For me it’s the combination of the smell of incense thick in the air, the swing of golden incense pots and the slow procession of men in white. I don’t go to Mass anymore, and am not Catholic for all the usual reasons. Nonetheless, one of many things that upbringing gave me was a love of and understanding of the importance of ritual in my life. From baptism to last rites, a Catholic knows the ceremonies and rituals that tie their lives to an ancestral thread.
The rise of secular culture and the “me generation” is marked by greater acceptance toward those different from ourselves (with notable holdouts), but also less drive to maintain the ritual containers provided by religious and cultural ceremony. The re-emergence of earth cultures, of indigenous shamanic ritual, is perhaps a seeking to re-ritualize our lives. We need to find a new set of rituals to connect us back to the earth, to our ancestors and to the mystery that lies at the heart of all life again.
Rituals are acts performed in a certain way to realize an intention. They are things that we do, often that our ancestors or others have done before for the same effect, often in ceremonial events. They can provide a thread of meaning to mark a transition or close a chapter, honor an aspect of life, or connect us to the mystery and miracle of life. Ceremony and ritual allow us to take a step back, pause time, and be in the miraculous web of our own lives here on earth.
Einstein said it well when thinking about the why: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious,” he said. “It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead”. We need it to be fully us, and certainly to be our best selves.
Be it a morning ritual of lighting a candle and bowing to the 4 directions then above below and inside, or a morning or evening gratitude practice, plant bathing, or an elaborate ritual of gathering, clearing, and honoring a common intention (as we will do together at Yoga of Plants over the 4th of July weekend at Kripalu…still room left!), rituals capture time and remind us to feel the mystery.
Interested in learning more about ritual? Check out The Art of Ritual by Renee Beck and Sydney Barbara Metrick. It’s a clear, thoughtful and inspiring book. In my monthly newsletter, I often provide a step-by-step guide on a particular practice that can re-ritualize your life.  That newsletter always provides ideas on leading a botanical natural weight lifestyle.
How to add meaning to life with ritual? Practice. All it takes is intention and practice.
What is your favorite ritual?
Enjoy the day. Summer in it’s fullness!