What's the Difference Between Routine and Ritual?

In these days of social distancing, you've probably established new routines and habits.  New daily routines emerge.  Washing your hands more?  Exercising more regularly?  Taking walks in nature?  Working through your children's homework?

A few new routines emerged for me.  I've seen parts of our house I haven't seen for years or even decades.  The back walls of the attic for instance.  I found toys from when my daughters were young…twenty years ago!    

Less travel and less mobility mean you're getting more home-centered.  Hmm.  Aside from the cabin fever, there's some goodness, right?

With new routines and new habits emerging, I was recently asked by a colleague about the difference between routine and ritual. 

You have your everyday routines.  Taking a shower.  Making your bed.  Eating breakfast.

The definition of Routine is a sequence of actions.  Routines are usual.  Nothing special.

Ritual, on the other hand, is often associated with religious practices.  Going to church, for instance. 

I see ritual as something a bit different than religious.  Ritual is spiritual.  Ritual creates connection with something greater than yourself. 

Ritual IS something special. 

There's something more conscious about ritual.  You anticipate it with more excitement.  You engage it more fully.  You feel more fulfilled after it.

Ritual requires more intention.

When a ritual evolves into something REALLY special, the ritual becomes sacred. 

Sacred comes from the Latin word, sacer, which means set apart.  A sacred ritual is set apart from our ordinary routines.  Another definition of sacred is that which is secured against violation or infringement.  Sacred rituals are not altered.  We hold our our sacred rituals with reverence.

Sacred rituals for me require full intention.  Specific preparation is required.  I engage my whole mind, body and spirit.  I enter it, fully prepared and expecting I will come out the other side a different being.  Something in my molecules shift.  Something in my body changes.  Something in my spirit is fundamentally different.

At this level of transformation, sacred ritual has evolved into what I would call … ceremony.

Heavy stuff, eh?

Let me bring it back to Earth. 

During this pandemic, I listened to a podcast that said that the virus doesn't like heat.  Drink hot tea and if the virus is in your mouth, the hot liquid will transport it down your throat into your stomach where gut bugs destroy it.  I have NO IDEA if that's true.  I don't really care.  The podcast gave me an excuse to steam sauna that night. 

Loved it!

It felt so good.  My muscles relaxed.  My mind eased.

The next night, I repeated.  And the next night and so on.

Day over day, I noticed I got out of the day's trajectory and my mind floated.  My relaxed state produced creative thoughts.  After each sauna, I started recording my meandering thoughts.  Sweat dripping down my face as I wrote.  In the morning, I found crunkled papers with beautiful scrawlings.

These scrawlings have become coveted Wisdom Gems!

NOTE:  If you're wondering, Yes, this blog post began on a sweat-dried crunkled piece of paper!

My routine turned into ritual.

With a few weeks of this daily ritual under my belt, I wonder if this routine has evolved into a sacred ritual.  Let's see if it fits the criteria:

  • Set of actions performed in a regular way
  • Set Up:  Excited anticipation
  • Show Up:  Full engagement of completely letting go to whatever may come
  • Follow Up:  Recording the changes in my body, mind and spirit

I think, YES! 

Sacred Ritual for me defines Ceremony.  My nightly saunas have turned into Ceremony!

In these trying and turbulent times, what routine can you turn into ritual and what ritual can you turn into ceremony? 

Maybe it's your meander through nature.  Your meditation practice.  The 30 second visualization you do before your feet hit the ground as you get out of bed.  Maybe it's how you put your clothes on in the morning -- as a holy person dons ceremonial garb. 

Ceremony is what YOU make it.

A simple switch from routine to ritual to ceremony could change your life.   And everyone around you.

Go for it! 


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