First Month Rituals

Back when this became a wellness blog I called each of these end-of-the-month posts my Work Release. The idea was to show the work which goes into wellness as a practice to reinforce that wellness is indeed a practice and it is indeed work. That’s still the case but to support my 2020 theme of Ritual, I’ve elected to describe these posts as Rituals themselves, in addition to being filled with rituals which support wellness. Welcome to a highlight reel of January’s rituals, shared here to inspire, encourage, and sometimes enlighten as a wellness enthusiast.

Social Wellness

I pulled the trigger on a tennis league. I joined a team. I did it to make friends and socialize with a greater variety of people in a positive way. This Ritual worked wonders years ago when I joined a running club to assuage chronic loneliness and isolation. My social world has gotten microscopic again. My fun-o-meter is low. I interact with the same small handful of people day after day after day. This is fine as long as we are all helping each other grow, but there is only so much fun you can have at work and I have strong boundaries between work life and the rest of life. (Those boundaries are also rituals.)

Fun is good for the soul. Fun is funner with people.

This is also going to count as Emotional Wellness, since it requires bravery. I’m not going to lie, y’all. I’m still not very good at tennis. I do work hard at it but whenever I drill/practice with folks better than me, I tend to choke under the pressure of better players watching and judging. Now I’m going to do it in competition. I will hit a few good shots and a shit-ton of bad ones while people watch. I will cost my team points. I’m going to let people down. You know, for fun.

To make matters more challenging, this was the rainiest-ass month so I didn’t get to practice as much as I wanted and league play starts in a matter of weeks. So there’s that. I fully expect to be the worst player on the team. I’m doing it anyway. More on this to come.

Physical Wellness

A low-budget slideshow of sweaty Rituals observed this month, brought to you by running, hiking, tennis, yoga, strength training and the rainiest-ass month previously mentioned:

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See Fellow Flowers for an explanation of the red flower. I will switch to another color next month. The red yoga mat is a coincidence.

No, I don’t take a photo every time I hit the mat, the trail, or the gym. I don’t always feel like it and I don’t always have a camera with me (rainiest-ass month). However, I do think there is value in demonstrating how the work looks different from day to day. The work carries on in all kinds of weather, in different places, at different times of day, whether it is a familiar route or an inspiring new venue. Sometimes it happens on the back porch, sometimes at the gym, sometimes in the living room, sometimes on the same old streets I’ve been running for years. The tennis courts and hiking trails are obvious, but where else is the work done? Everywhere; because wellness is a life-style.

  • Distance running, walking, hiking, tennis, cycling:  52.47 miles
  • Time (all of the above + yoga + gym):  27 hours, 8 minutes

Still vegan; still no plans to be anything other than vegan but I do not photograph food.

This month’s Ritual of celebrating even the smallest of daily wins is brought to you by Garmin and Fitbit:

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For the sake of transparency, I have two devices cheering me on here. I was already using a Garmin. My employer gave everyone a Fitbit for Christmas so we can compete in company wellness incentives. To keep it manageable I use them each for different things, hence the different types of milestones.

Intellectual Wellness & Creativity

My longest continuous creative Ritual remains writing. I published six posts this month, in addition to this one. That’s a slight bump from my average. I created all of the lovely images posted throughout the month, along with all of these shown, with the exception of the Yantra, and although I photographed the painting below, I did not paint it:

Found in the locker room at my gym.

But this category isn’t all all about being creative. It’s also about intellectual stimulation and learning.

Books read: The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory

Documentaries: The Mind Explained (Netflix); note with special interest a segment on meditation, Rotten (Netflix), Don’t F*ck With Cats (Netflix), and On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace (Netflix)

Financial/Occupational Wellness

Reinstated my old Zero Surplus practice. This is the Ritual of zeroing out the checking account surplus each payday. In a nutshell, I take a look at the balance before my paycheck hits the account. How much was in there before I got paid? If it is not already earmarked for something, this is surplus. I get rid of it and live on my paycheck until I get paid again.

After all the bills are paid and essential spending is budgeted, whatever funds are leftover at the end of pay period gets sent away. Where is away? A savings account, an investment, or to make an extra principal payment on any debt.

Essential spending includes the necessities of life: housing, utilities, insurance, food, clothing, transportation, emergency/contingency savings, etc. Non-essential spending includes the extras; the stuff we want but could technically live without. I like to set a spending limit for these things, and this spending reduces surplus the same as essential spending. In January my non-essential spending looked like this:

  • USTA membership $37 (annual); I have to be a member to compete in sanctioned leagues and tournaments
  • RoadID membership $10 (annual); it could be argued this is essential since it is a safety item but I’m not splitting hairs over a sawbuck
  • Spring tennis league fees $46; Spring obviously isn’t here yet but these fees have to be paid in advance

So as a result of the Ritual of Zero Surplus,

  • Intentional savings for January:  A modest amount I thought I could afford
  • Savings from Zero Surplus for January:  DOUBLE the modest amount — that’s in addition to the modest amount — which I would not have believed I could afford

Spiritual Wellness

Reinstated the Ritual of yantra practice. I borrowed this practice from the Hindu tradition many years ago. For my purposes, yantras are sacred geometric shapes used as a focus tool. Using a yantra is helpful if closing your eyes or trying to maintain open-eyes soft focus during meditation is difficult. With yantras you can bring your mind back to the shape when it wanders way. When meditation is particularly challenging, the yantra helps me get started. Once I settle in I may close my eyes or stop gazing at the yantra but I like to have the option for the days I find frustration to be my biggest distraction.

Since I started the month with the theme of Calm-uary, I chose the Moon Yantra for this month. It represents peaceful energies; soothing, nurturing, intuitive, calming, you get it. There are countless variations of the actual shape, but this is an example of a basic Moon Yantra:


In February I will choose a different one. I may link back to this post for reference rather than reproducing all this explanation twelve times per year.

Traditional yantras correspond to planets and Hindu dieties and include specific mantras to be recited or chanted. I add the respective mantras to my prayers/devotional utterances as well. I’ve modified this practice heavily to suit my own needs and beliefs, which probably means I am appropriating Hindu culture with my various levels of unchecked privilege (sigh). If this is your contention I won’t argue that I’m guilty, only stipulate that I’m doing so in the interest of wellness.

Environmental Wellness

I’m still not living the zero waste life yet but I made several minimal/lower waste choices in January that will become rituals.

  • Composted my food waste (plants only). Recycle everything I can.
  • Dug the old reusable coffee filter out of dark recesses of storage (I forgot it was in there) and stopped buying paper coffee filters even though they were made from recycled materials. They still come packaged in a plastic wrapper which must be thrown away, so no more of those.
  • Drank the last of my canned/bottled seltzer and quit cold turkey; won’t be buying any more of those even though they are recyclable. Vowed to try to make it all the way through 2020 without buying a beverage in a bottle or can or take-out cup. So far so good; 31 days without buying a bottle, can, or cup.
  • Mended a hole in a coworker’s sweater to keep her from throwing it away. How is this highlight worthy? These small things matter because they create a pattern of rethinking how to deal with broken things, especially things that are relatively cheap and easy to replace. You may scoff but this has caught on. Folks keep asking me how to fix/what to do/will you adopt things. Just yesterday two people came by my desk to drop off things usable things they no longer wanted. It’s working.
  • You know That Weirdo at the office who rescues recyclables out of the common trash and takes them all the way home because the office doesn’t recycle? I am That Weirdo. So far I can’t get them to recycle anything other than paper so I’m leading by example. Be the change. Be the dumpster diver. The can crusher. The box breaker. Take the teasing. It’s worth it.

Wellness in Relationships

This category feels light by comparison, because as I mentioned above, my relationships have dwindled. There isn’t much work to do to maintain or create wellness in relationships if there aren’t many working relationships. But among the handful I do have at the moment, I did try to influence wellness in January. I invited a tennis friend to go hiking. I took our friendship out of its regular frame and venue and gave it a chance to grow in a different direction. How much conversation do you think takes place on the tennis court? Not much. But on a hiking trail (and in the car)? Much. That’s good work.

I also made a special effort to support a struggling coworker. In a shared work space there are a thousand daily chances to contradict negative self-talk, offer some kindness, and shift perspective. One significantly younger colleague has been especially receptive so I have followed my nurturing instincts and provided liberal comfort and counsel. Those nurturing instincts typically only get applied to self-nurturing so it has been refreshing to blow the dust off of them in service to someone else for a change. It’s working. She’s building skills and forming alternative coping strategies and learning her own wellness work. Every day we celebrate the tiniest of wellness wins.

Her gestures of gratitude include nicknaming me Aunt Goddess and making me some charming beaded bracelets (see above). The one with the chakra beads reads Namaste on the opposite side. To relieve the crowding our employer moved us into new offices near the end of the month. When faced with the prospect of being separated she bravely insisted NO. Pointing across the room toward me, she said No. I need her. I need to be near her. Of course this is flattering and validating but it also tasks me with new wellness work of my own. Firstly to live up to this and secondly to help her not need me; to help her grow into the goddess stature she sees in me.

We moved to the new location last week. Our new work spaces are side by side. We can speak through/over the wall or take less than ten steps to face each other. She manifested this. I’m impressed like a colleague and proud like an honorary Aunt and inspired like a co-conspirator. That’s good work on both sides of the wall.


This feels like the perfect note to end the song of January so I’m stopping here. Busy month. Showing the work which goes into wellness is living the work, which is just another way to say practice. January’s practice is released and February brings new chances to practice on. Practice with me.

— Mercy


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