It might seem contradictory, but the more ritual you add to you life – doing the exact same thing every day at the same time – the more mental energy you free up to be creative and productive.
Imagine if every morning when you woke up, you debated the pros and cons of getting out of bed, the pros and cons of getting dressed, of brushing your teeth, of eating breakfast, of driving vs. taking the bus to work. By the time you left the house, you would be too mentally exhausted to accomplish anything.
Likewise, our spiritual lives can be enhanced by ritual. As Baha’is we are encouraged to read, pray, meditate and review our day. Developing a daily ritual so that these activities become a habit will free up our spiritual energy so that we can think and feel more deeply about what we are doing. It also helps us stay grounded when traumatic events try to shake us loose from our spiritual foundations.
As this article explains, “Rituals are particularly helpful in situations of uncertainty or danger; they can help us reestablish a feeling of control… [T]heories hold that rituals support our physiological and psychological drive to reach homeostasis — a feeling of stability and balance.”
Here are four tools to help you develop spiritual resilience through daily ritual:
Let’s start with reading.
“To read one verse, or even one word, in a spirit of joy and radiance, is preferable to the perusal of many Books.” – Baha’u’llah
You might not feel that you have time to sit and read long passages of Baha’i Writings every morning, but everyone has time to pick up one Minute Meditation, read it, put it in your pocket, and think about it on your way to work.
This set of 365 cards makes establishing a reading ritual easy, fun, and most important, meaningful. Thinking about one phrase for a long time can bring deeper insights than trying to grasp longer passages.
I like starting my day with a morning prayer. We have a wide variety of prayer books, from the standard green one in soft, hard and leather binding, to Wings of Prayer and our Deluxe Large Print prayer book. Whichever one you use, the important thing is to set a time (or two, or three) every day so that you don’t have to think about it. Just take that moment and reconnect with the Divine.
Ninety-five is such a big number that it seems like saying Allah-u-Abha ninety-five times is surely a major time commitment. Who has time for that? But it really doesn’t need to take more than 3-5 minutes (though if you chant slowly it can take as long as you like). That means you could do it while your coffee drips, or while your dinner bakes. Just choose a time. Put your prayer beads beside the coffee maker or your TV remote to remind you, or hang them from your vanity mirror – whatever it takes to make you go “oh yeah, its time for that.”
Perhaps the easiest daily practice to forget is the one we do at the end of the day. We are to “call ourselves to account” each day by reviewing our actions and considering them from a spiritual perspective. At several points in my life, I found writing in a journal to be a very helpful tool in this process. Sitting quietly in the evening with a pen in my hand, thoughts come pouring out from my head and my heart, through my fingers to the page. If you’ve never tried it, I encourage you to do so. It has helped uncover some of my most cherished discoveries about myself. Many of my books started out as ideas written in my journals.
Here’s an interesting article on the science behind the benefits of journaling. Prayer, meditation and journaling all help reduce anxiety and depression. Creating a daily ritual around each of them can multiply their effects and make every day go a bit smoother.
Pictured above is our interfaith journal with lined pages and a place for a pen. If you aren’t sure you know what to do with a blank page, we also have a journal with prompts, My Spiritual Nourishment Journal. It is a good way to get started.