By Chelsea Hohn
Our daily rituals, traditions, practices, and exercises — while personal and involved for some are simply a way to live for others. Rituals can keep us sane, keep us honest with ourselves, and keep us going, whether we are aware of it or not.
I spoke with twelve notable people within Ann Arbor’s body/mind/spirit community, some well-known holistic practitioners in the region and others you may not know as well, to hear about their daily rituals. Each answered three questions that provide an outline, neatly drawn around the lives of these twelve talented people. The questions were:
- What do you do in the morning to wake and ready yourself for the day?
- What do you do throughout the day to maintain your composure?
- What do you do at night to wind down and prepare for rest?
David is a well-established local businessman. He is a certified Iyengar yoga teacher and a former Yoga Coordinator for the Ann Arbor YMCA. He currently teaches at Yoga Focus, founded and owned by his wife, Karen Ufer.
- As a student of yoga for forty years, my daily ritual is not particularly unusual. I practice yoga asanas most every morning before I go into work.
- As we live each day with our varying struggles and joys, I’m attempting to be more observant and hopefully playful with breathing in the course of the day.
- I get upside down by practicing yoga inversions at the end of the day.
Beth is a traditional midwife, childbirth educator, and a resonance repatterning practitioner. She is also the owner of Indigo Forest, on Jackson Road, which blends teaching practical, inspiring classes with a “natural family specialty store.”
- Before I get out of bed, I do a jin shin, a series of hand holds. Jin shin is an energy system awareness. The hand holds help to balance and unify the body. So I usually do those and start to feel a lot better. Then I get a quart of water, add half a lemon, first thing in the morning to help my liver and hydrate. I usually meditate a few minutes. When I’m doing well, I also do a series of stretches and a walk. When I walk I do some breathing and praying, and when I’m doing that my day seems to go in a much more positive direction.
- I take little mini breaks in which I do deep breathing and [drink] water. I also am doing some jin shin finger holds, some energetic balancers. I might also do some squatting; there’s a whole thing that restores your adrenal glands through squatting. There’s a whole Tibetan tribe, many of whom lived until they were over 100, and worked seven days a week — they look beautiful. They squat for a few minutes every hour. So when I’m not going too fast, it really helps to sustain my energy throughout the day.
- I try to do a little bit of awareness of what’s called “cutting cords,” sort of an energetic way of making sure that I’m energetically being very present and not trailing anyone’s energy on to the next thing. I tend to make a list for the next day. I do some stretching, and my writing time is often at night. Both at the beginning and end of the day, I usually stand on the earth, spend a few minutes wandering the garden, things like that. I connect with nature even just by sticking my head out the door to the backyard. Especially in the morning, I stick my head out to smell the air.
Henry is an acupuncturist and herbalist who spent 11 years studying in China. He is now the President of the Michigan Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
- I put clothes on immediately upon getting out of bed and I don’t shower in the morning. I don’t want my body to lose heat first thing. Most of my habits have to do with physical health.
- I used to be too little too late, now I’m too much too late. I’d like to be enough at the right time. I have to create order in my physical environment to have mental clarity. I have memorized texts from Taoism; reciting them slowly and visualizing the characters brings order to my thoughts, and makes me able to see clearly what I’m avoiding or falling behind on.
- Having a beer actually is really nice. Eating together as an extended family is important in ways I’m not incredibly conscious of. Bathing at night is something I learned from China. It’s a way of preparing for sleep. You’re really restful already and it makes a big difference in health and quality of life.
Frank is a carpenter, breathwork facilitator, and meditation teacher. He is also co-director of Blue Turtle Nature Camp in Ann Arbor, where he teaches nature awareness and wilderness living skills to children.
- My primary practices now are connected breath — lying down, I inhale and exhale, and say, “I am here, now in this,” in conjunction with my breath. I keep the breath connected, remembering that this is what we’ve got, right here, right now. It brings focus and I try to do it with a smile on my face, for about five minutes.
- Throughout the day I practice mudita, following four concepts: love, kindness, compassion, and joy for the wellbeing of others. I often practice while driving, just wishing people well.
- At night I do something called ho’oponopono, a practice that directs four phrases towards yourself and others. The phrases are: I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you. Those four things work together in a magical way.
Jonathan has been teaching aerobic and Ashtanga yoga since 1993, and he has been one of Inward Bound Yoga’s teachers since its founding in 1995. He has a Ph.D. in American Culture, and has been teaching and writing about, and making, films and videos since 1982.
- I get out of bed, drink water, do yoga for twenty minutes — I have a routine that I do. Then I meditate for about 20–40 minutes after yoga. Then I have coffee. Then I write one page. Those are my first words. I try to keep words at bay until then, and I see what words pop out and write them down. That’s 20–40 minutes. Then I have breakfast. Then it’s 8 a.m., and if I have time, if I don’t have to do something, be somewhere, then I read.
- Reading is an everyday all-important thing in my life. I do another yoga practice sometime during the day. I have to tend my body. I have to make sure it functions. Otherwise it gets out of hand and doesn’t function well. It really is helpful and important for me to do that. Instead of just once a day, I kind of divide my practice into three sections. I do an Ashtanga routine or just some backbends and hip openers. That can take 20–75 minutes.
- I close screens by 10 p.m. and go to bed. I do my other short yoga practice, twists and forward bends, and then climb into bed.
Dr. Edward (Lev) Linkner
Lev is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Holistic Medicine and has been practicing in Ann Arbor for 38 years. He is in solo practice and co-founder of the Parkway Center, as well as a clinical assistant professor at the U-M Medical School and a founding member of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine.
- I have the best mornings of anyone I know. I do not use an alarm clock. I wake up and I do my gratitudes for my friends, family, and so on. I then start my meditation. I’m greeted by my cat, Chewy. I then let my dog out and get coffee on my way to the gym at 5:45, then I go into work at 8:15. I shuffle papers and basically have a clean desk and ready myself for the day and get excited to see patients. I’ve kind of grown up with these people. I’ve been able to create an environment of love. People attract what they desire, and I want to be clear headed and having fun. I live in the now.
- I eat lunch and do paperwork and take my dog, Maizey, on a walk. She goes everywhere with me, so wonderful having a dog here. It’s good to be in nature. I have lots of stress reducers — hanging out and having fun, laughing, being around people you attract. I live by the four agreements: be impeccable with your word; don’t take it personally; don’t make assumptions; and always do your best.
- I tidy up — I live in a hundred-year-old home. We always try to eat as a family and play with the grandkids. I go for a walk, relax, and spend down time with my family, and always read in bed.
Linda Diane Feldt
Linda Diane is a holistic health practitioner, herbalist, teacher, and published author. She has provided an integrated approach to holistic health care since 1980. She also served for a number of years as the President of the Board of the Ann Arbor People’s Food Co-op.
- Primarily my dog and her immediate needs get me up, which are to go outside. I get to wake up and go outside within five minutes of waking up, which is actually pretty nice. So that’s pretty much the start. It isn’t too long before I have to take an hour to do Internet and emails, that kind of thing. It’s nice to start each day by going outside for a short walk on my street. Picking up dog poop in the morning is a very grounding exercise.
- I work from home, so overall that’s extremely helpful. Before and after each client I wash my hands, which is actually a very profound ritual. Coming in clean with no preconceptions for each client, and reestablishing my space and their space, and disconnecting from what’s often an intense experience for somebody.
- More recently I have been trying to write down five things I’m grateful for that day. It’s lovely. It’s very nice to consider those things. I haven’t gone back and reread any of them yet, but even if I’m someplace I don’t have my notebook, it’s nice to think about it. I usually go to bed thinking I didn’t do enough, and I’m realizing that’s more anxiety than reality. I’m trying to switch off that voice in my head. Lifelong I’ve been a reader and I read myself to sleep with a light that turns itself out automatically.
Jocelyn is the founder and owner of the Ann Arbor Institute of Massage Therapy, which has trained hundreds of massage therapists in the region and state through its diploma program.
- The first thing I do is go outside and give my birds new bath water and feed my deer and feed my pets. Then I get myself ready. I have to have my coffee with chocolate protein powder. I don’t even use an alarm clock. I wake up at 5:30 or 6:00 usually. I usually have a dance class that I take — there’s my composure and stress reliever right there. Right now my best friend and I are creating our own dance classes.
- I don’t! I often have to come into my office and sit down and compose myself. Typically I try to stay in a good mood and laugh. Nothing is that bad that after a few minutes I can’t stop exploding and laugh about it.
- I like to go out in the garden and water my vegetables. I play in the garden and I like to come in and make myself a salad for dinner. I like to sit around and watch TV, then read and that’s it. I do get everything ready for the morning. Everything I have to take with me is ready.
Cam is a psychotherapist and consultant with over thirty years of experience. He also teaches tai chi at the Cancer Support Community, and is a well-regarded poet.
- I start my day waking up to Handel's Water Music. I spend a moment in gratitude. I take morning showers to wake up, and I do a series of yoga stretches, chi gong exercises, tai chi, and meditation. My chi gong exercises vary with the seasons and my physical condition to balance my energy. I take pleasure in my daily routines and look forward to doing them each day. This can be as long as 90 minutes or as short as 15 minutes depending on the time available. I began this practice over thirty years ago when I injured my back. It has become more spiritual over time. It is a gift that the original pain from the injury has given me. Currently I am pain free ninety percent of the time.
- In my psychotherapy practice, I am very disciplined about writing a summary note after each session. This helps close the energy from the previous session and prepare for the next session. For lunch I spend ten minutes walking outside or in meditation to rejuvenate my energy. At the end of the work day, I like to exercise by swimming or taking a walk. This releases any physical tension stored in the body.
- After dinner I talk with a friend. I watch about a half hour of light TV or read. Before going to bed, I give a moment of gratitude for the events of the day and release them. The key to these rituals is flexibility with time and persistence. I also link activities together so they create a pattern for my day.
Dr. Dennis Chernin
Dennis is a leading holistic doctor and homeopathic physician, and is the author of several books on meditation and holistic medicine as well as homeopathy. He is also the co-founder and lead singer/leader of Ann Arbor Kirtan.
- Well, I meditate in the morning. I do alternate nostril breathing. I do that before meditation and then I try to do some stretches and sometimes some yoga. I eat a hearty breakfast, millet rice cereal with blueberries, and then I eat two almonds and a banana.
- It depends on what day it is. On some days, I commute an hour to an hour and a half each way. During that time I either listen to NPR to catch up on the news or I practice my chanting. I lead a Kirtan group. Sometimes, it’s different chants I'm learning or interested in including in my group. That helps me in those days. During the day, I try to care for patients and help them as holistically as possible and that gives me a lot of joy. When they’re suffering, I show compassion, caring, and love so that they can get better and be the best they can in life. That gives me a lot of joy and comfort in my own life and balance. I also am fortunate that my lifestyle and work often come together as one.
- I usually have dinner. I’m vegetarian. My partner and I eat often very hearty meals, and often times we take a walk in the evening through wooded areas, we enjoy that. We may read together, catch up on the news, or watch baseball. Then before bed I will try to lift weights and meditate again, and try to do some yoga a couple times a week. I also do tai chi and I go through a form in the evening. I take a shower every night and that's that.
Laura is the founder and creative director at Bluefire Institute and guides people to “live life on fire.”
- One thing I make sure to do for myself everyday — it often happens at different times — is what I call a check in. Some might call it a prayer; it’s a connection, something I say out loud to connect to a larger spirit and connect myself to the present. I go through a series of five questions. I ask, what’s different? That could be from last check in or in that moment. Then I ask, what works and what didn’t work? In my own performance and what's going on. Then I say my state of mind, my state of body, and state of spirit, and acknowledge each one. “Mind” being whatever is in my head, “body” is what’s going on physically, and “spirit” is universal. I describe it and acknowledge it. I then ask, what am I grateful for? What is my intention for today? I create the way I want to approach the day. I also do a daily plan at the beginning and end of each day.
- I do make lists and work off of that. I work off of my calendar, so I schedule and can be present for what it is that I'm doing at that moment. If I’ve done the planning, then I can be present. It varies. Right now I’m home with kids for the summer. Being present, taking a moment, a deep breath, and making sure I’ve taken care of myself in terms of food needs. I focus on what’s happening right here, right now. The other thing I do routinely is move a lot, whether it’s a fitness activity or just walking. That’s an important way for me to function.
- Well, I do like to look at what I completed for the day, and what my priorities are for tomorrow. I may have specific plans for the next day. I like to review my day and plan the next. I try to complete that before activities with family start to happen. I sometimes will do the gratitude question again. I like to go for a walk at the end of the day and let my mind relax or do other activities that let my mind relax. I go to bed pretty early and get a good night's sleep, that’s an important part of my regimen.
Bill is the Editor/Publisher of The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal. He and his wife, Ruth Schekter, are the long-time owners of Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room.
- During the summer, I roll out of bed and swim every morning, before I do anything else at all. The rest of the year I swim first thing four to five days a week. Swimming helps me to wake up in the most delightful way, energizing me, organizing my whole being, bending me. I eat gluten-free cereal, kefir, and fruit for breakfast most days. I wake up grateful and happy to have two lively young daughters in my life. I have been reading The New York Times every morning since I was a school boy, and the articles wake up my mind to that day’s world, and help me to ready myself for the day.
- The main thing I bring to the table during the course of my days is that I genuinely relish and treasure the life I’m living. Perhaps it’s because of family losses I’ve experienced. But whatever the cause, I find that my daily sense of composure comes from just appreciating what is right in front of me, and constantly noticing how precious that would seem were I facing illness or death. I have been trying to meditate sometime each day, and often it’s a walking meditation. I fail to do meditation as much as I’d like, and that shows up often enough. I do make a conscious effort to pay attention to each interaction I have, and have that interaction be a good one. I fail at this, as well, often enough, but keep at it. One thing I’m learning to do more is to yield, especially to my strong-willed 12-year-old daughter, Leela. That’s my spiritual practice this year. I also eat a fair amount of dark chocolate to compose myself, but I’m kidding myself on that one.
- I am not good at winding down, generally. As a night owl, my mind is often too busy in the evenings. A walk helps, as does a light snack. To wind down well, I can do no better than to tell a bedtime story to my 7-year-old daughter, Grace. I usually fall asleep on top of her quilt sooner than she does.
Thank you to all our participants.