For the past couple of years, I've spent my weekends wrangling salamanders, dissecting owl pellets and learning about the ecology of our beautiful Appalachian forest. Now, after 65 hours of class/fieldwork and 48 hours of volunteer work, I am officially a West Virginia Master Naturalist!
This program has seriously enriched my life by deepening my understand of our environment. In retrospect, it has also provided me the experience needed to formulate a few tips that will help you truly enjoy your time in nature too.
I just love the phrase, personal ritual. It elevates the importance of my practices and hints at sacred pageantry.
And sure, a personal ritual can be a full-blown ceremony performed by candlelight in the dead of night, but at its core, a personal ritual is simply a set of practices that - when practiced regularly - help us achieve a desired state.
A well-rehearsed personal ritual can focus our attention and induce an emotional state that allows us to move forward with meaning and purpose. It can help us gently shift our mind and our energy.
Some folks have daily personal rituals that revolve around the brewing and consumption of their beloved tea. In Japan, the "Way of Tea," is a full blown ceremony steeped in culture and history.
Others engage in personal rituals weekly like taking communion in church, attending an exercise class or preparing Sunday dinner for loved ones.
Many women celebrate the new moon by ceremonially setting intentions every 29 days. Following the lunar cycles is back in vogue and once again a popular form of personal ritual.
I can remember understanding the importance of personal rituals even as a child.
With the help of my vacation bible school teacher, I crafted a gift that I just knew my mother would love. I made a "mosaic" votive candle holder from an apple sauce jar, colored tissue paper and Mod Podge decoupage. It was the perfect accessory for her evening bath, and even at five years old, I knew the importance of her evening bath.
Now, thirty-five years later, I have my own evening ritual. After I wash my face and change into my comfy clothes, I mindfully perform the following routine in anticipation of a good night's sleep.⠀
I've done this routine for so long now that simply initiating the first step starts slowing down my monkey mind and signally my body that it's OK to start winding down.
What personal rituals do you want to create?
Is there a transition period between two key parts of your day, week or month where you need a little help smoothing out the edges and changing your mindset in a healthy and purposeful way?
Try these steps: make a plan, choose a space, set an intention, take action and trust that the outcome you desire will come with practice.
Your ritual can be as simple or elaborate as you like, but make sure to create a process that you enjoy.
If you are interested in starting an evening ritual - nightly, weekly or monthly - I have a very special freebie just for you!
I've created an e-book of more than 100 specific items for you to choose from when curating a bath so satisfying to all five of your senses that you are sure to both anticipate your ritual and reap its rewards.
Amy McLaughlin, your personal retreat co-curator at Lafayette Flats Retreats. Find me on Instagram posting about self-care, wellness and mushrooms. Yep, mushrooms.