What do you think of when you hear the word ritual?
Ritual is about transformation. Changing from one state to another. A morning cup of coffee takes us from sleepy to ready for the day. It’s not just drinking the coffee itself. It’s the steps to prepare the coffee machine, the smell of it, and the satisfying way the hot delicious liquid fills up the mug. The steps to the ritual are just as important as the product because it is in your intention to transform that you truly receive the benefit.
Growing up in the Catholic Church, I was exposed to a lot of rituals. As a kid, I couldn’t appreciate the ornateness. I thought everyone went to a church where men in golden embroidered robes knelt in front of altars and transformed bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t until college when I went to other kinds of churches, that I began to recognize the power of rituals. Parishioners arrive with their burdens and leave being forgiven and cleared of them. Religions throughout the world have tapped into the use of symbols and rituals to help their people grow and transform. But rituals don’t have to be religious at all!
Rituals help demarcate time. Our industrialized world would have us gloss over rituals. Skate over them to make every day like the next; homogenized, so that we produce consistent results. But Mother Nature reminds us otherwise. She constantly shifts the temperature, the cloud cover, and the colors in the sky so that we stop and realize we are being changed. While time feels linear, it’s also cyclical. I used to think that seasonal decorations in a home were silly and a waste of money. Corporations would not get my money with their plastic eggs in the spring or gaudy orange and black everything for Halloween. But once I started viewing each season as a new and separate time with its own wisdom embedded in it, I recognized that seasonal decor is actually a ritual.
Now, I love gathering from nature things that inspire me each season: fresh flowers in the spring that represent new beginnings, vibrant fruit in the summer to celebrate bounty, the gorgeous fall foliage (the ultimate reminder of transformation), and a tree branch in winter that celebrates the stripped-down architecture of a tree. These symbols around us remind us of the deeper messages of the season and help us transition from one phase in life to the next.
We all use rituals whether we realize it or not. In fact, almost anything can be a ritual, it is our intentionality that makes it so. Yes, you can slog more coffee blindly into your mug in the morning. But try to slow down and add intention to the steps. Maybe you want to have a productive day, maybe you want to have more joy, maybe you want to be grateful for this coffee, or maybe you just want to wake the heck up! Hold this intention in your mind as you make and drink your coffee. It will transform you because you are intending it to.
So if you are looking to change, to grow, to let go of something, why not use a ritual? It doesn’t really matter what the ritual is, as long as you know what your intention is in participating in it. Here is a list of my favorites:
Hot bath - basic, I know! But water is so powerful for helping you let go of something and allowing you to feel supported when you do. Light a candle, and soak for a few minutes to allow your thoughts to soften. Then, wash every part of your body starting with your face and hair and working down to your toes. As you clean, imagine you are washing off what you desire to let go of. Drain the tub and watch as the water empties. *I could go WAY into this, so let me know if you want some tips on what to include in your bath for a certain purpose, i.e. essential oils, rocks, plants, flower essences.
Hiking somewhere with a view - obviously being in nature has lots of benefits for your mental state, but seeking a point of elevation on your hike helps create a moment of pause to think about your perspective. It gives you a moment to zoom out on life and connect with those around you.
Burn pile - best for letting something or someone go. It could be a letter you need to write to someone you can no longer speak to, or burning something that reminds you of them. Throw it into the fire (safely) and watch the flames transform it into ash and smoke.
Tea - best for obtaining something you feel like you currently lack. You can use any beverage, but tea is nice. Brew your tea and sit while looking at it. Think of what you want. Think of how you would feel if you had that thing. For example, if you want to love yourself more, think of how it would feel to love yourself. If you can’t imagine this, think of something or someone you love. Think of this lovely thing while you look at your tea and feel your heart warm. Then, drink your tea.
Thank you so much for reading this, I hope this inspires you. If you have any rituals of your own that you want to share, I would love to hear them!