Rare moments.

Turning inward, the days grow shorter, the nights longer.

I could easily sleep until 11:00 if it weren't for two small cats leaping on and off the bed at irregular intervals. Escalating from about 4:00 am onward, they start with bumping my closed eye lids with their wet noses, touching my chin and lips with a tentative paw, brushing ever so slightly onto my cheek with their whiskers and waiting for some response.

As those of you with small children or dogs can attest, they aren't really waiting.

Just beginning the ritual of "get up and feed me".

Each morning that we're together, the cycle repeats. The cats begin leaping about and gently nudging the monkey until she gets up and pours kibble into the chicken stock. This is our morning dance. My goal is to drift back to sleep as many times as possible. Their goal is to complete this process so they can nap until around 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon and then have lunch.

This cycle made me think about rituals. This time of year is fraught with marking the grander cycles of time. Now we do this, send this, sing that. Now we hang this, give that, drink these, eat those. Annual celebration marks some greater progression and occasionally haunts us with regrets.

Well storied, these bigger rituals carry us through time and space. On these occasions the pageantry draws us towards the larger landscapes of memory, history and destiny. Reaching back into the past we share the waning of the light with our ancestors.

Eternal echoes of fallen comrades, family and friends in "las dias de las muertas" the Mexican equivalent of Halloween.  http://bit.ly/4gwZBh

Harvest celebrations are practiced in every culture that sprang from agrarian roots. http://bit.ly/1ojUM0

Busy in December, our ancient grandmothers bustled with the return of the sun long before the Christian era went with an adaptation of the virgin birth. http://bit.ly/1TzDQ3

It is easier to find these larger themes when accompanied by costumes and symbols. The thin veil between the living and the dead is much clearer wearing a fright wig and a set of vampire teeth. Or celebrating harvest with a poultry mascot and obscene amounts of food. Or marking the return of the sun with the patience and faithfulness of evergreens.

But what about the moments of our daily lives?

Is the bigger picture available to access, or are our lives unconscious by default? Could every day bring a chance to celebrate the living and remember the dead? Bless and offer gratitude for harvest and bounty? Give a joyful shout to the heavens for the blessings of the sun?

Thinking about the space between rituals and habits. A space where gratitude might live.

Rituals are choices we make and the awareness that "this is about something important to me". Habits remain what we go about doing everyday without thinking.

If we imbued our present and daily moments with meaning and reverence, would the practice of awareness become a habit? Might we become less a slave to the mind's wandering and more the agent of our divine intentions?

What if brushing my teeth were a ritual of thanksgiving for their glistening, grinding presence in my life? Some day they'll be worn and falling apart from their years of faithful service. Will I wait until they're gone to celebrate them? Or does my loving ritual of cleaning them twice a day offer an opportunity to be conscious of their gifts?

I might be grateful for the moments when the cat's noses are pressed onto my eyelids. Someday they'll be gone. I might be reminded of all those creatures in the world who have no monkeys to care for them. And are not shedding hair sleeping on the couch in the living.

If only they'd wait a couple more hours I'm certain I'll feel more grateful.

Daily habits can become rituals whenever the presence of mind is quiet and observing.

As the light dims and the pace of living slows, I can become aware of the connection between the two worlds, grateful for the harvest and faithful in the return of the sun.

Rare moments.

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