We are here to listen and learn: Wise Women is a series distilling women’s specific expertise into advice and education that build us all up together.
Jenn Tardif is the founder of 3rd Ritual, a line of tools and resources intended to bridge the gap between ancient philosophies and contemporary mindfulness. Drawing on years of teaching and studying yoga, meditation, and aromatherapy in New York City, 3rd Ritual peels back the curtain on what it means to have a modern ritual and asks: Why do these things matter? Why have they been significant throughout history? And how can they support you today? Through an edit of products and in-person workshops, Jenn offers her own version of a ritual tasting menu in the mediums of intention-setting, guided meditation, and aromatherapy.
Here, she gives us some brass tacks on how to consider rituals, what it truly means to see clearly, and how to stop being so damn hard on ourselves...mindfully, of course. And if you're on Instagram, head over there too — she's taking over our Stories this weekend with more advice on developing a mindfulness practice.
(PS: next week we are excited to collaborate with Jenn on our first ever in-store workshop, centered around the specific season of Late Summer, when it’s not quite summer and not quite fall. Learn more and sign up for the workshop here.)
1. One of the challenging AND liberating ideas behind a ritual is that it’s a hard word to define. For you, what are rituals and how can we understand the modern day significance of one?
Rituals are gateways for refining your perspective. Imagine being really farsighted your whole life, where everything was always just a little bit out of focus. Then one day, you get glasses. Suddenly, textures, shapes, and the space between appears and you realize the world is a whole lot more interesting and beautiful that you initially realized. That's how I think of mindfulness in general, and ritual is a tried and true method for accessing that meaning in the everyday. It’s a way to add magic to the otherwise mundane, to slow down time when life is moving too fast, and—like getting glasses for the first time—a way to shift your experience of the world around you by seeing the beauty, the learning, and the grace in everything.
I think the more you can anchor yourself into the present moment, the more you are in control of your experience and perception of life. It’s the subtle difference between doing and being: the difference between what we externally present to the world and our inner landscapes (...and when it's all said and done, the latter is really the only thing you are left with). It's less about what you do, but how you do it.
2. The popular narrative around a modern ritual is often associated with ambitious (and frankly, often unattainable) practices that require dogged dedication or they don’t “count.” How do we rethink what it means to start small?
It's easy to set lofty goals for yourself and there are a lot of studies that have been done around the honeymoon phase of coming up with a new idea or imagining what you want to manifest in your future. Yet actually putting that into practice requires a re-patterning and a shift in your mindset…which is really, really hard to do. Just think of the number of people who set New Year’s resolutions versus those who keep them. But when it comes to simple acts like brushing our teeth, most of us make time. That’s where the secret to truly harnessing ritual comes into play. Rituals refine our ability to see greatness in small things.
Breaking things down into little bite-size components has been, at least in my personal experience, the recipe to actually maintaining them. As a mom, sitting to meditate for a few hours each day is not happening so I’ve had to adopt an ‘anything counts’ mentality to let myself off the hook. If I can do a body scan every night before bed, great. Or walk the dog without my phone while being mindful of my breath, that counts too. Or maybe you do sit for 20 minutes but your mind raced the whole time. And that’s okay. It's all about not approaching this work with a pass or fail mentality but a genuine curiosity for the practice and lessons instead.
3. What are a few specific-to-you rituals you cherish?
- Every time I get together with my brother and sister, we make dumplings from scratch. It's our little way of preserving the connection to our Chinese lineage, and a reverence for the act of making something with our hands that we first learned as children from our grandmother.
- Here’s a weird one that I’ve never shared: I took piano lessons as a kid and even though I can’t read music anymore, I still have this one song memorized. Anytime I come across a piano, even if it's in a hotel lobby or a child's toy, I have to play that song. The last time, I couldn’t remember it at first and had a lot of trial and error but I just kept trying until eventually I could play it from beginning to end without mistakes. I realized that this song was a way to remind myself that I’m still me.
- Lastly, since becoming a mom I have been really mindful of how we start and end each day. I see it when we miss our little bedtime routine and my daughter’s energy and sleep are notably different. It has been a tactical reminder for me to treat my own descent into sleep with the same care. I have a little series of events: putting my phone away, dimming the lights, applying MOON, taking a few deep breaths, doing a body scan, and mentally listing the things I’m grateful for. That last one is something that has really helped with my anxiety — an attempt to steep in the abundance of things that we do have versus the addiction to always wanting more.
Photos by Maya Moverman