The Gift of Ritual

Ritual is often equated with religious or spiritual practice but is also a universal tendency that bonds social groups together.  The holiday season is ripe with rituals bolstered by the familiarity of past experiences, activities and traditions.

Rituals can provide security, stability, and a sense of connectedness and belonging. As the world around us may be spinning a bit off kilter on it’s axis, we can take comfort with the memorized lyrics, seasonal scents, sounds, and tastes that we only revisit once a year.

These symbolic behaviors often instill a sense of well being and thus counteract the chaotic stress of too many commitments and unrealistic expectations. The nostalgia of perennially hung ornaments or setting up a nativity that may no longer fully align with your spiritual outlook can still foster feelings of continuity and completion. We give power and thus sacredness to the objects, events, and sensory triggers that defy the monotony of repetition.

Developing daily rituals that bring solace may be as simple as journaling in the morning or taking a walk outside when you get home from work.  Saying a prayer of gratitude before you eat or having a night routine before you go to bed that ends the day on a positive note. For an action to be a ritual, it needs to be sincere, intentional and focused while following sequential steps. The key is to make it yours; your words, your gestures, your movements. Before every reading I do the same prayer and meditation in the same order, not only to help myself shift gears but also to ask for help in stepping away from ego.  It continues to evolve but the premise is always the same structure. With time, the body-mind connection of ritual becomes symbiotic and peacefully familiar.

Incorporating structures into daily practice allows us to take responsibility for our intentions as well as promoting a sense of self and equilibrium that helps to deflect stress and potentially turbulent environmental influences.  Ritual focuses the mind, increases awareness and strengthens our determination to reach our goals.

Some tips for incorporating self care during the holidays and every day are:

  • Giving yourself permission to say no or setting new boundaries
  • Taking your time instead of rushing into the flow of media blitzed pressure
  • Stepping back from things needing to turn out a certain way or for people to respond differently than they may have in the past
  • Choosing moderation

 

These weeks of holiday preparation, ritual, and celebration are all gently foreshadowed by the end of another year. By letting the mundane become sacred, we can foster self care every day not only during the holidays. Perhaps this is the year to start a new tradition and honor yourself with daily ritual.

 

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