Rituals are funny…and dangerous

Rituals. We follow them without thinking. Some rituals are habits that we consciously try to form, like healthy exercise and diet. Other rituals are generally environmentally influenced… like going to church, going out to eat, or putting up a Christmas tree.

This past weekend, I went out to run, not having exercised the week before. My ritual is to run about six miles over a certain route that takes me through a subdivision and down a main street. I considered shortening the run, given my week-long inactivity, but I didn’t. I also thought about slowing from my usual pace. I didn’t follow that advice either. At the end of my run, I noticed a stabbing pain in my left Achilles tendon. I had injured myself, and it was all because I was accustomed to my ritual, and I didn’t want to change it.

We can form seemingly good habits, like regular exercise or a healthy diet. Some dietary habits are so ingrained in our minds that going against them seems like going against nature, like the practice of eating meat. As we have become more technologically advanced, we don’t need to slaughter our own animals or go to a farm, so we don’t see meat as coming from a living and breathing animal that can suffer and who raises its young, unless we take them away for veal or lamb chops. We don’t see that we have put these living things in factories where they aren’t animals anymore, but units of production on an assembly line. Input: corn, antibiotics, and hormones. Output: meat patty on our plate.

As human beings, we have the capacity to think through our actions and make a plan. Our mindfulness is our most important quality, otherwise, we are at the mercy of our environment and the whims of a culture that allows slavery to exist, restricts people from voting, and allows banks to defraud their customers, almost causing world-wide economic collapse. If we can recognize when a ritual is good or bad, we can make an exception and not blindly follow it.

So stop every once in a while and assess your habits and judge whether they are making you happy. You will probably find something you can change that will drastically improve your life and the state of the world you live in.

4 thoughts on “Rituals are funny…and dangerous

  1. My fiance and I have discussed rituals at great length…and it’s amazing how much we aren’t aware of what we’re doing when we go through these habits and rituals until something goes wrong (e.g. the pain you experienced while running). We use the term “cognitive” to reference and illustrative what mindfulness is. I know I’m especially guilty sometimes of following rituals without thinking…I think it’s the human condition, but with Asperger’s in the mix and with allowing certain negative core beliefs ingrained into me as a teenager following rituals and habits seem to be even more true with me.

    Mindfulness and being aware of one’s actions — and reasons for them — is key. I think there is a lot of doing without thinking going on in this world. But then again, that might be an understatement.


    1. Nicole, it’s hard for me to get out of my rituals, but I can’t imagine what it would be like with a medical condition stopping me, too.
      If most of us are in the right environment of helpful people, we can stop our bad habits, or not get into them. This means we should contribute to making a helpful environment. I think we all know the best way to do that, right?

  2. I would *hope* that we all know, but even that would be a bit of an assumption, given what I’ve observed in my 35 years on this planet. BUT we all can learn how to contribute to making a better environment, I will agree with that. It’s a matter of once we bother to stop from our habits and rituals for a moment, are we willing to open our ears and minds?

    And I almost had to stop and pause at the word, “mental condition”. Unfortunately, I’ve ended up with some negative connotations of that term based on how it was used on me as an insult. I understand that you don’t mean it in that same way. I think it would be more accurate to say that Asperger’s/autism/etc. are developmental and neurological conditions which affect brain wiring and the sensitivity of the nervous system There is much debate over whether it is a disorder or a difference (I tend to skew towards it being a valid neurological difference with its strengths and challenges, one of which I indicated in my first comment), out of which has sprung the neurodiversity movement. But that’s a whole ‘nother comment.


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