The alarm goes off. You reach over to hit snooze for just five more minutes of peace. When you finally come to after the third alarm, it really is time to get up. But since this alarm is on your phone, you take a quick scroll through the ‘Gram, maybe get sucked into a work email after taking a quick check through your messages.
And the cycle of constant stimulus continues.
Modern life can mean endless fatigue if you let it–and most of us let it. It is reaching a point that the majority of us need to treat our digital habits, hustle culture addiction, and multi-tasking as we would any other vice–know your limits.
But how do you simply “know your limits”? The addiction to busy is like any other addiction in that, while you may realize there’s a problem, action toward a solution may be incredibly difficult. In my own life, I have at times found myself observing a slide into overstimulation, overwork, and nervous fatigue, but observation did not spur action to stop it. Why? Well, it is two-fold: one, the slide is usually gradual–it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You find yourself able to maintain pace, even if that pace is slowly crippling you. Two, this is the expectation of modern society. Is it wrong to push yourself to the limit? Every adult in your life told you to be the best you could be growing up and, well, you’re just trying to be the best you can be. Even if it’s slowly taking you away from you.
Now, there is an entire movement around self-care, so the concept of unplugging is nothing new. But the remedies championed are often extreme versions of a simple concept: mental, physical, and emotional space. Vipassana retreat to turn the world off? Week-long yoga retreats to reconnect with your body? Even the conversation around a simple concept like mindfulness can get distorted by people’s obsession with marathon meditation sessions and corporate wellness optimization. Somehow, simplicity becomes very complicated when viewed through the modern capitalist lens.
What to do? Make the very big, very small.
I call them “micro-retreats”. Daily, hourly revisitations of our core. Just us and the natural rhythms of the world–the wind through the trees, the birds’ cheerful chirp, or the heart beating in our chest. These retreats must be built into our day, lest we backslide into overwhelm. For me, they are a bit more than mindfulness. They are effortful moments. They are a habit, a practice. A ritual.
Rituals and the path through life
A daily ritual can be the grounding force that helps us bring the same energy and intention to each and every day. When we know not exactly what the day will bring, starting or ending it in the same way–every day–can give us the emotional and even physical grounding we need to stay whatever course we have set ourselves upon. Recent studies have even shown that our rituals can be the very cause of positive emotions, or help us to cope with trauma. Just think: if our thoughts, emotions, and the physical body are so tightly intertwined, as ancient wisdom has known for millennia and modern science has corroborated through experimental means, ritual physical action can form the basis for our positive mental and emotional experience. Conversely, ritual thought practices such as daily gratitude and intention-setting can physically fortify us for any challenges we may receive from the outside world.
Ritual also helps create a through-line within our lives. When we dependably exercise certain daily rites, we create a structure upon which we can build our days. It is often against these daily rituals that we can observe the changes in our lives from a place of constancy–many things change relative to one or a few unwavering pillars. In this way we can connect our past life to our future life, and understand the arc as we walk it. Further, these rituals, when shared across different generations, or even different epochs, can connect us to those who came before us, helping to keep their spirit alive. In this, we are part of a human whole, the continuum of experience across the ages.
Cacao in our ritual practice
When we use Cacao in ceremony, we uphold the through-line of ritual that passes from ancient indigenous practice all the way to the modern day. Lighting the ritual fire, invoking the spirit of the Cacao, and the various songs we sing place us within a context that is continuous and much greater than the moment we are in.
But when we use Cacao in daily personal ritual, the focus shifts. We are less focused on tradition and outward communication and more focused on the internal. In this case, the seed of our experience really is about the moment we are in–a moment of honest, clear, intentional communication with ourselves about what we want from the day and from our lives. But just because the focus shifts, that does not make the ritual elements of this practice any less vital.
When nurturing your daily Cacao ritual, try to establish some elements that you include every time. A special setting within your space, a habitual preparation, and taking the time to set a thoughtful intention before your first sip can help provide grounding to your practice and to your day. For instance, these wintry days, I rise before the sun comes up and light the fire while the water for my Cacao heats up (it’s cold here in upstate New York, so a fire first thing is a must!). I prepare my Cacao the same way every day–with just a touch of local maple syrup–and sit on a big pillow in front of the fire while it rises from whisper to roar. The Cacao awakens me within as the fire awakens without. As the first light sneaks in the room, I finish my cup, and I’m ready to start the day. And when that day invariably brings me new trials, I make my cup just the same the next morning, so that I may take those trials on with clear mind and steady heart.
However you fashion your Cacao ritual, may you use it as a peaceful harbor to weather the storms of life.
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