There are so many things in a day, I realized not long ago, that I do out of habit. Purely because I have always done them or thought about them in a certain way. The decision to think certain things weren’t mine, it was something I took from others. It didn’t come from within but from the environment that I grew up, from people I was surrounded with, from society my life has been set. I created routines, that together, acting as a mosaic, created my life.
About a year ago, I came across a book called The Path – What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About The Good Life by Michael Puett. Michael Puett is a Professor of Chinese History in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. His course on ancient Chinese philosophers is one of the most popular at Harvard, and I quickly understood why. The book has a lot of interesting points and ideas, and this is what stuck with me the strongest:
“When you hold too tightly to a plan, you risk missing out on these things. And when you wake up one day in that future, you will feel boxed in by a life that, at best, reflects only a piece of who you thought you were at one moment in time.” ― Michael Puett, The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life
We are all trying to be the best versions of ourselves, but it can be a very dangerous concept, in case we don’t find out who we are first.
The routines keep us on track with things we desire or need to do, in order to be the person we want to be. But I realized it is about knowing who we are first, noticing and loving all our parts, admirable traits but also flaws. It is important to know, we are enough right now, we don’t have to do more, be more, or work more, in order to be happy.
We have to be ourselves and in touch with our souls, and from that spot, find our true path. Only then there is time to implement rituals into our lives, instead of routines, that only make us do the same things over and over again. We can have rituals, the ever evolving activities, that leave room for improvement.
Rituals make us focus on what we do. Let’s say, I have a morning routine. I wake up, take a shower, go to the kitchen, make tea, make breakfast, sit down and eat it. With routine, I will keep doing this very same thing every day, without stopping or thinking about each one of the actions. When I make it into ritual, I will transform every single movement into a conscious one. I wake up and observe how I feel. How does my body and my soul feel. While taking a shower, I can consciously focus on my body and send it love and appreciation. Every activity becomes a healing tool, a part of something bigger, that creates happiness in our lives.
When we focus on what we do, we can send different energy. This line of thinking was a big shift for me, mostly because I realized how many things I did were not something I wanted to do. They were habits, routines and things that tied me in the way of life and thinking that I was at the moment I created them.
It is not about doubting our actions, on the contrary. It is about allowing ourselves to be the version, that we are today. To go through our day without feeling obligated or angry, when things do not go the way we thought they will. It is about letting go of expectations and embracing each one of the activities we do.