“Rituals” may be a confusing term for some people. When I was growing up Catholic, this term was off putting to me. It conjured images of black magic.
Little did I realize I was involved in rituals everyday: I recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning at school, said a pray before meals, light candles as an altar server at church, and attended weddings and baptisms. All with positive, life-giving intentions. Rituals create a space for us to focus on what is most important to us, make commitments, embrace beliefs, forgive, celebrate accomplishment, honor community, and show appreciation. Whether we know it or not, we do them all the time. And the benefits are immeasurable.
Five Benefits of Rituals
1. Rituals bring your awareness and attention to the present moment.
Rituals create a slight or long pause in the day to focus on our intentions. They can be very fast, like kissing your mate goodbye as you leave the house. Or long — like a graduation. We focus for a moment on what is most precious to us in life. Our attention embraces it with our energy to take action.
2. It is an action step that gets you focused on action steps.
Rituals like taking time each morning to set a daily intention, and at night to review the day, are action steps. We are engaging in action for a conscious purpose: to live the way we want to live. Taking these moments are important, since during them we are usually and necessarily committing to more action steps. If our intention in the morning is to be nice to our crabby boss, then we will be more likely to follow that up with action. If we review our day and realize that we created unnecessary waste, we can follow that they next day by making different choices.
3. Brings people together
Rituals are often done in community. Like, mass, or a school picnic, or an awards ceremony. There is significance in the witnesses of these events. These events define us, contribute to our identity, and the witnesses help sustain these preferred identities. We are not a self in a vacuum. We need other to reflect back to us who we are and what our significance is. This will help us going forward living and acting more closely with those ideals.
4. Reminds us to appreciate
Most rituals have an element of giving thanks. Taking time be mindfully thankful is an important part of life. We often take so much for granted. Being grateful improves your outlook on life and gives you energy to create more goodness around you. Gratitude gives us a higher tolerance for hard times, patience for hard people, and tons of good feelings. It is always a win-win situation.
5. Creates meaning.
As humans, we are meaning makers. That which has more meaning has more of our attention and energy. This is why cultures and religions all over the world have rituals. In rituals, we embody what is most important to us: we make commitments, embrace beliefs, forgive, celebrate accomplishment, honor community, and show appreciation. If we just make a commitment, without much hoopla, it is hard to sustain. The ritual create a sacred space for these commitments to more strongly take hold in our minds and hearts. Witness help us sustain our beliefs and action steps. Rituals fill us with a robustness that encourages us to go on and continue on our paths. Rituals make us stronger.
Stayed tuned. In Thursdays post, I will talk about how to create rituals to help imbue your own commitments, hopes, and dreams.
In the meantime, what rituals do you all do?