I have a confession to make. I tend to avoid self-help books with the same enthusiasm as I consume the many iterations of ‘Get Washboard Abs In 10 Days’ videos that populate my ‘For You’ page. Now I’m under no illusion that these fast-paced videos, often set to peppy tunes, will actually give me the promised washboard abs of my dreams. I know it’s unrealistic and I also know how clickbait works. But the tiny sliver of optimism, which ultimately proves to be foolish, is enough to keep me from actually confronting the truth that in order to get a semblance of a Deepika Padukone-esque abdomen, I would need to bid goodbye to my daily intake of many bread and much butter. And that’s just the start.
Back to self-help books.
The thing about self-help books is that they immediately make me feel inadequate. I’m not saying that the fault is with the self-help books (maybe a little), but the often sermon-like tone of these books immediately makes me feel defensive and respond by sabotaging my own attempts at self-improvement and I often find myself back to square one.
So you can imagine that I was immediately wary when I came across Vasudha Rai’s Rituals: Daily Practices For Wellness, Beauty, & Bliss. But it became immediately clear that this one was something different.
For starters, Rai’s tone is never preachy. She is talking to you as a friend, a big sister, or a beauty influencer who you’re in an active parasocial relationship with. The second, and the most important thing that immediately endeared me to the book, was the fact that she writes for anyone who is enmeshed in the all-consuming hustle-culture of today, which would mean most of us.
As the title implies, the book is all about the celebration of rituals. Rai breaks down the practices and daily rites we do, or should do, to optimise and maximise the natural energies of our days and nights.
She does this by breaking the book into two distinct parts: The sun and the moon.
The sun deals with rituals focused on purity, energy, and focus. The moon is all about the practices that help us nurture, heal, and rest.
One of the reasons why Rai’s book stands out amongst the sea of other self-help books in this category is that she doesn’t want you to make any drastic changes in your lifestyle. All she is suggesting is that we become more mindful of the rituals we consciously or unconsciously take part in daily and see how much difference that makes. She, obviously, packs the book with suggestions of her own. She shares her own tried-and-tested beauty and wellness rituals that could help us get more in tune with our bodies and mind.
For instance, she eschews the oft-repeated advice of going to bed early and waking up with the sun in favour of a more reasonable tip that suggests we try and complete the required eight-hour sleep cycle and be more mindful of our evenings. She acknowledges that technology, mostly screens, has become an integral part of our society and has affected our circadian rhythms, so the self-help tips also need to be modified and adapted according to changing times.
Throughout her book, Rai encourages you to focus on actions that feel true to you and not make you feel guilty about not following through on the lofty suggestions shared by strangers on the Internet. She also shares ways to take baby steps in your journey towards adopting self-improvement habits, like journaling every night. The author suggests answering one question about your day in your journal to build the habit that will help you be more in tune with your emotions once you start journaling daily.
Now I can’t force you to pick up the book as much as Rai can’t force you to try the various wellness and beauty rituals she has suggested in her book. But if you’re even a tiny bit curious into how you can bring about impactful change in your life without actually changing much, then you should definitely give this one a read.