I came across this article recently and it's got me thinking about ritual and how it grounds and keeps you present, while also providing a kind of connection to the past and the future.
In other words, even washing the dishes can be a kind of ritual if you treat it as such. It’s about pace and intention, the senses and the symbols. It’s about the meaning you imbue into an object or an act, rather than a script you inherit. It’s about noticing.
I may have been raised without religion, but I wasn’t raised without ritual — and that is a critical difference. Religion is the story that we tell ourselves, tell our children, tell our communities about why we are here on Earth and what the right way to live is based on this most important “why.” But ritual is something less intellectual, particularly the daily version. Its very nature — repetitive, precise, often very physical — prompts a sort of turning-off of the mind and settling back into the body.
This kind of ritual is less about profound transitions and more about daily practices: the ways of seeing and behaving and gathering that keep us sane in an insane world. They organize our emotional lives, prompt us to count our blessings along with our grievances, remind us to look up and out more often. They are about caring — for ourselves and those we love, even caring about those long dead who are a part of our larger story. They offer a sort of gentle time outside of time.
I've always connected the idea of ritual to religious settings, in particular my Catholic schooling. Although I was never religious, I always enjoyed the rituals of weekly mass, song, candles, etc. In the article, she speaks about her nightly ritual as a child where her father would braid her hair before bed, and it got me thinking about what kind of rituals I engage with and what they do for me. I feel like my life is missing a more regular kind of daily ritual, so it's something I'll be giving some thought to!
Almost every Sunday my husband and I barbeque together. It sounds mundane, but we share a bottle of wine, decompress from the weekend and gather ourselves for the week ahead. It's a kind of ritual, and something I'd like to engage in more intentionally.
Every year at Christmastime, I take my husband to watch 'It's a Wonderful Life' at a fancy old cinema. It started out just because I love the movie, but now it's become a bit more important. It's a special day that we share together, and we use it as a jumping point to remember at such a crazy time of year what's really important in our lives (hint: it's not presents!).
What kind of (religious or non-religious) rituals do you have in your life?
Are they intentional, or just habits that sort of fell into place?
What do rituals mean to you, and what benefits do they give you?