Tips: Rituals are Powerful
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, May 2006
Rituals are important, helpful and powerful and they work. Performing a ritual is a small way of celebrating or honoring a bigger event in your life. The different phases of a ritual -- preparing, experiencing and closing - maps out the different phases that we all go through in our own lives and helps us transition energy surrounding an event into a positive flow.
Rituals Come in Many Forms
Whether you perform a healing ritual as you anticipate and approach a difficult treatment, ask for a blessing from a clergy person as you leave for an important journey, or eat the same "energy enhancing" breakfast as you prepare to give an important presentation, rituals can be encouraging, valuable, strengthening, reassuring and comforting. They serve to mark events in your life or gain insight into yourself and the meaning of an event or person and are especially useful when we dealing with change.
"Life Brackets" for Beginnings and Endings
People have been practicing cultural, tribal and religious rituals for thousands of years. Rituals can mark events, rites of passage, and relationships with ourselves, other people, animals, places, ideas or things and can help us as we deal with life’s uncertainties. Celebrating health after a particularly difficult series of treatment reminds us of where we are, where we were, and where we hope to go. Marking birthdays, anniversaries (of people’s connections as well as of deaths of those we love, moving into our homes, finishing a particular project) keep us connected to what has particular meaning for us.
Here are some TIPS to incorporate rituals into your life:
• Perform an Old Ritual or Design Your Own - Rituals are most effective if it’s one that has unique meaning to you. The whole point of performing a ritual is to feel something move within the center of your being. You know, your heart feels full, you get goose bumps on your arms or tears well in your eyes. If you don’t feel such a connection this particular life passages may be more difficult.
• Incorporate "Everyday" Life Rituals - Morning coffee and reading the paper; walking the dog along a familiar path, calling a friend at the same time each week can be simple ways to ritualize a familiar pattern. When something happens to shake up our lives (illness, death, job loss), what helps keep our sanity and our balance is holding onto and maintaining our routines and rituals. Somehow, that makes us feel grounded and safer. Everyday routines can become rituals if you pay close attention to them and focus on the change you hope to experience as a result of the ritual.
• Beginning and Ending Life Events - Rituals help us to deal with life’s challenges and can offer paths to unique insights. It is important when you perform a ritual that you suspend judgment and just allow yourself to "be" with the practice of the ritual. Rituals guide us through foggy times of our lives and can help to bring us clarity. Tearing up a letter into miniscule pieces from someone who has hurt you and since died can be a freeing way to relegate them to your past. Writing your fears on a piece of paper and lighting them on fire as you watch them burn to ash can be amazingly liberating. Rituals can be family oriented; reflect a long standing tradition such as a rite of passage (confirmation or a funeral) or it can be as personal as the naming of a child, the scattering a friend’s ashes.
• Slow Down - You cannot perform a ritual at accelerated speed. By slowing the pace, you can think and feel in a way you were unable to before. Pay attention to the time, place and setting. Where and how are you going to do this? Be sure you are not going to be disturbed as you begin your process. Allow yourself time to do what you want to do and feel whatever comes.
• Think About the Process - Why do you want to do this ritual? What do you intend to get from it? Your heart must be open to the experience. Ask yourself this question and jot down the answers. Through the ritual, allow yourself to gain a different perspective on a situation. Try to end the ritual with an awareness that you did what you felt you needed to do at this time.
• Get Your Tools Around You - You may need scents, colors, materials from nature, art supplies. Collect whatever you need to "make" what you need to help you.
• Keep it Simple - Simplicity is a key element of rituals. Rituals can be as simple as lighting a candle or filling a vase with flowers or thinking a special thought .You may find singing a tune from your childhood brings you back to a central point of comfort. Including cinnamon may remind you of early Sunday morning French toast smells of your childhood.
Try this Ritual When Faced with a Decision
Perform the YOGA "mountain" posture by firmly planting your feet on the ground, placing your hands at your side and standing tall. Visualize being a tree of your family - a family tree - where you are rooted to your ancestors both in the ground and in the heavens. Listen for guidance from those in your ancestry.