Given the frenzied pace of day-to-day life, not to mention the constant bombardment of headlines and social media, it can seem nearly impossible to start with a moment of peace. Here, Brittany Deininger offers a ritual of waking that is helping her learn how to remain close to herself as she begins each new day.
When the house is quiet, the world settled down, my creative mind comes alive and speaks its own language with clarity. Sometimes she speaks late into the night. I am a born and bred night owl, which is to say that I am not a morning person. As a writer, artist, and thinker my ritual keeping of notebooks are my commitment to attend to the world around me and the world within me. This ritual of gathering, at all the muse’s hours, provides the raw material for the art. It wasn’t until recently that I turned to my beloved tools of response and ritual to engage my own ambivalence around waking.
We tend to think of rituals as solemn ceremonies, but as human beings our lives are comprised of a modest web of repetition and rhythm. Our words and actions take us places and habitually form the lives we lead. James K. A. Smith in his book, You Are What You Love suggests that as liturgical creatures, our rituals reveal the embodied stories of who we are and they work on our imagination in an aesthetic register. By connecting to the stories we carry, we sense the particular vision of flourishing that governs our being-in-the-world. In other words, what I do repeatedly puts me in touch with what I attend to and thus love.
When I contemplate my own definitions of flourishing and purpose I am haunted by the words of the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. He cautions that, “so many live out their lives in quiet lostness; they outlive themselves, not in the sense that life’s content successively unfolds and is now possessed in the unfolding, but they live, as it were, away from themselves and vanish like shadows.” One of the treasures of inhabiting my story through my education at The Seattle School and my artistic rituals is that I am constantly figuring out how to remain close to my life. My spiritual tradition informs my sense of flourishing by suggesting that we each have capacity to respond and are thus formed by all our choosing. At their best, rituals, liturgies and practices equip us to attend and participate in that unfolding. Personally, I want to be able to say, as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke once said in his Book of Hours,
I want to unfold.
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere,
because where I am folded, there I am a lie.
and I want my grasp of things to be
true before you. I want to describe myself
like a painting that I looked at
closely for a long time,
like a saying that I finally understood,
like the pitcher I use every day,
like the face of my mother,
like a ship
that carried me
through the wildest storm of all.
The intent of my rituals is to remain close to myself and my own unfolding. To import this sense of liturgical formation into a new practice of waking, I fashioned some simple meditative words to locate and stay close to my life as I begin each new day. Before my feet touch the ground, before I brace myself to listen to the news, before I reach for my smartphone, I attempt to reach for these words:
1. Find Your Breath:
Locate both your inhale and your exhale, for you will need them in equal measure. Breathe deeply.
2. Find Your Body:
Wake your senses. Smell. Touch. Hearing. Taste. Sight. Sense your body and yourself alive within and because of its existence. Thank it for translating the world to you.
3. Find Your Place:
Locate yourself in your room, dwelling, community, city, environment, time, etc. moving in concentrically widening circles of tribe and belonging.
4. Find Your Purpose:
Who are you becoming and what are you going to do today that contributes to why you are here?
5. Find Your God:
Give thanks for everything that woke this morning- breath, body, place, purpose, your beloveds. Pray that your life force will join the work of the Spirit. Bless something in you, so that you may be a blessing to others. Bless something in your beloveds and ask for their protection and their freedom. Ask for something on behalf of the world.
Say, “may it be so,” like it will demand something of you.
Let it send you up out of bed and into the world.