Ritual is poetry in the world of acts.~ Ross Nichols
“Ritual” … To many of us this word stirs up the antiquated connotations of grim religious ceremonies, esoteric chanting, peace offerings to exotic gods, and the burning of incense.
Fortunately, that is not what this article is about. Rather, today I want to explore the more domestic and down-to-earth kind of ritual that can help us cultivate a deeper level of inner balance and harmony in our daily lives.
Mindless Rituals Are Habits
No matter who you are, you already have a variety of daily rituals that you don’t pay much attention to. These are the unconscious types of rituals most of us do each day such as brushing our teeth, showering, having dinner at 6pm, making ourselves coffee, browsing the internet, checking the mail outside.
We do these things mostly out of habit, and while some of these things do benefit us in some ways, we never really put much thought or importance into them. Rituals, in essence, provide the structure and substance to our every day lives, and without their comforting presence, our lives are thrown into disorganization, uncertainty and chaos.
And that is just the thing … we overlook and take rituals for granted in our lives because we do them every day. They become so ingrained into our daily functioning that they almost become an inseparable part of us. There is immense power and potential in this!
Rituals are actions we imbue with meaning and significance, yet eventually many of our rituals turn into mindless, boring habits that we do just because that’s what we’ve always done.
But have you ever considered reassessing your habits for the worth, meaning and peace of mind they truly bring you in you day to day life? Have you ever considered the possibility of cutting out, replacing or introducing new and improved rituals into your life that support your mental, emotional and spiritual well-being?
How Can “Ritual” Possibly Help Me?
I’m highly sensitive and am an introspective person by nature, and rituals to me are the harbingers of balance and harmony to my daily life. But they weren’t always.
On my inner work path, I gradually came to see that a lot of my daily mindless and unconscious rituals were not actually supporting my well-being, but were creating sources of tension and chronic illness. Take eating sugar-coated corn flakes for breakfast for example, or watching horrific violent TV shows and movies before bed, or going to sleep at 1 am and waking up to go to work at 6 am.
Slowly I have reassessed my whole way of living daily life, and I’ve unearthed and culled many sickly habits, replacing them with more meaningful rituals.
The truth I learned is that when you become more self-aware, you realize that you don’t need to be a slave to empty ritual, but you can be a master. I realized that I had the power to actually create more happiness, creativity, and even sacredness in my life by choosing to honor the power of ritual.
So how can ritual benefit your daily life? This is what I learned:
1. Ritual transforms the mundane into the sacred.
Japanese tea ceremonies (the “way of the tea” or “teaism”) are perfect examples of seemingly mundane rituals imbued with the deeper meaning of tranquility, inner quietness, and purity. In our own lives, rituals allow us to stop, take a breath, and reconnect with our inner needs and desires, whether that be of relaxation, inspiration, gratitude, enjoyment, or something else.
One of my daily rituals that helps me to reconnect with the sacred, for example, is watering my jalapeno, parsley, and chive herb garden each afternoon. When I give these plants the sustenance they need, I’m filled with a sense of joy, pride, and contentment in seeing them thrive and witnessing a small part of Mother Earth taken care of.
Whether connecting to the sacred means getting back in touch with nature, a God/Gods, Goddess/Goddesses, Divinity, or simply Life, rituals are the perfect way of reintroducing that into your daily life through seemingly mundane acts.
2. Rituals make us feel safe and balanced.
This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place …~ E. Gilbert
Whether spiritual or not, rituals support our need as human beings for structure and balance. As mentioned before, we are not cut out to live a life of constant fluctuation, instability, and disorder. That is partly why we all carry about our little habits each day: to create a framework, and to establish order in life’s unpredictable chaos.
When I began establishing more healthy rituals such as drinking herbal teas before bed, and doing Qigong exercises each day to reduce nervous tension, I began to feel a sense of greater well-being and safety, knowing that I’m doing the best I possibly can for my health.
Whatever ritual you decide to incorporate into your daily regime (as long as it’s healthy!), you will always have the added benefit of increased feelings of inner balance and safety.
3. Rituals foster greater connection with ourselves and others.
Taking time out of each day to purposely empty your mind of troubles (meditation), write in a journal (connecting with yourself), talking at the dinner table with your family each night (connecting with others), or many other examples, help you to feel more in touch and closer to yourself and those you care for. When we create a ritual of doing this each day, we instill our days with love and authenticity.
4. Rituals help encourage habits of self-love.
Whether soaking yourself in a warm bath full of scented bubbles each night, lighting a candle and relaxing to music you love, or simply having a nap to revitalize yourself, daily rituals don’t have to be empty if we fill them with personal meaning and significance. It’s quite a difficult task to take care of yourself when you don’t establish daily rituals, furthermore, it’s extremely easy to kick this to the sidelines in the hurry and bustle of life.
Use the power of ritual to assert that you are valuable and your welfare is important!
5. Ritual allow us to enjoy the ride, not just the destination.
Ever feel that you aren’t stopping to smell the roses enough in your daily life? Chances are you probably haven’t established any meaningful daily rituals – only hollow, instinctual habits that make each day pass in a blur. Rituals help us intertwine what we love, enjoy, value and need in life into our daily practices.
6. Rituals promote creativity.
Some of the greatest, most successful writers including Ray Bradbury, Virginia Woolf, Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen King and James Joyce (and many more!) all had daily rituals set in place to write, so did other creative geniuses such as Nikola Tesla, Igor Stravinsky, and David Lynch. No matter how bizarre rituals can become (e.g. doing headstands to clear the mind in Stravinsky’s case), they are imperative in order to keep the ball of creativity rolling, as well as to sharpen and hone your skills.
Malcolm Gladwell, author of the famous “Tipping Point”, proposed that in our lives to master any one thing we need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. The most talented in life have often found this through daily rituals of all kinds!
7. You don’t need to be a slave to ritual.
Rituals are growing, evolving daily practices. They don’t need to be tedious, duty-bound obligations. Don’t feel the need to cling to them, or worse, create neurotic attachments to them. They are a means to an end, that is, to create harmony in your life. But your definition of harmony can, and most likely will, change through time. To reap the full benefits of rituals, it is necessary to be flexible!
In life, we often overlook, or take for granted the power of rituals, associating them with dry religious ceremonies or empty, daily habits. But when we aim to live lives of balance, connection, sacredness and creativity, creating our own rituals is the best way to get the most out of each day.
What useful or meaningful ritual do you have, or want to create in your life? Please share them to inspire and be inspired!