More mornings than not, I take a short walk.
The specificities of my destination can vary, but I always end up at one cute coffee shop or another! As a freelancer with no set schedule and an itinerary that can shift radically from one day to the next and from one project to the next, these early morning (or sometimes afternoon) coffee walks can be a deeply stabilizing part of my day – sometimes the only common thread between days that always look quite different, especially since for me ‘weekend’ is a foreign concept.
Recently, one of my students asked about my daily and weekly routines, and after some reflection I had to honestly answer that for the most part, I have absolutely no routine. No two days of mine look even remotely alike – and I like it this way! My efficacy shifts from day to day depending on what my body is doing, and as someone living with trauma and multiple disabilities it has been important for me to cultivate an attention and sensitivity to my radically fluctuating capacities. The best-laid plans – of course – aren’t terribly reliable when living with the disabling effects of trauma. Instead of policing and judging my productivity, I’ve instead embraced a non-judgmental responsiveness towards my body.
Chatting with my student also inspired me to remember that I’ve always organized my time around deadlines. I like to focus on what’s directly in front of me, hustle like crazy, rest, and move along to the next thing, one step forward at a time. Having reasons to leave my apartment studio/office can be very helpful, and my morning coffee ritual serves this purpose – among others – for me. In a routine with no routine, this simple near-daily morning coffee ritual is a process of rooting, stabilizing, taking the time to check in with myself, with my insides and my outsides. Of being in my body and let it lead me to what it wants – and (more importantly) listening.
I think that’s one thing I really enjoy about this little routine – it gets me in my body in ways that are pleasant and sensual rather than painful or uncomfortable (yay chronic pain and trauma, ha).
The coffee I drink is hot and delicious and feels good in my mouth. I like feeling the warm liquid move through my insides, I like discerning the difference between flavours and textures at each espresso bar in my neighbourhood, noticing how each non-dairy milk brings out different flavours in the espresso. I like how it wakes me up, gets my ideas flowing, makes me excited to work.
Sometimes it can be difficult to feel motivated to get out of bed, as someone living with chronic pain which is at its absolute worst in the morning (and worst during cold winter months). Coffee wakes me up, invigorates me, makes me feel excited to begin fresh.
My little walks – depending on the shop I choose – take between 10-30 minutes. This is some time just for me, to watch the world wake up, to be alone with my thoughts and check in with myself. To plan my day and see what I feel like working on, what I feel able to work on. Taking – and prioritizing – this intentional moment to pause and reconnect with my body, mind, and soul has become a really important part of my day, and something I’d rather not do without.
Would I save a lot of money if I didn’t have a coffee everyday? Yeah, totally. Can everyone afford a coffee every day? No. Does everyone want to spend this much money on coffee? Again, no. As someone who works in the same space I sleep, I see it as a more enjoyable alternative to spending that sweet coffee money on renting a shared office space. This little morning ritual connects with me with my senses. With my body. My tongue, my stomach, my mind. This simple ritual connects me with my feelings. Leaving my apartment to go on a little walk is something I experience as an intentional reset, an intentional reconnection to myself. In a world where femininely gendered folks often have to un-learn a constant attention to other people at the expense of themselves and their own needs and interests, I see this act as a crucial one, of reclaiming space on my own terms.
One small step at a time. One little ritual at a time.
Maybe you hate coffee, or maybe you’re just flat broke. Or both! No problem – there are still so many other ways you can engage intentionally to carve out little moments in your daily (or almost daily) lives in a ritualized way.
There are so many ways to deeply ground and centre yourself, with or without spending anything at all. Maybe you’d prefer to make coffee or tea at home and go on a little walk. Maybe you’d like to sit in bed and spend 20 minutes meditating every morning, first thing – or, every evening, right after you brush your teeth. However we carve out this time and space to reconnect with ourselves, to be silent and still in our own bodies, to be attentive, to pay attention to and notice and listen our own (mis)alignment(s) – the doing of these rituals is so important. Each small ritual is part of a bigger picture, a cumulative relationship with ourselves and with our spirit and our environment.
I’m not saying everyone needs to start every day by going to grab a coffee from your local spot. But: my little ritual of doing this – a ritual that evolved pretty naturally, without much intention at all – has become a savored and holy part of my day. If I’m feeling unwell, it’s a quick way to bring myself back on track.
My attachment to this ritual has led me to spend some time reflecting on exactly why it is that this simple series of actions is so important to me, and why I will fight hard to keep being able to do it. For me the ritual is so much more than just buying a fancy latte.
We all take time to treat ourselves in different ways – or, at least, I hope we do! Maybe that’s something like getting your nails done once a month, or getting a haircut every two weeks. Maybe that’s buying the fanciest beard oil that you can afford. Whatever it is, we all have little rituals where we invest (be it time or money or both) in ourselves, in our well-being.
We all have those little things that we do just for ourselves, for no one else. I’d like to invite you to take this full moon as an opportunity to take an inventory of what you do for yourself in a ritualized (that is: intentional, repeated, again) way. How do you care for yourself? What are the little things you do regularly to make yourself whole again when you fall off the wagon? Maybe you do these after feeling depleted, or maybe you do them right before you hit that threshold. Whenever I get home from a trip abroad I always order pizza as soon as possible, and eat half it in one sitting.
What are your little rituals?
There are little rituals we put in place because we notice we feel good when we do them.
Maybe we feel more like ourselves, more light and energetic, refreshed, calm. Maybe we just wanna honour that we really love the taste of a good donut, diets be damned! Some people start every morning with a smoothie or going to the gym – some of these rituals are untouchable, sacred, immovable. Sometimes it can throw us off to be thrown off our routines, or thrust away from our little rituals due to random circumstance. Pay attention to this! It’s all crucial information about yourself: what feeds you, what depletes you.
How do you replenish yourself? How do you connect to yourself? Do you take enough time to yourself, to connect with your flesh, body, mind; your senses? Do you take the time to check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling? Do you take the time to be silent? To listen?
On the full moon today, make a list of these things you do to feed your body, mind and soul. What little pleasures in life do you look forward to? These can be big, they can be small. They can be things you haven’t told anyone about, that you never share. Or these rituals can involve big groups of people, be enormous communal events.
It’s common to make the mistake of thinking that ritual needs to be BIG, long, loud, dramatic, with lots of bells and whistles and a special outfit. Nope. It can be as simple as the little pleasures we hold close to our hearts and cherish as the little rituals they are. These actions and habits may help us to better access ourselves, in order to inspire a shift in mindset, body feeling, a shift in consciousness. When done again and again, with intention – these are the powerful stirrings of ritual. Little by little.