Creating a ritual to help me focus my thoughts
July 3, 2010 9:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to create some kind of ritual to help me with meditation/freewriting/"prayer". Any ideas?

I'm trying to get into the habit of having some quiet time once a week, where I meditate or sit and think about things, or just ruminate. I'm trying to keep what I do open, within the bounds of "thinking about things". Writing of some kind will probably be involved.

I find that rituals really help me get in the mood for things. When I want to have a cleaning/tidying session, I put some Goa trance on. When I'm winding down ready for bed, I put pzizz on and listen to a track for 20 minutes. I find I get more done if I have an association of something with something else, hence wanting to create a ritual for this.

I don't adhere to any specific religion (hence "prayer"), but I am interested in Buddhism and paganism. Ideas needn't be from either branch, though.

I'm pretty open to ideas about what to do/incorporate into this. Things I've considered so far tend to lean towards a spiritual aspect - lighting a candle, vaporising some frankincense, lowering the lighting, etc. I like having music to listen to, but I think I'd find visual stimuli distracting. I'll be at home when I do this, indoors.

I'm looking for suggestions in general and personal experiences of doing this in particular. Is there anything that you found particularly useful, or a hindrance?
posted by Solomon to Religion & Philosophy (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
An artist friend told me that she writes for 10 minutes every morning when she wakes. I know that's not a "ritual" but maybe you can start the habit and build ritual around it.
posted by jander03 at 10:31 AM on July 3, 2010

Best answer: I have a yoga class that starts with breathing meditation that I go to twice a week. I find that being there around other people who are also meditating helps me to focus. You might want to start off meditating with others, and branch out into meditating on your own.

At home I am not as committed to mediating, but when I do set aside some time for it, I use an alarm clock with a chime instead of an alarm. I set it to chime at certain intervals. If my mind wanders (and by "if" I mean "when"), the chime will bring me back to the breath. I also have a little tidy space set up to do this, with a yoga mat, a candle, and a silly statue that looks kind of spiritual to me.

If you have the time, money and inclination, a Buddhist meditation retreat might be up your alley. I did one week of a dathun, a silent meditation retreat, and it was really fabulous. Hard, but very instructive.

When I want to write, I set the kitchen timer for 20 minutes, and start writing. I have to stop when the alarm goes off (I read somewhere that if you stop writing before you are "finished" that leaves you with an impulse to continue at a later time).
posted by santaslittlehelper at 12:11 PM on July 3, 2010

Best answer: I finished my MA thesis by wearing a specific hat. Something about feeling it on my head seemed to direct me into 'this is writing time now, writing-only time' state.

If you want to encorporate cultural or religious aspects into it, there are several types of ritual headgear throughout various cultures to give you ideas. A headband - perhaps along the lines of a hachimaki - is probably more practical than a mitre, but I know some neopagans do use headbands of various sorts as well.
posted by cobaltnine at 3:49 PM on July 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am in the habit of filling a sketchbook page with doodles every day. The first thing I do on every page is write the date, and then I write the alphabet. It's what Lynda Barry talks about doing in her book "What It Is." I was surprised to find just how much it loosened me up to draw, and made it easier to fill a whole page.
posted by blackunicorn at 12:52 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Many traditions have prayer sequences in which form copies function with respect to the day - you may consider specific traditions for the beginning of the day / sunrise and the end of the day / sunset. I wrote this paper on the Catholic liturgy of the hours as it corresponds to the day, which may be of some help, but there's analogues in a bunch of other traditions.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:34 AM on July 5, 2010

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