Last Saturday I took an intro to meditation class where the man talked about how our focus dictates everything. At the end of the class, I discovered that every morning there was meditation from 7-8. Usually I have to be headed to work before then but yesterday I ended up having off of work so I got up at 6:30 and headed to try it out. I won't bore you with the details of my day, that's not the point of this post - suffice to say that I had a good day. Since I didn't have to be at work till 9:30 today, I set my alarm for 6:30 again and figured I would go meditate again if I felt like it.
When the alarm went off this morning I woke up rested and alert but fought a little laziness and some nagging thoughts. I loathe religion and didnt want to be doing something because I thought I had to like it was a magical path to peace - but also, laying in bed is much easier. I've learned finally that I can separate the good from whatever bad I may see along with it. I don't have to participate with something I don't agree with but I also know that my perspective may need to change. This in mind I decided to go for the purpose of developing some self discipline and of course, the meditation.
Today was identical to yesterday except for a slight variation in the number of people and I would imagine that's just how it always is. I thought about the rote nature of this practice on my way home and how it would be kind of nice to have a pattern to a part of my life. I still fought against the idea of forming a habit that seemed so religious but suddenly I understood why my grandfather went to mass every morning no matter what the weather. It was the ritual of it, just like going and working on his land "up the mountain". Rituals are a familiar pattern that create a place where we feel everything is right in the world for at least a few minutes. Many rituals aren't the healthiest like the cigarette smoker or person who comes home every night and sits down in front of the TV with a scotch, but they are still doing the same thing - looking for a recurring place of peace.
I think my grandfather knew that his rituals like going to mass or sitting on the side porch in the summer evenings listening to classical music, were what kept him sane while his mother and brother lost their minds. Our minds are always focused on something and rituals purposefully redirect that focus. Everyone wants personal peace and crafts it in different ways - some to freedom and others in bondage to the process. Rituals aren't bad (if they aren't harmful) as long as you understand that they hold no magical power. They are simply portals to another world created by intention of focus. Some create realms of sparkly self delusion - others are a thick numbing fog induced by drugs, alcohol, sex, food, constant noise etc; but there is also beauty and serenity that can be found and inhabited through practice. If you don't get trapped believing that the ritual is the only way to visit that place, you can begin to take it with you as it imprints itself on to your mind and soul.
Everyone should have at least one healthy ritual that connects you to yourself and another that connects you to a group of people who believe in something similar. Eventually the repetition will grow your ability to focus creating many paths to that same state of mind. You will find that you only stop living there in the moments you choose to focus on something else.