Originally published in the Family Law Section Commentator.
Rituals to Balance Your Life
By Eddie Stephens, Esquire
Many years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Peru with an anthropologist friend. I spent over a week in the mountains where I watched the native people perform rituals. I was taken with how much attention they paid to detail no matter how big or small the task at hand. Whether making dinner or performing ritual, this was what they did and they did it with great focus and attention to detail.
I learned a valuable lesson. We can enhance the quality of our lives and better calibrate our balance by performing certain routine tasks in a ritualistic manner. I incorporated this teaching into my life. Now, I approach certain tasks with a since of reverence. Instead of rushing through these tasks to get to something more important, I have added significance to these tasks.
As you go through your day, take notice of routine tasks, then identify those tasks that seem to call to you. Whether you find yourself lingering over brushing your dog or washing your car, you will begin to recognize if you slow down, enjoy the moment for what it is, the ritual will become a comfort. Living in the present and truly focusing on what you are doing as opposed to rushing through to get to the next project is truly grounding.
Rituals relating to family or animals are a good place to start. Living things need to be cared for and nurtured. If a living thing is dependent upon you, then a connection is already established.
To illustrate this point, try calling someone who matters once a week at the same time with no real purpose in mind. Just chat. If you have the discipline to do this consistently you will see many practical benefits: building a closer relationship, being current with one another, providing security/happiness to the person you called. Just as building a relationship takes time, learning to savor your chores as an enjoyable ritual may take time. Slow down and enjoy the moment. Be present and you will have a meaningful experience.
I have many daily rituals. Those who know my family understand we have many pets. Five dogs, a flock of chickens, four guinea pigs, two snakes, and a bearded dragon. To keep this ecosystem alive and happy takes a considerable amount of work. Not to mention my wife and kids.
There is a division of labor within my family, age appropriate. Each of us has certain chores that require daily or frequent attention. I found early on that a happy flock of chicken is incredibly relaxing and soothing. From time to time my wife and I sit in the chicken yard with a cup of coffee and just watch them peacefully go about their day. The chores associated with keeping this sort of bucolic situation peaceful are mindlessly tedious. But in that tedium I’ve found a meditation of sorts that clears my mind.
I enjoy working my way through my chores at a steady pace. Somehow this helps keep me in balance. When I am unable to tend to these chores I can see a big difference and can tell things are off.
We all know the practice of family law is not easy and often takes a toll. Most of us have hobbies or stress relief, but let’s use this example: if you have a boat, you enjoy taking the boat out on the water or fishing, or floating around. But how you approach the chores associated with the boat. Do you look forward to cleaning the boat, the upkeep, maintenance? Slow down. Approach the chores with the sense of reverence. Hopefully you will find the benefits within these simple routines and rituals.
It takes a well balanced attorney to objectively and effectively guide others through the litigation process, especially in these days of 24/7 access. Smart phones, wireless and email have broken down much of the etiquette of law. Even worse, it means that many of us never really unplug. When you identify what rituals mean the most to you, sink in and enjoy them. Leave your phone and give these moments your full attention.
These are some thoughts that have kept me on the right path that perhaps can be helpful to you as well.