me, I have a very specific ritual that I preform before I mediate every day that I don’t change. First, I set my timer for 30 minutes and turn off all the lights in the room. Then, I light my candles and turn on my fountain as slowly and mindfully as I possibly can. After that, I ring my Tibetan singing bell and settle down in my meditation chair. Once I’m sitting I adjust my posture and my sitting cushion and begin to stare at a golden Buddha that sits on my meditation table. Finally, I take five deep breaths and on the fifth breathe I state an intention for my session and close my eyes. Once my eyes close I’m off to the races and my mind has already settled.
As you can see from my silly little ritual, yours doesn’t have to be grandiose or spectacular. It can be simple and concise and require little time and effort. The point is, do what’s best for you, try things out, settle on what works and stick to it. If you do this, I can promise you will see the power of rituals in your life.
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And until next time, many many blessings.