The art of rituals
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a ritual is a ‘ceremonial act or action’, it is an act or acts that are performed in an exact manner and according to specific guidelines.
It is a way to bring in the spiritual or sanctity into something that could otherwise be mundane. It is about honouring the divine that connects us all. For some it is spirit, for others it is God or the universe. It is the energy that flows though all of us and everything around us.
In truth a ritual can be anything to which you attach significant meaning. It is action that you take with full awareness. It is not so much the ritual or the action itself – but rather the emotion, intention and attention that you infuse into the doing. Rituals are significant as long as they are conducted with mindfulness. As soon as they become mundane or automatic it turns into just another action or habit.
Rituals include ceremonies like birthdays, weddings, funerals and coming of age rituals. These all give us an opportunity to gather and perform rituals with loved ones. It is a way to mark new beginnings, or endings. It gives us a symbolic way to celebrate a person or let go of something that has left us.
Why should I have rituals?
Performing rituals creates a sense of cohesion in our lives. It creates a safe space where no matter what, you have something that is consistent and reliable. These moments can become a safety net in times when you experience emotional turmoil. It is a way to ground and re-group. Here are what practicing rituals can do for you.
Build inner resilience and calm. Life happens. It gets busy and messy and sometimes downright chaotic! Performing a ritual helps you to obtain even just a few moments of mindfulness that might otherwise sprint away.
Help you stop bad habits. You can create a ritual to let go of behaviour that no longer serves you. For example, if you are working on quitting smoking you can create a ritual where you drink a glass of water whenever you feel a craving. Amplify the effects by giving thanks to the water for removing toxins from your body and for hydrating you. Take a moment to focus on your new, healthier lifestyle.
Help you find closure and heal. Wakes and funerals are examples of this. But it could also be smaller gestures like lighting and blowing out a candle for a lost loved one – the flame could signify their life and light while the smoke rising from the extinguished candle could represent them returning to the universe. Similarly, a ritual performed after the breakup of a relationship could help you let go of what once was so that you can open up to new possibilities.
You can also use a candle to signify the end of something you no longer want in your life. For example, you can light a candle and blow it out to signify your release of a core wound like victim mentality, guilt or insecurity. The ritual itself might not heal your core wound, but it is a physical representation of your emotional healing. It basically tells your subconscious mind that you are releasing that which does not serve you.
Help you to let go. By burning something, you turn it into ash, the energy no longer exists in the form it once was. Again this is a physical way to express a change. Perhaps you want to burn photos or mementos that remind you of times when you were not your best self. You can also write words that represent a situation, thought, feeling or condition on a piece of paper and burn it while visualising how that situation, thought, feeling or condition melts away.
How to incorporate rituals into your life
Bring it into mealtimes
Making a ritual out of a mealtime encourages mindful eating. By sitting down with purpose and intent you are able to focus on your meal. A mealtime ritual could include a few moments where you express gratitude to that which sustains you (the plants or animals that you are about to consume). You can thank them for the energy exchange and for the nourishment they provide. You can thank the farmers and other individuals involved with growing, transporting and preparing your meals.
Preparing meals can become a group ritual where everyone engages and connects while preparing the food. If the tasks are infused with love and joy it can become a celebration. Now, I know that our lives are pretty rushed and some evenings we need to make do with take-aways or ready-made meals. That is actually a good thing. If every meal was turned into a ritual or celebration it would soon lose its sanctity. It might even turn from a special moment shared with others to an obligation that needs to be met.
What you can do is have a meal-time ritual once a week (anyone say Sunday lunch?!) or once a month.
Bath time rituals
Bathing is a standard practice in hygiene. The actions are simple: fill the bathtub or turn on the shower. Get in. Wash your body. Rinse. Get out. By adding mindfulness and symbolism you can turn bathing into a ritual. You can choose to view bathing as a way to purify not only your physical body, but also your mind and your soul. Set the intention and pay attention how the water removes all blemishes and toxins on the outside, but also within.
Ancient rituals in the modern day
As the world is awakening there is more and more drive for us to return to our roots. Ancient ceremonies and rituals are being practiced with more frequency. Here are a few ancient ceremonies that we are practicing today.
- Cacao ceremonies: These loving ceremonies open your heart and connect you to the energies of the universe.
- Mommy blessing: This ritual is to celebrate a mother-to-be. Female loved ones gather with the expectant mother and offer blessing to her for the birth and afterwards.
- Full moon: Full moon rituals vary widely. A common full moon ritual is meditation in the rays of the moon.
- Yoga: Yoga might start out as a physical practice, but it gradually turns into a ritual as your yoga mat becomes a space where the divine meets the physical.
- Smudging: Smudging or cleansing your home, body or objects is an age-old ritual. Besides the symbolic implications of cleansing objects with smoke, some material used in smudge sticks actually have anti-bacterial effects and thus cleanses the air.
- Intention setting: Taking the time once a year, once a month, once a week and once a day to set your intentions for your life is a powerful ritual that can help you co-create your life. By focusing on the good and the outcome that you desire you might be more motivated to take action (and consistent action) to achieve it.
- Gratitude: A practice of gratitude encourages you to focus on abundance and all the good in your life. It helps you to stay on track during bad days and help us push, grow and achieve even further on good days.
- Chanting: Chanting is a way to physically change the vibrations in you and around you. You use your voice to create sound vibrations that in turn vibrate your physical body and your surroundings. Different chants and pitches create different vibrations. Usually chants are expressed a certain number of times and you can use a mala to help you keep count. Some powerful chants include ‘Om’, ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ and the Gayatri Mantra. You can also chant your personal affirmations like ‘I am love’ or ‘I live in abundance’. Not sure where to start? Check out my range of IndiaJiva CDs that you can chant along to.
A ritual does not need to be done with a bunch of people. They can also be small and intimate. Sometimes the only participant can be you. While we do find a way to connect deeper with others through engaging in rituals with them, practicing a ritual on your own deepen your connection with yourself.Performing rituals creates a sense of cohesion in our lives. It creates a safe space where no matter what, you have something that is consistent and reliable. These moments can become a safety net in times when you experience emotional turmoil. It is a way to ground and re-group.