Ritual or Routine? The difference between sacred moments and excruciating ennui

Young Apprentice AKA PB
5 min readJan 9, 2018


Image by Johan Larsson, Flipboard

Wake up to sound of buzzing alarm clock

Look at said alarm clock through sleepy but angry eyes.

Whack the snooze button.

Doze off for another 15 then get jolted awake again.

Smash the “OK I fucking heard you” button on alarm clock to stop that damned annoying squeal — whoever invented that shit needs a talking to.

Crawl from bed.




Coffee. Fucking coffee. Now.

Walk/Bus/Train/Drive/Cycle to work.



Google some stuff because, well, everyone does while they’re at work, right?

More coffee.

Work etc etc…the day goes on…

Sound like your morning?

Or at least some shade of it?

You, and 80% of the population.

Question is, would you call this your ‘Morning ritual’ or ‘Morning routine’?


Or some weird combo of the two…the ‘Morning Rout-ual’ maybe?

I’ve been pondering the difference between ritual and routine lately, and the effect of both in our lives.

I am definitely all for ritual, although it could kind of also be read as routine — except I NEVER find it routine, at least not in the pejorative sense.

Let’s take my morning ritual, which is slightly different to the one above and actually changes some days according to how I have my day planned out.

As long as something remains mystical…important…soul expanding…it is a ritual. When it becomes customary, dull, boring or unvarying in nature, it is routine.

Between 5.45 and 6.00 am EVERY MORNING (I hear you groan, and yes, the thought of it makes me vom in my mouth a little too, but…it is what it is…) my natural body alarm clock kicks in, helped along by the lightening of the sky and chatter of birdsong.

I’m one of those freaks who is pretty much immediately awake without any brain reboot time. I know right. So wrong. But so right. Jealous much?

Stretch it out in the AM

First up, a few minutes of some really simple yoga stretches, ending with the stretch to your left, which always seems to give me an early morning kicker almost as effective as my first coffee.

Almost, but certainly not enough to replace it — blasphemy to even consider such!

Which segues nicely into ritual part two.

Rolling from bed, I perform the shower ritual (actually just the ‘joiny bit’ between the stretching ritual and the next very important moment of my morning), then hit the pavement, making a beeline for my local java joint.


That dark, brain-popping, delectable nectar of life.

Where would we be without you?

With that first jolt of life-affirming java, I dive into the news, flicking through articles on my Ipad, generally the same two or three publications that I trust for my introduction to what the hell is going on in my hood and the world more generally. (read as: what the HELL has Trump tweeted today…)

And, on the odd day where I don’t get my coffee/news fix, I am slightly out of kilter.

I actually find it hard to do one without the other.

That dark, brain-popping, delectable nectar of life.

My neural pathways have been fused by this AM combo…this ritual…routine…rout-ual…call it what you will.

This is where we come to the matter of definition, for which I shall consult the Macquarie Dictionary…


/ˈrɪtʃuəl/ (say ‘richoohuhl)


1. an established or prescribed procedure, code, etc., for a religious or other rite.

2. a form or system of religious or other rites.

3. observance of set forms in public worship.

4. a book of rites or ceremonies.

5. a book containing the offices to be used by priests in administering the sacraments and for visitation of the sick, burial of the dead, etc.

6. a ritual proceeding or service: the ritual of the dead.

7. ritual acts or features collectively, as in religious services.

8. any solemn or customary action, code of behaviour, etc., regulating social conduct.

Compare this to…


/ruˈtin/ (say rooh’teen)


1. a customary or regular course of procedure

2. regular, unvarying, or mechanical procedure:

3. Computers a set of orders which cause a digital computer to perform some simple function.

4. (in modern dancing ballet, etc.) a piece of choreography.

5. a rehearsed or habitual persuasive patter

6. Pokerstraight flush.


7. that is customary or regular: routine investigation.

8. (of an activity) dull or boring due to its unvarying nature.

And therein lies the rub.

With that final line in the definition of routine we find the KEY difference to how we can approach the part of our lives that are uniform, regular, daily.

As long as something remains mystical…important…soul expanding…it is a ritual. When it becomes customary, dull, boring or unvarying in nature, it is routine.

Now, I totally understand that for some, ‘routine’ is important.

For example, parents trying to get their newborn into a routine around sleep and eating (more important for the parent’s mental health than the infant’s, truth be told, right?)

But in the main, many of us fall into routines because they are safe…they allow us to live our lives with a sense of security and stability and comfort because they don’t challenge the status quo. It could be argued they allow us to build a framework upon which to hang our lives, maybe even so that we can then make the occasional break from the routine to take some risk or other because we have the security of the routine to fall back on.

The challenge with this is that it can lead to ennui…to going stale…to the neural pathways freezing up and elasticity of the brain (and soul) going rock solid.

Ritual, on the other hand, while fixed in the sense of it being an ongoing, daily aspect of our lives, does the opposite.

Our mind and soul are energised and grow from it.

We can hold it near and dear to us, greeting it each day with a sense of wonder and delight, excited by the prospect of its place in our life.

So, what’s the point of all this semantic, linguistic hooha about these two words?

Good question.

For me, it’s about not allowing anything to become routine…which is not to say you should throw out all your routines and become one big hot chaotic mess without any sense of order in your life…although give that a try if you like, why the hell not!!??!

Rather, try and find the ritual contained within what we consider routine.

Re-jig your attitude towards those first, middle and last moments of each day — from banging the snooze button at first light to ‘Netflix-n-chill’ (however you wanna construe that) in the dark of night.

Let these routines instead be rituals that are sacred to you, rather than lodestones that weigh you down due to the rigidity they seemingly bring to your life.

Revel in the ritual, don’t drown in the routine.



Young Apprentice AKA PB

Writer, editor, content dude, digital disruptor. Politics. Arts. Tech. Travel. Food. Film. The Force. Digital Nomad. Citizen of the universe. Coffee. Always.