Finding my Ritual Groove, by Jen Louden

jen loudenI’m so excited to welcome Jennifer Louden as our first guest contributor EVER here at Life After Tampons.  Some years ago, when I was really pulling myself up from some big losses in my life, Jen’s book, The Woman’s Comfort Book, was a HUGE help to me.  Her latest work, The Life Organizer, is just coming out in paperback.  (She shares a bit about that in her bio at the end.) I’m pretty sure you’re gonna love her beautiful heart, too.

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I groove on daily rituals, yes I do.

I resist daily rituals, oh hell, yes I do.

For most of my life – since I was 12, I kid you not – I have struggled with the truth that starting my day in touch with my essential goodness and with something larger than myself (stillness, nature, poetry or a general beseeching to the heavens) is a complete day changer.

I know how we start our days is how we shape our lives.

If you begin the day before you even get out of bed with anxious thoughts of “I never called the gas company yesterday and I didn’t exercise,” or by checking email or wrangling with the kids, you risk getting lost in the fray of life.

You risk losing sight of everything that matters to you. You also train your brain to be grumpy, dumber, and reactive, neural pathways you want to be weakening not strengthening.

Those kinds of morning add up to way more stress and far less intention, even to feeling empty and unmoored, adrift without that glowing center of purpose we all need.

But wait, I’ll bet you’re thinking, “She said she resists morning rituals. If they’re so good for you, why isn’t this easy for her?”

I wonder about that myself. My best answer, as of today, is starting my day with conscious intention means taking my self and my needs seriously. It means believing in my ideas, my dreams, and my self. Even more scary? It means being willing to be supported, connected and loved.

Because when I make time to connect to that which is larger than me –I have no idea what it is or what to call it – it means being seen. Being accepted. Being loved. And for whatever wacky reason, that’s hard for me. Vulnerable with a capital V.

I’m also a rebel who hates to be told what to do, even by myself.

I have tried on so many ways to start my day – mindfulness meditation, mantra, pranayama, silent walks in the summer quiet, morning pages, copying out prayers, sacred reading (Rumi to Mark Nepo). And in all these experiments, I have learned a thing about morning rituals – see if this is useful.

 

  • Play. Especially if you are rebellious like moi. Combine elements – playing an instrument, coloring a mandala, chanting, memorizing a poem, sun salutes, moon walking. Let your ritual be an act of creative joy.

 

  • You do not need a circus act with fire-eaters, elephants and a choir of Mongolian throat singers. If you make it a big ding dang do, you will quit.

 

  • Skips should, eschew goals. The world is full of “secret” advice for the sake of extreme productivity and Steve Jobs-level creative brilliance. It’s mostly bullshit because it doesn’t translate. Borrow, sure, but know your motivation. Do nothing blindly and detach from outcome.

 

  • Check in with yourself every month or so. What is the trend – more kind to yourself and others, more patient and awake, more curious and relaxed? What impact is your ritual having?

 

Okay now to me. What do I do these days? Here’s the current morning ritual (subject to immediate change):

 

  • Sit on the meditation cushion, set timer on phone, ring chime.

 

  • Notice my body, my mood, and my thoughts. Allow space for all. Really allow space for all. Soften.

 

  • Tune into my heart. Bring up good memory – say my husband’s many kindnesses or a hug from my daughter. Bask in good feelings; take it in deep while dropping the particulars.

 

  • Watch my breath in and out. Maybe some chanting or Sufi remembrance practice.

 

  • Prayer. I am agnostic and have no idea what I am praying to but it makes me feel good to acknowledge I am not in charge of this thing called life.

 

  • Choose a mindful question from The Life Organizer http://jenniferlouden.com/lifeorganizer/, sometimes a random question, sometimes I work with one for a few days or weeks. Lately it’s been “What do I really want to create and experience?” as I’m in 2014 planning mode.

 

  • Note what comes to me, write it down if needed, take a few big breathes with my arms overhead, say “I can!” and then it’s off to make a big cup of black tea with heavy cream.

 

And when I resist and don’t want to do any of this? I ask my very favorite question, “What do  I really want?” (very different than “What am in the mood for?”) I tap into desire. If that doesn’t work, because I’m too tired or got distracted by checking email first thing,  I cherish the words “begin again” knowing I will start with one minute of mindfulness, and build again from there. No guilt, no fancy plans for the perfect future.

Simple ritual + consciousness = a life fully lived rather than a life reacted to. A life with less drain and no blame.

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Jen Louden is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book The Woman’s Comfort Book. She’s the author of 5 additional books on well-being that have inspired more than a million women in 9 languages, and she’s even sat on Oprah’s couch. Her book The Life Organizer is just out in paperback. Visit http://JenniferLouden.com/lifeorganizer for a fantastic new app & other super-useful freebies.

 

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13 Responses to Finding my Ritual Groove, by Jen Louden

  1. Hey thanks for having me over at your house Jennifer!!! A pleasure and an honor indeed!

    • Jennifer says:

      This is so super cool to have you, Jen. ESPECIALLY since I poured over your books for years and years before I got my own gumption going. Thank you, love.

  2. Holy moly, reading this is seeing my own rituals process shown to me with clarity I’ve never known. (Except for the part where I have only actually sat on a cushion in the morning a total of 20 times in the last two years – ahem.)

    I take away and invite myself to this: “Do nothing blindly and detach from outcome.” I am thinking much about commitment, consistency and finding a kind of cadence in “doing” as I move into the new year. I’m thinking I’ll type up that little mantra: Do nothing blindly and detach from outcome – and place it near my creative spaces. This is rich goodness here – thank you, Jennifer & Jennifer ( <= that makes me smile).

  3. Amy Taylor says:

    I love the idea that so much of the world is full of “secret advice for extreme productivity.” I will be practicing these ways of starting my day that will lead to a more calm, curious me. I’m dropping grumpy “productive me.” That person is agitated from rushing to produce all the time. I’ll be slowing down to ask the question,”what do I really want?”

  4. What a wonderful way to start the the morning, the week, and a new year.
    I love your sound, but light wisdom. It’s not only comforting but absolutely doable.

    Like you, I’ve had my share of well-intentioned rituals that fell by the wayside because I realize now that I don’t like tight structure or being told what to do. When we give ourselves permission to be guided by our motivation and avoid getting locked into what some “perfect” person says we should do, we will enjoy our own fully lived life.

    Thank you for finding for yourself and sharing with us the beauty of simple rituals and starting each day with consciousness. I’m off to get your new book so I can incorporate what you share in my ever-evolving life plans.

    ======
    Jennifer B, thanks for hosting Jen L on your blog.

  5. Carol Hess says:

    Ah, two of my favorite Jennifers unite — what a wonderful collaboration!

    I’m relieved to know that I am not the only one who struggles with establishing a morning ritual. At this stage of the game, I’ve certainly thought about it much more than I’ve actually done it. And I do know it makes all the difference in the world to my day, and I really, really, really want to give myself that gift in 2014. (Should I add in one more really? Would that help?)

    For me, I think the key is letting go of my idea of what a PERFECT morning ritual looks like. My bladder and two hungry cats disabuse me of that ridiculous notion pretty darned quickly. I’ve got to say that the elephants and Mongolian throat singers are darned tempting though. How perfect would that be?! :)

  6. Sharon says:

    Jen Louden, once again, you are in my brain and know my heart. The biggest koan of my life has been “why is it so challenging to consistently do the things that I know help me feel better, more connected to myself, more likely to make my day one of fluidity even in chaos?” And the thing I’ve come to more and more over time is just what you said — make some ritual time but be flexible and open in that. Touch into what simply is and allow myself to breathe into each part of it. Connect through my senses to the world within and around me. Know that “begin again in any moment” is one of the truest mantras known to humanity.

    Blessings to you in the new year…

  7. Nicole D. says:

    “I’m also a rebel who hates to be told what to do, even by myself.”

    Yes, this is so me; my only obstacle is myself…..

    Thank you ever so much, to the both of you! Jennifer L., I have subscribbled to your site as well

  8. Srinivas Rao says:

    So happy to see Jen here. If there’s anybody I can credit for teaching me how to write books, it’s Jen. She gave me a critical learning that changed everything. “The process doesn’t have to be linear.” Thank you Jen :)

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