You might be thinking that this sounds a little intense.
Here’s the thing – we all have rituals, whether we call them that or not.
They’re powerful tools to reset and reclaim our inner space, and if you’re not sure what yours are, that’s fine. Maybe you’ve got a few tried and true that are already a part of your life that serve a good purpose for you – which is exciting to know.
But, before we go really deep – let’s define what a ritual actually is.
Rituals are, in general, “a ceremony or action performed in a customary way.” They’re mostly associated with religious practice, however, they’re not always used to perform religious rites or ceremonies.
They can, when used mindfully, become powerful tools in our creative practice.
Just to get this part out of the way, ANYONE can use ritual they would like. You don’t have to be ordained or belong to some exclusive sect, you don’t have to complete some lofty list of belonging to some group outside of yourself. You can take pieces and parts of different significant actions to create your own, which is what I suggest.
Rituals help us celebrate our lives, and, with a little focused intention, can become an avenue to delineate our creative actions from day to day life.
Why is this so important?
Time is the most valuable thing we have.
One thing I hear often from my creative clients is that it’s difficult to ‘drop in,’ so to speak, into the creative headspace needed to get to the heart of our work. It’s hard to set aside the mental chatter and all of the other parts of running a creative business and do what we are meant to do: make art.
What happens when we get to our workspace and still have a million things to think and to do, all at the same time? What happens when all the projects we are working on, the ones we have to do, need to do and get to do rise at once, like a groundswell – each begging our attention for their varied reasons?
We can use ritual.
How do we use them?
You don’t have to be a religious scholar or really subscribe to any specific philosophy to open and close your creative practice with ritual.
Pick 3 or so different actions to open and close your artistic time. For example, I burn palo Santo or lavender, light a specific candle (depending on my intention for that day), and then sit quietly for a singular minute.
The last step? I have some hand bells that are left over from my days as a yoga teacher. I ring them once and consider my intention for the time at hand. And then I dive in.
I’ve found that doing this specific set of actions allows me to quickly tap into the energy I have to create, has brought me an easier way to focus and stay within the bounds of my intention for that period of time.
My additional recommendations are twofold.
First– make your ritual actions consistent and also something easy.
Don’t overthink it.
Do the same actions in your ritual every time before you get started, and don’t get hung up on elaborate pageantry. It’s a tiny reminder that the time and space you have to create is just for that, and just for you.
Clear away what ideas, thoughts and worries that aren’t serving you – and, to be honest, in my creative practice, sometimes carrying the heavy bits and pieces of day to day life – with all the troubles, worries and joy – are really what you need to set down into the work. These things can drive a work into the next level – so keep with you just what you need.
Second – truly make your best effort to carve out the time.
Schedule yourself that time and eliminate unnecessary distractions. I manage my own multiple businesses online, plus the social media for at least a dozen, give or take, others.
I set all notifications to off for the time I’m working. I’ll take pics for social media as I go, and bulk post at an interval.
Because I have a little kid, I don’t like putting my phone on silent for emergencies – but I’ll go through each of my apps and turn them off, except for a select favorite or two that I like to see notifications on.
I also like to do 30 or 60-minute sprints, where I agree with myself that I won’t check the time or my insta feed – but when that timer is up? Two minutes of fair game.
You can leverage your time and mental space, it’s absolutely possible. But you have to train yourself to dive right in to make the most of it.
You still with me? Great.
Here’s what you’ll do.
Pick three significant items to you – bonus if they have a smell, a sound or some other sensory characteristic. A color that is significant, a specific feeling or touch can all be important. Try to select items that you can use only for this purpose. Before every time you get to your easel, your bench or your workspace – go through each item one by one. Every time, in the same order. Make this a part of your practice.
Eventually, the hope is that your new ritual will help you quickly drop into the creative mindset, clearing your headspace from any of the trials and tribulations of life that aren’t needed for your work. This gives you the freedom and opportunity to dive deeper into it, quicker.
And once you’ve trained yourself in this way with ritual, you get to move beyond the muse and might find that these items, their scent or sound, drops you right back into the inner creative place – even when you’re least expecting it.
I know it works for me, but it takes a little time for a solid, predictable effect.