In Sinclair Lewis’ classic American novel, Babbitt, the seminal line appears at the very end of the book when Babbitt declares to his family, “I’ve never done a single thing I’ve wanted to in my whole life! “ And yet, as we know, Babbitt led what others could certainly consider to be a worthy and successful life.
One might think that the missing things in Babbitt’s life were a long sailing trip to Tahiti, climbing Mt. McKinley or learning how to make the perfect soufflé’. Perhaps those were indeed unfulfilled aspirations.
Yet the missing parts of his life may have been even more profound. The hole in his life may have been the commitment to his own being and the concomitant small but rich things that bring daily security and comfort. The rituals or simple sequence of automated activities that center us; that do not require new decisions – demanding even more of our mental energy; instead fueling us with more energy.
The 7 step process of making morning coffee from hand-pulled espresso shots not only yields a delicious cup of perfect coffee, it also acts as a meditation of peace, awareness and satisfaction to start one’s day in a smooth and uplifting way. Daily rituals like coffee, morning prayer, a quick telephone call to Mom, a moment of silence at midday, sending handwritten thank you notes to all those that crossed your path yesterday in a meaningful way, and that relaxing moment in early evening with a nice glass of wine in your favorite glass purchased on a special occasion can be deeply meaningful and fulfilling parts of daily life.
These rituals root us in our lives and provide constancy and peace. Without these small strokes of anticipated joy that we give ourselves, the ever escalating pace of society with its constant interruptions and demands can wear down, not just our body but our inner sanctum and being, as well.
Perhaps Babbitt never truly embraced these deeply satisfying and life enhancing rituals so that at the end of his life he felt a gaping hole of lost meaning and limp self-esteem that without concerted effort can never be recaptured.
Practicing the Brain Power of None helps us to achieve what Babbitt never experienced. Making the custom of stepping back from our crazed schedule part of our daily ritual - ceasing mental activity for brief periods –at least 5 minutes 5 times scattered throughout our day. By observing this practice of carving out isolated moments to breakthrough to the inner sanctuary within, we embrace the richness of rituals and reset our mental energy.
Sandra Bond Chapman, PHD is the Chairman & Founder of the BuDhaGirl Scientific Advisory Board. For more on Dr. Chapman please go to budhagirl.com and see her bio under Science.
*Babbitt, first published in 1922, is a novel by Sinclair Lewis. Largely a satire of American culture, society, and behavior, it critiques the vacuity of middle class American life and its pressure toward conformity. An immediate and controversial bestseller, Babbitt is one of Lewis's best-known novels and was influential in the decision to award him the Nobel Prize in literature in 1930.