I have thought often about the difference between a routine and a ritual. For instance, when I brush my teeth -- a daily routine -- do i always think about the health of my teeth, my mouth, my gums? No, I do not, but I sometimes do. Would that make it a ritual? Yes, a mundane one for sure, but nevertheless, a conscious ritual.
There is the difference: how conscious am I of the meaning behind the routine things I do every day? D.H. Lawrence writes about our "little lives..." our mundane lives, and this leads me to reflect that we have so many routines every day, and so few rituals.
When I am conscious enough to be in touch with the meaning behind my tasks, they become rituals. When I clean my bathroom, I am contributing to the cleanliness of the world. When I recycle cardboard and plastic, I am contributing to (hopefully) getting rid of excess trash on the planet. I turn off lights and turn off the water when it is not necessary to my task; this contributes to the lack of waste in my environment.
Becoming aware of little, insignificant things has led to conscious awareness of larger matters. Saying grace is a ritual at our house, and has been all my life, but it does not always get the attention it deserves. That would make it a ritual, not a routine. It's the thoughtfulness behind the action that gives it meaning.
My friend's mother passed away recently, and so her routine phone call every morning for the last twenty years will take place no longer. It is something that will create a void in her life, and maybe never will be replaced. It is one of many routines that will change her life forever now.
I want more of my routines to become rituals. I want to be fully present to not only the DOING of my actions, but the BEING of them as well. I want to "watch the egg fry," as St. Teresa said; to be in the presence of the present moment. My routines won't be changing soon, but my attention will.