I woke up thinking about the difference between ritual and practice.  Is it ritual or practice to make a fire every morning in the winter?  Is it ritual or practice to say my Dakini prayers and meditate?  Is it ritual or practice to devote the same time of day every day to being ‘in the flow’?  Is it ritual or practice to prepare nourishment a certain way for certain reasons?  I even wonder if writing this blog is ritual or practice!  On a very basic level, I have come to think of ritual as the form of something that results from following certain steps or rules.  Not unlike responsibility, it carries a sense of inevitability with it and the feeling of being separate from that ‘form’ of something. I think of practice then as the form itself, a space where there is no separation and no rules, where one can experience the alignment of intent with desire or of responsibility with joy…

Take making lunch, to be eaten somewhere other than at home, for example.  On a physical level, I need to eat lunch and I am choosing to bring it with me rather than go out and buy it.  On a mental level, I am thinking about whether it should be hot or cold and what facilities I will need for keeping it cold or making it hot when it is time to eat.  On an emotional level, I am wondering what will satisfy me today what will taste good.  On a spiritual level, I want to honor my body and give it what it needs today to keep the energy flowing in a balanced way.  What happens when all four of these energies align?

I have developed a practice in the past few years of preparing lunches a certain way, both for me to take to work and for my children to take to school.  I usually start first thing with my son these days.  We’ve gotten into the habit of putting just enough of last night’s dinner in the fridge for the next day’s lunch.  Sometimes it is just as simple as heating it up and putting it in the Pyrex dish fitted with a lid so that it is still just warm by lunchtime.  Many times though I need to bulk it up and find myself doing that thing I love to do, looking around for something to cut up spontaneously to transform it into something new.  Yesterday it was the leftover pasta, a mix of fettucine and whole wheat spaghetti tossed with a sauce of fresh tomatoes sautéed in butter for dinner.  For lunch I added another fresh tomato and two mozzarella sticks cut up to the dish with the pasta.  While this was heating up (I like to do it in a pan with a little more butter or oil…microwave works too but I try to limit when I use it) I make a salad of a cut up carrot, granny smith apple and red cabbage (all organic of course) tossed with the creamy greek dressing.  With a bag of raisins, his lunch is complete and the best part is he can eat it right out of the containers as is, the pasta is wonderful warm or at room temperature.

Off he goes to school and I proceed along with the rest of my “morning practices’.  I often will put on a pot of brown rice or quinoa to cook in the rice cooker during this time.  Sometimes I have already rummaged through what is in stock and made a little pile on the counter.  The other day it was leeks, garlic, fresh ginger, chick peas and celery.  Also a last piece of broccoli which I broke into little pieces and put in the jar of (homemade) pickle juice to marinate.  Usually the last I thing I do before leaving for the office is take about 10 minutes to cut up what is there and prepare. My ‘rule’ is a little something soft with a little something crunchy with a little something fermented if possible.  The leeks, garlic & ginger were sautéed with some olive oil and when soft and fragrant, then the chick peas and about 1/2-3/4 cup brown rice added and stirred until warm.  The chopped celery and lightly marinated broccoli were added with a splash of tamari just before transferring to the Pyrex travelling bowl.  Not a lot of color, I am feeling the serenity of the pale greens and off whites and subdued quality of what results.

Lunch to go.  I know I will be eating this within three or four hours and there will be no need to refrigerate or reheat and I like the freedom of this.  I have chosen a combination of foods that have called to me and are pleasing in this moment.  I trust that this is the meal my body and my spirit needs today.  And so making these lunches is a ritual at first….and then I am letting go and flowing with the movement of what is there by opening to the practice and allowing re-alignment of responsibility with joy…and then my desire to share what I am doing creates separation again and I need to follow the ritual to bring me to a space of practice…and so on…..

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