Rituals are different from routine. Rituals give our lives meaning. They create a space for us to focus on what is most important to us – make commitments, embrace beliefs, forgive, celebrate, and show appreciation. Whether we know it or not, we do them all the time. For example, many people observe the ritual of giving thanks over their food before eating. Or, lighting candles on Shabbos. Graduation is a ritual practice that marks the end of a formal period of schooling. So, rituals give meaning to our lives.



Five Benefits of Rituals


1. Present moment awareness

Rituals bring us fully into the present moment. A very brief ritual might be that daily kiss on our child’s head as they head out to school in the morning. Or, a longer ritual might be a wedding or bar mitzvah. Whatever the ritual is, it is an invitation to focus for some period of time on what is most precious to us in our lives. We allow ourselves to be fully present and immersed in the moment. Through ritual, we come into single-pointed attention.

2. Action steps that lead to purposeful living

Rituals – like a daily morning practice to set the tone or a nightly review of the day – are action steps in sacred space that take us into purposeful living. We engage in a practice that heightens our awareness of and takes us toward the life we want to live. This time allows us to take stock, re-evaluate and re-priortize. Then, we can recalibrate and get the target in our sights once more, recommitting and creating more action steps. For example, if we have a ritual review of our day and see that we spent our energy in some way that left us depleted, we bring that into conscious awareness and allow ourselves to do it differently tomorrow.

3. Community

Rituals are often done in community. For example,  school picnic, an awards ceremony, a rite of passage. These bring us together to either celebrate or mourn with each other. How we gather in ritual defines us and contributes to our identity. AND, we are not a self in a vacuum. We need others to witness, reflect back to us, who we are and what our significance is.  This helps us to live and act in greater alignment with our ideals.

4. Appreciation

Most rituals have an element of giving thanks. Taking time to be mindfully thankful is an important part of good mental health and a fulfilling life. We often take so much for granted. Being grateful improves our outlook on life, gives us the energy to create more goodness and gives us a higher tolerance for hard times and difficult people. So, ritual helps us to keep making more and more of the good stuff.

5. Creates meaning & purpose

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, honor, and show appreciation. Ritual creates a sacred space for our commitments to more strongly take root in our hearts & minds. Witnesses help us sustain our commitments. So, we are strenthened by being seen fully in what is most important to us.

Next week, I will talk about how to create a ritual.
How to infuse your commitments, hopes, and dreams with the breath of life.

In the meantime, what rituals do you all do, and what benefits of rituals do you receive?