Rituals provide a simple way to shift energies as you move between creating or performing and daily life or from one type of task to another.
Ritual is not a word we use often in the 21st century. We’re too busy juggling our different commitments, multi-tasking, building new portfolio careers, and dealing with technology where we’re connected and contactable instantly, 24/7.
Yet in our fast-paced and often frantic lives, ritual can be a way of reclaiming space, of bringing us back to the present moment. And as artists and creatives, we need that sense of space, so as to bring ourselves fully into the present moment in order to do our best work.
Bridging rituals are the tiny things we do to move from one role to another, to shift from one task to a different one, to change our state of mind and find focus in a world of constant distraction.
They needn’t be complicated or time-consuming. Clearing your desk, making a drink, playing specific music, taking a few seconds to appreciate the look and smell of a meal before eating it, hanging up your coat when you get in and taking a second to really feel that you’ve arrived home and are leaving work behind: these things, when done mindfully and ritualistically, can all help enormously.
With creative work, it can be as simple as walking into your workspace, taking a few deep breaths and saying to yourself, “I am here now to make art. I am fully present and open.”
CREATE YOUR OWN BRIDGING RITUAL
First, think about your daily life, and the different roles you take on. Lover, parent, artist/maker, administrator, business owner, teacher, student, friend, housekeeper, manager … at least some of those will be familiar, although of course everyone’s list will be different.
Now think of a situation in which you regularly move from one task, energy or role to another, and where you notice there is sometimes a hangover from the previous activity. Perhaps, after making work, you have a tendency to drift back to your art in your head, and fail to really hear your child or your partner telling you about their day. Or perhaps, as you work on your art, your domestic to-do list is still running like ticker tape across the screen of your mind, or you’re still re-running an annoying conversation from your day job?
Create a bridging ritual to move to you more easily from one task to the other, something to firmly anchor you in the present and connect you to the task at hand. There is no right or wrong here. Do what works for you.
What’s important is to choose something that is easy and enjoyable. Put what you need in place beforehand. A candle will need matches; if you’re going to drink water before switching tasks, keep a glass nearby; when I clear my desk, I wipe it down with a few drops of grapefruit oil, so I keep the oil and a cloth in the desk drawer.
Then simply repeat your new ritual, until it becomes an ingrained habit. At first you will need to consciously say to yourself: “I am now moving from administration to creating,” or whatever energy shift you are making. But soon, just the act of making the tea, clearing your desk or turning on the music will be enough to help you get into the correct mindset.
One artist who came to me with procrastination issues learned to play the same song every time she entered her studio and to then light a scented candle. The candle remained lit while she was working, but she snuffed it every time she stopped for longer than a few minutes. Just the act of lighting and relighting it made her more conscious of when she had lost focus. Within a month, music and candle were all she needed to reach her goal of four hours of concentrated work a day.
Another artist I worked with had a small studio only a few steps from the back door of his home. Nonetheless, he decided to walk to work, doing ten slow, deliberate and meditative circuits of his yard clockwise before starting to paint, then ten in the opposite direction to wind down at the end of his day. At first his wife watched incredulously as he slowly passed by their kitchen window again and again, but she soon appreciated that when he finally came through the door, he was fully present and with her, rather than still preoccupied with his painting.
A set designer who was used to running big teams realized that she was bringing this energy home, which was causing conflict with her family. At her workshop, she directs skilled artisans, who expect terse commands and tight deadlines. But after work, she was directing her partner and their two small children in much the same way, and toddlers especially don’t respond well to such pressure!
We worked on a new bridging ritual for returning home after a busy day. After parking on her drive after work, she now plays a favorite aria on the car stereo, closes her eyes and breathes deeply while consciously letting go of thinking about work, her team, and the problems of the day. She then enters the house via the garage, showers and changes out of her work clothes. Then she greets her children as their parent, not their boss.
Sheryl Garratt has earned her living as a writer and magazine editor for more than 30 years. For the past decade, she has also worked as a coach supporting creatives of all kinds, helping them to step up and do their best work, show it – and get paid for it. You can find her at www.thecreativelife.net