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In our daily lives, we often find ourselves stuck in a cycle of routines and habits, going through the motions without much thought or intention. This can lead to feelings of emptiness and disconnection. But what if there was a way to bring more meaning and presence to our everyday tasks?

In this episode, we explore the power of rituals and how they can transform ordinary activities into moments of sacredness and devotion. By understanding the difference between a habit and a ritual, we can begin to infuse our daily actions with a sense of wonder and purpose. Whether it’s through meditation, creative work, or simple self-care practices, creating rituals allows us to fully engage with and appreciate the present moment.

Join me as we discover how to create and maintain rituals that bring more joy and mindfulness to our everyday experiences, fostering a deeper connection to ourselves and the world around us.

Topics Covered

  • The distinction between habits, routines, and rituals
  • The role of intention and sacredness in rituals
  • Practical steps for creating personal rituals
  • Examples of rituals in creative work, meditation, and self-care
  • The impact of rituals on mindfulness and presence
  • Using objects and symbols to enhance rituals
  • Transforming mundane tasks into sacred moments
  • The lifelong practice and evolution of rituals

⏱︎ Time Stamps

00:00 • Introduction to Zen Habits Podcast

00:36 • Exploring the concept of ritual

01:11 • Routine vs. ritual: Understanding the difference

01:47 • The sacredness of ritual

05:19 • Creating your own ritual

07:47 • Elevating everyday activities

09:05 • Practical steps to establish rituals

10:47 • The practice of ritual

12:17 • Conclusion and invitation for coaching

📄 Transcript

Welcome to the Zen Habits podcast, where we dive into how to work with uncertainty, resistance, and fear around our meaningful work. This is for anyone who wants to create an impact in the world and cares deeply enough to do the work. I'm your host, Leo Babauta, creator of the Zen Habits blog.

Okay, my friends. In this podcast, I'm going to talk about something I've been really interested in lately, and related to that is the topic of sacredness, focus, and creating. So, ritual is something I've really been diving into in the last, I don't know how many years, but recent years, more and more, deeper and deeper.

And it's something that I think people think of as like a routine, like a habit, but I think there's more to it than that. It's a deeper topic than any of those. Routine is something that you just go through and you do every day, let's say. Habit would be a similar kind of thing. It's like, I'm just going to go and do it and check it off my habit app or my list and done.

And there's something great about that, right? It's structure, it's routine, it's consistency, it's commitment. The thing that sets ritual apart from that is that ritual is elevated above that. Above our routine, our everyday, our mundane. Ritual is sacred. It has a degree of sacredness, spirituality, just some kind of elevated above the everyday.

We're going to go into what that means. And if you're turned off already, give me a moment and hear me out. So, the thing about routine and habit is that we go through and do them kind of mindlessly. This is like out of obligation because it's on our list, because we think it's good for us and we should.

But we just kind of go through it. And this is actually what we're doing all day long with everything. You know, answering our emails and messages, doing our work tasks, getting on to meetings, you know, everything that we're doing, chores and errands and, you know, things around the house. All of this is done out of obligation or because we should or because there's another thing on our list, because we have to.

These are not inspired places to be. It's how we live almost all of our lives apart from some moments of wonder and joy and play. There might be a few moments like that, but I would say the vast majority of people are living lives where they just are going through what they have to do. And ritual is elevated above that.

So, ritual, it would be so I, earlier in a past life, I was Catholic and we would go to mass, which is a ritual. And in mass, they also have within that ritual a ritual of communion. And so, this is something that is holy. It's, you know, literally a holy, sacred ritual.

And in it, there's a sense of treating everything as if this were a communing with God. And you might not be religious. You might not believe in God and that's okay. But there's something that we miss out when we throw all of that out, which is there is a sense of sacredness to the ritual. If you are a deep yoga practitioner, you know what ritual would be like. This is a sense of creating a space and a place where you can go deeper into your practice.

If you meditate and you have a meditation cushion and a place set up for meditation, you sit there in the ritual of meditation. This is allowing yourself to fully be in the moment and fully practice being devoted to the moment. It is different than just saying, "I'm going to sit here and I'm going to be on my phone."

It's different than just saying, "I'm going to sit here and do nothing for five minutes and then check it off my list." Just kind of like get through it. And if you do that, you're going to be sitting there with impatience, be like, "Okay, three minutes left. Two and a half minutes left. Two minutes and four seconds left."

So, we're going to try and like get through that as opposed to really practicing being fully there, as if this five-minute practice period, or however long your meditation is, as if that were fully sacred, worthy of full appreciation and love. So, that's what the difference is between, say, sacred ritual and just going through the motions.

So, imagine if you create a ritual around the things that matter most to you. For example, creating if you're, let's say, a writer or a musician, then you create a ritual around the creation process so that when you are writing or making music, you create a sense of sacredness. This is worthy of being fully here, not being in five years from now where you think you might or might not be, or later this week when you share it and people are going to criticize you. Being fully here in the creation process. If you can do that, then what happens is you've elevated the process and it is an act of devotion.

Devotion is selfless love. So, it's an act of devotion, is your creation process. And so, what I want to encourage you to do is to create a ritual that elevates the creation process for you. Even if the creation process is 10 minutes each day, what if you elevated it in some way and said, "This is worthy of devotion. This is sacred. This is worthy of me really fully appreciating it and bringing a sense of awe to the process." And so, the way we can create that for ourselves, if you're up for playing, is we create a beginning and an end that signifies that this is an elevated process, a sacred process.

So, beginning might be, I'm gonna, when it's time to do it, let's say 9 a.m., I'm going to sit down and I'm going to read my purpose or read a prayer or light a candle or play some music or light some incense. It doesn't have to be any of those things, but those would be examples of a start that sets the intention.

The ending would be when I close, I'm going to acknowledge whatever that I did, maybe with some gratitude and love. And I'm going to maybe close my intention and say, "I appreciate the intention that I had." Or whatever it is, maybe there's some kind of celebration of the incredible victory you just had in those 10 minutes or of what you brought forward, whatever it would be, is closing with some kind of intention.

And this elevates this creation ritual above whatever else you're doing before or after. Now, you can elevate anything. If you wanted to elevate eating into a ritual, you might say a prayer of thanks for whoever created this food for you, whoever grew it, whoever supported those people growing it.

This is a way to elevate the food. And then, as you do the eating, you would actually fully appreciate, fully be there as much as you can, which is a practice. You know, you might be like, "Ah, I want to go check my messages." But if you said, "I have an intention to only be here with my food, no messages," so you're setting some structure to your ritual.

What are, what's allowed within this ritual? What's not? What are you going to do? And what are you not going to do? These are things to answer as you create your ritual. So, you can create it for eating, you can create it for exercise, meditation, you can create it for reading, you can create it for taking care of yourself, self-care at night, and ritual at night.

A self-care thing is not just going through the motions but actually elevating this to like, "I care about myself. I'm glad I have a body. I'm deserving of some kind of taking care." So, that would be elevating your nighttime ritual, not just going through the motions but actually elevating it. Okay, so how do you create your ritual?

Well, if you have the intention to practice something elevated and you know that there's a beginning and an end, and then some kind of intention in between, "I'm going to fully focus on my food and really appreciate the taste or how it's nourishing my body," or, "I'm going to fully be in the creative process and bring curiosity and play," then you have an intention, then you can create.

So, ritual is actually a creative process. As you create a ritual, you're creating something. So, it's like, "Okay, what would I like?" And so, for me, I might have this, this is from the Daily Stoic Ryan Holiday, there's a little coin here, Memento Mori. It's really reminding me that life is short. That I don't know how much longer I have and that there is some something that I want to do during the short time that I have, and I'm going to be intentional about it.

So, having little objects that remind you of something, I'm not saying go out and buy that coin, I think someone gifted me with that coin, but I put it here as a reminder. You might have, as I have over there, a statue of the Buddha, or something that is significant for your spiritual practice, or that inspires you as you create.

So have some objects around you. You might have music, you might have some kind of intention that you've written down, but the idea is to allow yourself to be free. Fully, fully there and fully elevated and fully sacred, fully devoted. So, what would your ritual look like? What would be amazing for you?

As you do it, I want to say that it's also a practice. So, it isn’t that you are going to do it right or that you're going to get it right the first time. Ritual is a practice. Practice it. Review. How did it go this week? "Ah, I totally skipped it." Okay, great. What would have me showing up more? Maybe I need to set a reminder.

Maybe I need to get more committed. Maybe I need to have accountability. What would have me showing up more fully? What would have me not just go through the motions? Is there something that I need to practice so that I can really elevate it? This is a spiritual practice. Whatever spiritual means for you.

It's a spiritual practice of growth and creation, of curiosity and wonder, of devotion and practice, which means we have to keep practicing it, and it's a lifetime practice. It isn’t something that you learn how to do in a week and you're like, "Okay, I'm great at it. I need to, you know, not worry about that again."

So, it's a practice and I encourage you to get into the process of creating your ritual and then practicing it. As you do, you're going to create something elevated and different than your usual going through the motions because you have to or are supposed to or it's on your list. You're going to elevate it to something that is special, that is worthy of your sacred time, the precious time that you have left on this earth, is worthy of awe and wonder.

And that is something I think worth practicing. Okay. That's all I've got for you. In the last podcast, at the end, I mentioned private coaching with me, one-on-one coaching. I have a couple of spots open, so I'm putting the call out there. Write to me, [email protected]. You can also write to me if you have any feedback about this episode, if you want to share your ritual with me. But if you want to go deeper and get some coaching support in what you want to create next, get some feedback on your blind spots that you can't see without a coach.

If you want to be supported in some of the hardest, most meaningful things that you've got on your plate that you would like to create in your life. If you want to create actual transformation, come talk to me, [email protected], and let's get in a conversation. Okay. Bye, everybody.

If you haven't already, please subscribe to this podcast in your favorite podcast app. If you found this episode useful, please share this podcast with someone you know, who cares deeply. That would be really meaningful to me. And, if you'd like to dive deeper with me into this work, please check out the blog at or get in touch at [email protected].

Thanks for listening, and I hope you'll join me every Wednesday for more episodes of the Zen Habits podcast.

Zen Habits Resources

Zen Habits

The Fearless Living Academy

Fearless Mastery

Coaching with Leo

Connect with Leo


Music: Salem Belladonna & Robrecht Dumarey

Editor: Justin Cruz

Post-production: Diana C. Guzmán Caro & Amanda Goddard