Nov2019: Why Personal Ritual Matters

by Brad on October 31, 2019

     “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver

Each month I offer insights and perspectives on the challenges affecting our lives and times. And each month I suggest practices (exercises intended to be done repeatedly) so you can gain personal felt experience of those ideas. From the comments I receive, I’d say that while many find the ideas inspiring, few adopt the practices as everyday companions. There’s an issue here: words inspire, yet words alone rarely change anything. [I know this dilemma firsthand. I spent years believing that knowing more would change me. It didn’t.] If you desire change, it comes from felt experience of the words. And felt experience is personal; it comes only from … uh, well … experience, which is gained by practice.
This month: the importance of personal ritual. Here’s the way I’ve got it figured. You can’t change your life unless you change the thinking that created it. You can’t change your thinking unless you get to know it – felt experience. You can’t get to know it without quiet reflection. If you claim you’re “too busy” for quiet reflection, then it won’t come as a surprise that your tomorrows look a lot like your yesterdays (a complaint I hear often). This is not judgment; it’s just cause-and-effect. By being an observer of your thoughts, however, rather than just an unconscious participant in them, you see/experience how your thinking has driven the course of your life – an opening to true change.

A personal ritual of quiet reflection leads you to your inner truth, and from there, to the experience of self-trust. This creates energy strong enough to overcome the pervasive, insidious narrative of a society that would rather pull you off your game than support you in playing it. For 10 years now, I’ve honored a daily ritual of quiet reflection. It’s chosen; it’s conscious; it matters. Here’s a perspective on how I find myself and find peace. I share this not to tell you what matters for you, but as a model of what works for me, perhaps as an invitation for you to create one that works for you.

A few months back, I suggested the book Embers, by Richard Wagamese. His words got inside me, largely because he beautifully captures the “felt experience” I enjoy through a daily ritual similar to his. OK, so mine may lack some of the eloquence and ceremony he describes, but I’m finding his artful words an “invitation to possibility” for me to continue to grow my own experience. Here’s how I’ve adapted his words so they offer daily guidance and meaning for me.

At dawn, I sit in silence. I watch and listen to the world unfurl from shadow. I have coffee, light sage, then waft the smoke around my head, heart and body with an eagle feather. I read from my favorite books; when I feel centered and at peace, I say a prayer of gratitude for all the blessings in my life. As the smoke rises, my mind empties, my heart opens, my spirit soars, allowing the morning energy to enter me. Everything I have come to know and rely on as real, spiritual, centering, and valid has its place in this daily ritual. Enveloped in ceremony and ringed by strong words on resilience, mindfulness, faith, love and calm, I reclaim myself each morning. I’m not alone. I sit with my ancestors, singing this day into being, and I am made more. As I watch night surrender slowly to day, and shadow relinquish itself to light, I realize the moon lives in the lining of my skin, the sun rises with my consciousness, the earth thrums in the bottoms of my feet.

Everywhere I go, I take that sense of wonder and mystery with me. I walk into the world in balance, ready for the role Creator has asked me to play in this reality. Then, wherever the day takes me, those I meet are beneficiaries of my having taken this time – they get the real me, not one shaped and altered by the noise around me.

I am a traveler on a sacred journey through this one shining day. I keep what’s true in front of me (my heart and my silence). I won’t get lost that way. I pack light. I don’t tire myself with unnecessary stuff, like my head, my talk. To live in ceremony is the greatest and truest gift I can give to myself. We have only moments. Live them as if not one can be wasted. Inhabit them, fill them with the light of your best good intention, honor them with your full presence, find the joy, the calm, and the assuredness that allows the hours and days to take care of themselves.

Remember to remember this.        (Quoted, with adaptation, from Embers, by Richard Wagamese)

His words draw me. They evoke “felt experience.” That matters, because it inspires me … to re-find my truth each day, to continue to practice (when the world would rather I didn’t), and to design my day around my inner truth rather than around the demands of others. I won’t get lost that way. (Remember to remember this.)

Exercise: Your authentic self is unique, magical, filled with potential, rich with capability, powerful beyond belief, and here for a special reason – a mission that has always been inside you, with energy to fuel you far longer than this lifetime.Chances are, however, you may not even know who this person is. That’s because this true self is commonly hidden, masked by early life lessons and continued life experiences, lessons and experiences telling you to be someone you’re notinstead of who you really are. Worse, you’re likely unaware you’ve lost sight of your truth, so you assume you’re being the real you. Of course, life becomes a struggle, largely because you’re [unconsciously] trying to be someone you’re not instead of who you really are. Yet all the while, you probably think life is just difficult, unaware your mind has been hijacked by old lessons and experiences. You’re living a struggle you can’t win, though, because you’ll never succeed at being somebody else.

You get glimpses into your true self all the time. They show up in moments that seem too beautiful to be real, moments when time stands still, moments when you’re lost in a thought or activity you love so much that you lose track of all else. But then, the “false you” notices all of this, shuts down the possibility, and brings you back to who it thinks you “should be“ instead. (It’s only trying to protect you from what it perceives as being dangerous – the unknown.) That protection mechanism will always be there. The problem is you listen to it.

Living authentically is a process of learning how to stop listening to that voice and begin listening to the voice of your truth instead. This is why I say that living authentically is a matter of awareness, not a matter of a new skill. With practice (a personal ritual), you begin to see how going along with the false self (unconsciously, of course) denies you experience of your true self. And with that awareness comes the power to choose … to choose not to listen to it anymore.

The practice: STOP. Just stop. Stop each day, and listen. Just listen. Allow yourself to discover what has been there all along – the authentic you. It’s the voice you unconsciously try to ignore as you work to wrestle life to the ground each day. Keep listening. If you create a daily ritual around this listening, you’ll discover what “you” are really all about. Then, (if you don’t stop listening before you begin to honor that voice), you’ll find yourself designing your day around this, your inner truth. Your daily ritual will likely draw you in, powering your day from your own truth. In this way, you “teach yourself” to listen consciously to those elusive glimpses of your truth over the false narrative of old tapes. Of course, if it’s a daily ritual, you’ll continue listening forever, thereby keeping your own truth in front of you everywhere you go. (You won’t get lost that way.)


Life lessons from nature: Nature doesn’t take sides. That’s because, in nature, there are no “sides.” No struggle between authentic and false; it’s all authentic. Nature would laugh (maybe, in her own way, she is) at all our flap about climate change … just to pick a current example. See, to her, it’s not a matter of belief, opinion or denial. It’s not up for debate. It is what it is. Again, this isn’t judgment; it’s cause-and-effect. Nature isn’t upset; she’ll be just fine. She has no problem re-designing a planet without humans in it … or with a new species who lives with reverence and reciprocity for the ecosystem that supports their presence. No hard feelings. Just the next chapter in a four-billion-year-old story of taking what is and continuing to create. By the way, that amazing story is how we got here in the first place. If that alone isn’t worthy of our honor, then maybe it’s time for some yet-to-be-created ones for whom it is. On the other hand, we’ve been endowed with both the potential and capacity to “get” all this – a level of consciousness always available to us, (should we choose to use it), capable of creating a future that honors the billions of years it took us to get here, a future in which allmight thrive. Perhaps it’s even the destiny of our species to do just that. Meanwhile, nature knows her ritual, and she’s true to it every day – start with what is (not what isn’t), use what’s available (not what’s not), create with intention, keep what works, repeat. A resume with four billion years of creativity, productivity, resilience, balance and majesty.


Book of the month: Living Authentically … in a World That Would Rather You Didn’t, by Bradford Glass.     OK, so this month, a shameless bit of self-promotion. My first book is published and ready for you to experience and enjoy. Its premise is simple: get to know, then unequivocally honor, your unique, authentic truth … and allow the sense of self-trust that emerges from that inquiry (a ritual) to light your way forever. In the midst of a world that has lost its way, you need never lose your own. In its pages, you’ll discover how to do that – through ideas, insights, perspectives and my own personal reflections … accompanied by exercises to help you make your life your own, not someone else’s. I’ll help keep the torch lit on your path, so you can find your way to your deepest longing.  Here’s a link to all you need to know – an intro to the book, samples pages, a link to purchase a copy (for yourself or as a gift!). And if you’re on Cape Cod, you’ll find this book at the Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee Commons; 508-539-6985.


Download November 2019 pdf

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Pam October 31, 2019 at 6:15 pm

Another great newsletter, Brad! I admire that you crank these out so promptly every month! Love the ritual/s. I am so pleased that my retirement has brought me full days of “ritualled” awareness. Many of us have assorted activities we repeat each day – so they take no thought. These are the times most people think about what’s next, or worry needlessly about stuff. I have found that by simply being present with what I am doing, each task becomes part of my meditation. My whole day seems to stretch into bliss. Ahhhhhh. 🙂 Keep up the good work! Hugs, Pam


Natasha November 1, 2019 at 3:03 pm

Loving you and feeling so grateful for your wisdom


Steve November 2, 2019 at 1:25 pm

This is great! I especially like the concept of: “Words inspire, yet words alone rarely change anything.” Thank you!


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