To ruminate is to think deeply about something. Our English word “ruminate” originated from a Latin word whose meaning is “chewed over.” The word ruminate can refer to chewing the cud, something a cow or goat does. If you are not familiar with the concept, cows, sheep, and goats slowly chew their partly-digested food over and over again. I know, I know, not a pleasant thought. When we think deeply about something, ruminate, we are chewing on it again and again until it is fully digestible. 

Ruminating is different from rehashing or worrying or replaying a bad experience. It is taking the time to truly reflect, break things down, learn from the experience, own it in new ways, and even be nourished by it. When we rush through life we can miss out on the value of this kind of reflection. 

As a child, I was often sent to my room to think about my actions. Yes, I was a strong-willed child. The act of thinking about my bad behavior pushed me to make better ones. We spend so little time reflecting, we often repeat actions already discovered to be unhelpful or unnecessary because we never took time to chew it again. 

Reflection helps us see who we are. When we opt not to reflect, we have no starting point, no place to build from. When we see our face reflecting in the stillness of ruminating, what’s staring back at us? Will we take time to fully digest what we see and be nourished by it? 

At this time of year, I like to ask myself questions and journal the answers. Next year, I look again, reflect, ruminate with the goal to develop into something more. 

Give ruminating a try. Here are a few questions to get you started:

Who am I becoming? 

If this year were a milestone on a specific project, what would the milestone be?

How will I protect the memories I created this year? 

How did I challenge myself this past year?

What opportunities came out of difficulties?

Go ahead, chew it again until it is fully digestible. Let reflection nourish you.