How ritual helped me survive COVID with a toddler

Emma here. I have two little rituals that got me through the last (very chaotic) eight months. Since Christmas, either my toddler or I have had a cough, cold or fever, and with numerous sleepless nights and visits to the ER, any sense of routine or regularity has gone out the window.

Not having a routine is really unsettling for me. So my solution has been to have two tiny rituals that I can squeeze in on the days when I have a little more breathing room. Even if the rest of my day is off-kilter due to all the unpredictable factors of life with a small child (and a pregnant body that keeps throwing me curveballs) these rituals give me a sense of momentary grounding that I aim to carry throughout my day.

The first ritual is a poem in the morning. When I can, I get up 10 minutes earlier than my toddler, sit at my desk where I keep some special stones and photos, and light a candle. I open a book of poetry and read just one poem. I try to savour it, let the image or meaning sink in for a minute. It can be hard not to rush through it, but on days that start like this (rather than me blankly scrolling social media with my brain half off) I feel more connected to myself and (sometimes) to the wider world and a feeling of Source or Spirit.

The second ritual is a face massage at night. Instead of doing chores or watching screens right up until the last possible moment before bed, I take five minutes to rub some argan or herbal oil into my face and massage my forehead, jaw, cheekbones, temples and ears. I end with a little hand massage and then lie down to sleep. I usually fall asleep faster, and feel more settled and ready for dreamland.

I don’t do these rituals every day, but I find it amazing how calming and grounding they are, even if I only get to them once or twice a week. The power of ritual is that it gathers potency over time – even if it’s not daily, every time I come back to it, I’m building on the times that came before, and it sinks me faster into the place of peacefulness I’m hoping for.

Our upcoming on-demand series focuses on the value of Ritual & Routine – doing one small thing every day to connect to yourself and your body. Leena, Leslie and I have chosen the short but undeniably powerful Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) as the touchstone practice for our September series.

Surya Namaskar developed from the South Indian practice of ritual prostration; laying oneself face down on the ground as an act of reverence or devotion to a sacred deity or sacred place in nature. Surya Namaskar is an invigorating yet concise sequence that will move, strengthen and stretch your whole body. September can be an overwhelming month full of transitions, but this series of videos was created to tap you into a sense of groundedness and regularity – gathering potency and power each time you revisit the sequence.

Just like my short personal rituals, our Ritual & Routine practice videos (ten in total) were created with brevity in mind; each video is 15 minutes and presents a variation on the classic Surya Namaskar sequence. The practices are short enough to squeeze into your day, but long enough that your body and mind will notice a difference. And even if you don’t get to it every day, revisiting this ritual over time will also have an impact – gathering momentum for your connection to your body and self. As the days grow shorter this fall, we hope this ritual of saluting the sun will draw down some of the sun’s gifts of warmth and nourishment and prepare you for the cooler days ahead. With the practice of Surya Namaskar in your self care toolkit, we hope that this ritual will keep nurturing you throughout the deep fall and perhaps even into the early days of winter.

You can take part in Ritual & Routine through Branches On Demand.

Ritual & Routine will kick off with a mini-workshop on September 15 at 7:30pm with yours truly, giving you some time to reflect on ways to make this ritual your own, and how to sustainably fit it into your life.

Yours in the dance of chaos and calm,

P.S. My current favourite books of poetry are Embers by Richard Wagamese, A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver and To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donahue.

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