Of Rituals

One way we can carve out meaning for our lives is through the rituals we choose to make a part of our lives. Rituals are ways to inject care, calm, connection and joy into our lives. Their power should not be discounted, despite the pressure of modern life to do so. 

What is a ritual? Simply put, rituals are sequences of intentional action that reflect a value we hold. They are moments of meaning we can create that become part of the story of who we are.

It is easy to conflate rituals with habits, or perhaps get lost in the religious, mystical or spiritual connotations of the word, but it is not about smoky mysticism (unless that’s your thing, of course) but there are clear differences between rituals and habits. 


  • Intentional and mindful
  • Moments to celebrate and treasure
  • More than just one thing: a sequence of combined activities
  • Healing, expanding, enriching
  • Has an emotional, mental or social element 
  • Underinvested in by many


  • Automatic and unconscious
  • Ways of managing daily life, focussing on reducing complexity
  • Tend to be centred on one thing (often a task) 
  • More functional than emotional, mental or social
  • Co-opted by the grind culture set 

I do not want to badmouth habits too much, as they can be important and valuable building blocks in our lives. I’ve found the idea of the habit useful in living with anxiety. Yet habits are, in popular discourse, rather overexposed. This preoccupation with habits comes at the expense of attention to rituals. Rituals by their nature require more conscious attention and care, which is an important response to the velocity of life which can sometimes beguile us into being completely automatic and even mechanical in our approach to living. 

Rituals, then, have the power to be quietly transformative in our lives—they allow us to define and then act upon specific ideas of how we want our lives to be. I don’t want to be defined by a habit—making my bed in the morning or doing laundry on Thursdays—but I wouldn’t mind being defined by some of my rituals. 

Ever since the pandemic lockdown, time has felt increasingly formless for me. One day elides into the next and the next and the next and before I fully know it another year has passed.1This is also, of course, a symptom of ageing, but in any event the value of rituals as a counterforce to this feeling remains. This formlessness leaves me feeling unmoored and adrift. Rituals are a powerful way of responding to this formlessness. Every time I perform one of my rituals I feel grounded and connected again—with myself, with time, and increasingly with a sense of awe that I had forgotten was missing from my life. Rituals reconnect and remind us that which is special in our lives. 

Over the past year I have been consciously developing meaningful rituals in my life. I have written about one such ritual before: my skin care approach. This is such a meaningful ritual because it helps me connect with my body and not just continue to act like my mind and body are separate, or that I have the same relationship to my body that Shinji has to his evangelion.    

Another important ritual is making coffee each morning, which is often the first thing I do each morning after walking and feeding Kage, the blackhole masquerading as a greyhound. 

How To Make Coffee at Home

  1. Weigh 15 grams of beans. I enjoy beans from Melbourne’s preeminent roaster, Market Lane. Grind these appropriately. 
  2. Boil 250g of good water. I use filtered water which I then add a specific blend of minerals to because the water chez moi tends to be a little soft. I have a fellow kettle that I like, as it does both the variable temperature thing AND has a nice pouring spout. 
  3. Add a filter paper to your v60 cone. I like this combined cone/carafe set from Hario. Rinse and warm using hot water (I use hot tap water following coffee-daddy James Hoffman’s recommendation). 
  4. Follow another of coffee-daddy’s recommendations and use the better single cup v60 recipe
  5. Pour the finished coffee into, e.g., a Hasami porcelain mug and enjoy the heck out of your delicious hot brown morning potion. 

Making coffee is a lovely ritual. And I like it as an example because it shows that rituals do not necessarily have to be grand or elaborate, but can be simple and done in a matter of minutes. Making coffee anchors me in my day, and is a sensory experience that reconnects me with my body. It also allows me to focus my oft-churning mind on doing one thing and doing one thing well. That it requires something of me—care and attention—is what makes it such a valuable ritual. After all, it is impossible to make good coffee if one is distracted or preoccupied by the minutiae of daily life.

Starting to add rituals to your life is not too difficult or something that should be put off to the vague wastelands of someday.2Someday never comes. There is only the wonderful now. Think about the things that bring you joy and are special moments that you wish to cultivate. Then decide to treat them as a ritual, something you will do mindfully and deliberately with a degree of regularity. Commit to doing any new ritual with intentionality and reverence.

Not all of these attempts will lead to a lifelong ritual and that is quite fine. As with so many things, we should consciously detach ourselves from this preoccupation with reaching some sort of “finished” or “after” state where we no longer need to change, grow, learn or practice. We should practise finding comfort being in a constant process of becoming. 

Modern life is often tediously focussed on things that are ultimately not the stuff that we find important and rewarding, especially when viewed from a perspective that acknowledges how short life is. By developing meaningful rituals we can seize control of our lives in a way that is quite splendid and quite wonderful.  


  • 1
    This is also, of course, a symptom of ageing, but in any event the value of rituals as a counterforce to this feeling remains.
  • 2
    Someday never comes. There is only the wonderful now.

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