Rituals for Style and Substance

Rituals are interesting.  Rituals are often highly stylized interactions, with particular requirements of participants.  They are often used to help mark a passage of events in life, imbuing them with a significance that might be missed were it not for the attention that the ritual draws to it.  In times both past and present rituals were and are often linked with religious observance or with rites of passage from childhood into adulthood.  They are often subtle, sometimes well rehearsed and anticipated, but always of particular value to repeated participants.  These are the things that many of us think of when the word “ritual” is invoked.

But what if rituals are simpler than that?

This month I have been practicing a new ritual.  Be warned, it isn’t a brand new activity.  It isn’t strange or unusual.  It is in fact familiar and, for some, a necessary evil.  For others, it is an annoyance.  For still others, it is an occasional inconvenience associated with unpleasant conformity.

This month, I have turned my morning shave into a ritual.

Now before I go on, let me make a few things perfectly clear.  First, I did not include any chanting or burning of incense in my shaving.  Second, I did not use this experiment as an excuse to buy a new and expensive razor or other shaving materials.  Finally, I didn’t create an elaborate system of shaving activities.  Instead, I used three guiding ideas in my ritual experiment.

1 – Rituals are designed to make the participant think more deeply and purposefully.

2 – Rituals are designed to imbue significance to an activity or a moment in time

3 – Rituals are well rehearsed and specific.

Why a Shaving Ritual?

I selected shaving as my opportunity to practice ritual for a few reasons.  First, I was all over the board in the way that I approach this grooming process.  Sometimes I shaved with an electric, sometimes a safety razor, sometimes a cartridge system, sometimes not at all.   I wondered if creating a small ritual would change the way I approach the activity and give me a better result in this aspect of my personal grooming.

Second, I wanted to find something that I could do every day, home or away, that would help to center me on the work of the day, on the priorities of my life.  This ritualization of shaving was intended to help me in the Mental/Emotional facet of life, which helps balance out the frantic pace of my sometimes hectic day to day responsibilities.

Finally, the ritual needed to be something simple and not too terribly long.  Like I mentioned above, my life can be somewhat frantic.

The Ritual 

I decided that, for this ritual, I would shave with my bladed cartridge razor that I received from Harry’s.com through Birchbox.  I figured it was a nice place to draw a line in the sand and use a new razor.  I also decided that I would try shaving with only shave oil, not a foam or cream or soap; I had heard that this could be as beneficial alone as other products, and I wanted to find out for myself.  Finally, I decided that I would follow the same process each and every time: warm water on face (even after a shower), shave oil, two times through the shave, cold water on face.

Each time that i went through the ritual, I tried to visualize myself preparing for a successful day of meetings, documentation and research.  I tried to visualize myself completing projects, not just continuing them.  I tried to visualize myself handling relationships with the kind of thoughtfulness and kindness that I believed was the mark of a man of Substance, thus connecting it to my efforts to refine my style.  The beginning of warm water was preparation.  The shave was transformation from the world of  relaxation to the world of work.  The cool water was the sealing of the change and the “armoring up” for the days “battles.”

The Result

I’m not sure that the results would work for everyone, but with my quick growing whiskers, this was a good one for me.  I found myself actually looking forward to shaving.  I approached this first part of my day thoughtfully, which set the stage for other parts of the day to be approached thoughtfully as well.  I think I was more calm and collected throughout the day.  In short, I think that this ritual worked for me, and I will be keeping it.

What rituals are part of your regular practice as a Man of Style and Substance?


Fitness: Three Levels, Three Components, Part 2

In my last post, I discussed the the process that brought me to a place where fitness began to be important to me.  I also mentioned the three components that made up a major part of the fitness equation.  In this post, which will be quite a bit shorter, I will share the way that I perspective that I use to determine how fit I truly am.  Again, I wish to emphasize that I am not a personal trainer or trying to pass myself off as some sort of guru for the fitness set.  Instead, I am trying to share what has helped me along my journey to improving my fitness.

How fit are you?  Three Levels
Frequently, when I talk with others about some of the events that I like to do and the activities that I like to be involved in, people will say something like, “You must be really fit!”  I smile, say thanks, and try to add something about just enjoying having fun being outside and moving.  The truth is, I am aware that I am likely more fit than many, especially for a middle aged man with diabetes and asthma.  But to me, that isn’t the real issue of fitness.  The issue of fitness is about just what I mentioned above, being able to be outside and move.  To work with that, and to help me decide how hard to train and how to determine if I was meeting my goals without living and dying by the scale, the stopwatch or the food journal (though those can all be good tools) I developed the categories of Daily Fitness, Athletic Fitness and Event Fitness.

Daily Fitness is all about how well you can move while going up and down the stairs at home and at work, how you feel after you sprint to catch an elevator or a train that is leaving a platform, how quickly you can recover after playing on the floor with your kids or grandkids.  That level of fitness is taken for granted by most trainers and gurus, but for me, it was a major milestone.  For years, the only exercise I got was lifting weights and walking from the car to the front doors of the office and back.  I was adding weight to my frame, but my ability to carry it and do anything productive with it was severely compromised.  As a result, the more I worked out, the more un-fit I became.  At the time, I didn’t think it made sense.  Now I recognize this as the beginning point of an important part of the fitness equation.  If you can’t move quick and recover quick, you aren’t fit.

Getting daily fitness for me began with walking.  Lots and lots of walking.  It included slight changes in diet.  Hey, we’ve all seen the commercials with Jared from Subway, right?  Well, that was how I began too.  And it made a difference.  I started walking the course when I played golf.  I started walking to restaurants near work instead of driving.  I started parking farther and farther away so that I had to walk farther.  Eventually all that walking paid off, and I began to see results; I was getting thinner, I moved better and I recovered more quickly.  And then, I plateaued.

I had to make the jump to Athletic Fitness.  Athletic fitness for me didn’t mean that I was trying to get myself picked up by a football team, even a local flag football team.  Instead, it meant that I needed to learn to push myself to make improvements the way that athletes did.  This is where exercise journals, planned conditioning and scales and food journals started to come into play.  This is where I picked up cycling and began to recognize that riding every day was going to take some time and focus, but that the rewards could be worth it.  Striving for athletic fitness meant developing an athlete’s mindset toward training, toward fuel, toward building blocks and toward accountability.  Running got added to the equation along the line.  But working out just to work out has never been practical or doable for me; I need a reason to get that run or ride in.

Event Fitness helped me work with the reason.  I found that there were all types of bike rides out there just waiting to be done.  Races, charity rides, social rides, long rides, short rides, multi day events, you name it, there is probably a ride for it.  The same is true about running races.  5K’s 10k’s, half and full marathons, they are all around.  Preparing for them is what event fitness is all about.  When I am training for an event, I am more conscientious and consistent in my workouts.  I eat better, I am more thoughtful about what I put into my body.  And that is what finishing an event is all about. 

I will likely never be an elite athlete, with a sub 10% body fat ratio and a body that belongs on the front of some fitness magazine.  However, I know when I am in Event Fitness, I feel great, I move great and everything in life is more fun.

As I write this, I must confess, I am not at Event Fitness.  I am currently somewhere between Daily and Athletic fitness, to be honest.  But even that isn’t horrible.  Just last Saturday I ran the Hit and Run 5K with all my kids.  They are all pretty good in the daily fitness area, but growing to Athletic and Event fitness will be a stretch for them.  But that is okay, because we had a blast.  The obstacles were fun, and now my kids know that they can challenge themselves and succeed.  It was a lot of fun.

And we are already working on getting ready for the next event. 

If these perspectives, along with the components mentioned in the last post, help you on your way to combatting what I cal ROS, or Rust Out Syndrome, then use it!  If not, find something that will, and maybe take the time to share what you think below. 

Rubber Side Down!