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I learned during my retraining time that I had no structure, only a habit of chaos.  Of course, I had daily routines of excessive self-care, but even that was dictated by “how I felt” that day and what symptom was screaming at me that I was trying to fix.

I met a wise woman who told me that tribal cultures often have a strong sense of ritual to help ground them, organize the culture, find the sacred, but also help them become aware of resistance patterns.  I didn’t understand at the time how hard it was for me to have a ritual or why I avoided it.  So then my mentor, Dorothy, helped me to bring in some ritual in the form of a daily organizing ritual (see Level 2 of Primal Trust™ The Mentorship, Class 4 The Daily Structure Sheet.) That was a very difficult thing for me to do and I fought it for years until I realized I needed to “bridle that wild horse in me” and get some consistency in my life.

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Then I created a ritual of how I woke up (to a certain song), made myself move my body to it and find a spark of life, and immediately flow into my brain retraining practice in a certain place in my room while I stared at my vision board and also out a window into nature.  This created all sorts of kicking and screaming resistance but also began to be something my limbic brain could count on.  “She’s going to get up tomorrow and create positivity first thing in the morning”.  I learned how I unconsciously resisted seeing the good and unconsciously resisted acting like I was enjoying music and dancing in the morning because my family might think I was feeling well and would expect more of me.  I could go on and on.

This ritual though became a stabilizing effect on my nervous system over time, after I got through the stage of resistance because usually my body “didn’t feel like doing it” more than 3 days in a row.  I noticed I had about 3 times in a row of trying to create any routine before I’d have a kickback to get me out of routine into chaos again.

If we grow up in chaos, like I did, we never have stability and that instability ironically becomes safe. Our nervous system becomes more comfortable in chaos than in order.  For me, it was more comfortable having new symptoms come and scare the shit out of me rather than having a general set point of body experience that I could count on. It was more comfortable to have drama, every day be different (yet stuck in the same vicious cycle) than to ground into a routine that served me.

I eventually learned that children need rituals (routines) to help them feel safe and grounded in their environment.  So I needed to create it for myself no matter how hard it was, and still is.

Yes, It’s still hard for me to do.  As life changes, our routines change, and over time I needed to shift into my day including running a huge business and being a mom, etc.  

My rituals shift as my needs shift.

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For the past several months I’ve been doing a new one that I’ll share with you.  I love it.  It’s been a way to move beyond brain retraining as my morning (which was perfect for me at that stage.)

I get up (3-5 breath, practice gratitude first thing) and go out into the desert every morning and I watch the sunrise while I do a 20-30 minute Qigong routine (somatic movement.) I’m taking year-long training in Qigong, so this is my time to practice and move my energy. It’s very meditative.  Then I walk a couple of miles while orienting to nature. No music, no podcasts, just the sounds of my environment and using that as a walking meditation of sorts.

I do this every day, no matter what time I went to bed.  I don’t miss it and it has restored my sacred ritual time.  I see my resistance, I see my repetitive thoughts, and I see who I am becoming so much more easily because of this ritual time.

Sure, sometimes I add other things in if needed — an ABC (the Primal Trust™ brain retraining practice) if my limbic system is ruminating… maybe I do it while I walk.  A few times per week I still do the 5 Tibetan Rites and weight lift or HIIT.  So there are add-ons, but I have a ritual that works for me now in my new stage of life.

Also, we are getting into the habit of watching the sunset as a family out in our yard or at the park.  I love a closing ritual.  I love doing it with my kids.  I see that it is a very connecting thing to do with them.

I’d love to hear what your rituals are?

Cathleen King, DPT

I'm an expert on chronic illness, chronic trauma, relationship/attachment repair, and inner child healing. I’ve got the rare combination of in-depth doctoral-level education and training as a physical therapist, and many years of coaching others in wellness and lifestyle education. And, I have been through my own heroine’s journey of spending nearly 2 decades of my life navigating through deep, debilitating illness and finally found my way out!

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