By: Alex Halenda
A ritual is an act that you consciously establish, most often it serves you, in and of itself. Some rituals are culturally adopted, some are even globally adopted. What I find to be a common thread of rituals, is the function of connection. Rituals are a way to connect you with something bigger than yourself, it might be spiritual but just as easily, rituals can serve social needs. Have you seen the tv show Cheers? Their intro is the well-known jingle that sings "where everybody knows your name." The characters frequent the same place, night after night, getting to know one another. To me, that stands out as a social ritual, to go to the same place every day. It's not work in any way, it's a ritual of connection! Maybe you've experienced an unspoken ritual of a similar nature? Other, more intentional rituals are performed at temples: singing the songs of deities, lighting the fires, and splashing the holy water. Even small things among friends can be rituals, like an inside joke that weaves a theme into your daily lives and transports you into a greater sense of meaning. Ultimately, that's what rituals provide, connection!
So, if you're thinking you want some greater connection in your life, here's a few ways to bring ritual into your everyday, or recognize some rituals you already have:
1. Get Outside
Nature is what we are made of. Take a walk out in nature, even if you're in a big city you can look up at the sky or the clouds and allow yourself to wonder... "how far does it all stretch?" If you are able to take off your shoes and put your bare feet in the grass or the dirt, it's actually proven to uplift your mood. Connecting with the source of your life will give you strength you need to get through the day.
2. Say a Prayer or Set Intentions
When you wake up, or at the time you set, or whenever you remember, say a prayer or set an intention for yourself! Saying a prayer or setting an intention reminds you of where you are headed, and sometimes where you've come from. I often find that saying a prayer helps me recognize what emotions or thoughts are floating around unnoticed in my head. Once I notice them, I can be free of the control they have over me. Setting intentions will get you clear and on track before anything bumps you off. More than anything, it helps you connect with the deepest, truest parts of your soul!
3. Do a Physical Practice
Do yoga, run, dance, play a sport, whatever your flavor is. Body movement is a powerful method of ritual that awakens your physicality, your material being. When you are charged up and respecting this aspect of yourself, you're likely to make better choices that keep you running clean and clear. Movement increases circulation, heart rate, and in turn provides greater awareness of parts of the body that may normally go days unnoticed. The more connected you are to your body as a whole, the more perceptive you become to the input in your surroundings. Over time, with consistent, ritualized - even spiritualized - movement, you gain mastery over your body and its abilities. This also aids in building confidence. From a more confident state, there's no doubt you will be able to form many strong connections, mind, body, and soul!
4. Eye Gazing in the Mirror or with a Consenting Partner
Eye contact is a powerful method of connection, and these days it seems to be more rare than ever before. When I walk into a coffee shop any given day of the week the majority of people are making eye contact with a screen. Still, there is no denying the impact of gazing into the eyes of another person, and though it may be more foreign to you, gazing into your own eyes can have a similar calming and engaging effect. I recommend in the morning or evening, around the time you brush your teeth (did you know that is a cleaning ritual?) take a few minutes to gaze silently, non-judgmentally into your own eyes. Relax your jaw, your eyebrows, your shoulders, and breathe slow soothing breaths. Devoting your attention to yourself, in a gentle and focused way builds trust and appreciation within yourself, just as it does with others. As you practice this ritual with yourself, in time sharing it with others will become more comfortable for you. For extra credit, I invite you to consider how you can ritualize other senses aside from sight.
5. Cook A Meal
Ok, ok. I invited you to consider ritualize your other senses but then I couldn't help but share another one of my sensual favorites! Cooking a meal connects you with ALL your senses. How's that? You see the colors and shapes of your food, feel the textures and temperatures of each item and utensil, you smell the fragrance before, during and after, you hear the sound of your knife through the veggies on the cutting board, the boiling of the water, the sizzling on the pan, and what's left but to . . . taste the flavors! Reclaim the ritual of your food. Even on the days you don't have time to cook, taking a moment to see, smell, hear, touch, and truly taste your food makes the whole experience nourishing beyond the mundane satisfaction of your physical needs. Even your imagination has a place with food, from thinking up creative expressions with flavor and arrangement, to imagining the places your food has grown and traveled to get to you. Over the course of my personal growth, that has become an awakening ritual, to consider where my food has come from. Beyond building a connection to what I choose to fuel my body with, this ritual has helped me learn better ways of supporting our food systems, and in turn, the health of our planet!
Among all these rituals, and the connection they offer through the practice of them, I find another common thread is improvement. While it may not be a part of why you begin your chosen rituals, improvement is something that naturally follows connection! As we learn to carefully connect with ourselves, each other, and the world, the diversity of our ways of being and understanding aid us in adaptively selecting, and developing the most intelligent ways for living.
So may your ritual life begin lil' buddhas! And never, ever, end.
By: Alex Halenda