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.
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.”
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?