Reasons for Ritual

“When I was a kid, our family used to watch ‘Bonanza.’ I really liked having a Sunday night TV ritual.” —Anne Lamott

When I was a kid, my family’s TV ritual centered around “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” on Monday nights. I learned a lot from this time spent together—about our values, our sense of humor. It helped define who we are as a family, and ultimately who I am as an individual. Assembling once a week in this way, to share a laugh and each other’s company created bonds and shared experiences, which we continue to keep alive today. If our first Guru is our mother, as Swami Satyananada Saraswati says, then our family is our first sangha, or spiritual community. From this perspective, family rituals, of any sort, take on a special significance.

Rituals can be used to mark a rite of passage, like a bar mitzvah, a graduation, or a visit from the tooth fairy. In this sense, they draw a line in the sand as we pass from one phase to the next. They help us celebrate as we complete the old and step into the new. But rituals can serve us in our daily lives too. We’ve heard over and over that humans are creatures of habit. And according to Aristotle, “we are what we repeatedly do.” As we look to create shifts in our lives—whether external or internal—adding rituals as “conscious habits” can be an effective tool.

Here are 4 reasons to incorporate ritual in daily life:

1. To Support Transformation

Sustainable transformation begins with a vision. In order to become it, first we must see it. For instance, if I want to lose weight, I must envision myself as someone who has a healthy relationship with her body and the food she puts in it. Designing a ritual aligned with this vision, allows me to embody the new way of being. I might choose to start my day with a warm cup of water to spark my digestive fire, or I might commit to doing three sun salutations before breakfast. Setting aside a specific time and space each day to practice in alignment with my goals, keeps the vision alive and supports sustained transformation both throughout the day and over time.

2. To Nurture Relationship

Life gets hectic! Most of us manage numerous—and often conflicting—demands on our attention. Often the biggest casualties are our relationships with the people closest to us. Even the most accomplished multi-taskers have a habit of taking our loved ones for granted. Setting a specific time to connect with family or friends can sustain and deepen our support systems and relationships. A regular date night with your partner, Sunday morning Scrabble with your parents, a weekly visit with friends to the Korean baths are just a few examples of rituals which nurture relationship. Community is important; it gives context to our lives. Plugging in on a regular basis helps to remind us of the larger picture and not to take ourselves to seriously.

3. To Invoke Energy

There are times when life feels out of balance. Perhaps we need more downtime, or money is a little tight. Ritual can be used to symbolically attract the more of the desired energy. For instance, if I am hoping to conceive a child, I might meditate on the second chakra, or chant mantras for fertility. If I want to increase the lovingkindness in my life, I might listen daily to a dharma talk on the Buddhist practice of metta. The Law of Attraction dictates that we manifest what we focus on. In this spirit, ritual is a powerful vehicle to bring conscious focus to that which we want to cultivate in our lives. 

4. To Feel Good

The other casualty of our hectic lives is our own self-care. It is important to remember to make time to nurture ourselves. Whether it comes in the form of a warm, candlelit bath, a bedtime cup of tea, a midday walk in nature, or a daily date with our journal, sending a regular “love note” to ourselves forms the basis of a grounded, peaceful existence.

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