What Makes a Ritual?

newspaper-1595773_1920Lately, I’ve been thinking about what makes something a ritual versus a habit or routine. Maybe each morning you drink a cup of coffee while reading the paper. Is that a ritual or a routine? I think that depends on the purpose or intention of the action. Is reading the paper how you pass the time before heading to work? If so, that it probably a habit. Is reading the paper how you center yourself in the world and remind yourself of your purpose on this earth? In that case, it’s probably a ritual. We may not always be consciously aware of why we do what we do, so it may be helpful to think about your daily routines to see if some of your habits may actually be rituals.

In her article, How Daily Rituals Can Elevate Our Quality of Life, Meena Singhal writes, “Rituals can provide us with a sort of grounding or ‘constant’ leading to comfort. That, in turn, allows us to take more risks or positively engage in other areas of our life to be impulsive and spontaneous when we want to or need to.” I like how Singhal suggests that rituals have meaning beyond the immediate action and can ground us to take risks or try new things. Practicing rituals help us step outside our comfort zone. Rituals provide comfort, so we will be more ready to try something uncomfortable.

Whether something is a ritual or habit also depends on your values. For some people, exercise may be a ritual of connecting to their body, honoring their source, and summoning health and peace. Others may find exercise to be a necessary evil and reap no benefit from it beyond the physical. Some may find their most meaningful rituals take place outside in nature, while others may connect to their purpose and meaning through time spend in quiet or listening to music in their house. As Singhal puts it, rituals “…represent those fundamental beliefs that guide or motivate our attitudes and actions.” This is different for each person.

One of the joys of rituals for me is how personalized they are. I love talking to people about the rituals they find meaningful and why. There are always new and different rituals to discover. What speaks to one person may not speak to another, and vice versa. When working with someone to craft a personalized ritual, I need to get to know their values and life perspective to design a ritual that genuinely speaks to them.

Through Rites of Passage, I design and officiate formal and informal, private and public rituals. I would love to work with you to help you mark the transitions and transformations of your life, as well as help you create family or individual rituals that can bring meaning to your everyday. Contact us today to learn more!