I wasn’t raised within any particular religious doctrine. There were no special ceremonies, no rites of passage, no shared communities or even intergenerational family members to share and pass down stories and wisdom on a regular basis. I always felt like I was missing out on something and attributed it, for many years, to my fractured family living all over the world, with no one within 2 or 3 thousand miles of each other.
Ritual is defined as a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.
Ritual then, for me, had a distinctly religious connection. It was mysterious and complicated and something I had no direct experience of, nor felt I had any business messing with. Even attending common rituals, like marriages for example, have been a rarity in my life. And those rituals I did participate in, like Christmas, without the religious meaning, are simply manufactured traditions designed for consumption which have slowly lost their luster over time.
As a mother I have always wanted to create special rituals and traditions for my daughters, to help them find context and meaning to their lives. I understood intuitively the importance of doing so, but honestly most of the time I was at a loss for inspiration, with no references of my own that felt meaningful to share. Everything felt uncomfortable, contrived and my own self-judgement was crippling.
Now, I understand what a gift my upbringing has been! (It’s always a matter of time and perspective, isn’t it?) Without specific prescribed experiences of ritual or belonging within a particular community I have had the perfect blank canvas with which to create my own.
Recently, I have come to realize just how much ritual and ceremony I have been quietly creating for myself, by myself, secretly over the years.
My oracle card daily pick is an important one, or my “me-time teatime” every afternoon, for example. Or my reverence as I light a candle in my studio before painting or writing. My “love notes” to the Earth I create alone in the woods, and the secrets I share with the pebbles before I cast them into the pond, and so on and so on.
Of all my rituals the one that has been most consistent, and most meaningful, has been my daily walk. Forty-five minutes or so of solitude, grounding and connection with the forces of Nature that fuel me, inspire me and support me deeply every single morning.
In the woods I find clarity. I can hear myself think. I can process whatever is going on in my life while simultaneously surrendering to the mystery of it all. I feel not only connected to myself but to ALL THAT IS in a way that is comforting and deeply nourishing. My day is not quite right if I miss my walk for some reason.
I now understand that ritual is any regular practice that brings you into the present moment and helps you find meaning and gratitude for life itself. It is basic and yet extremely important self-care!
Simple daily ritual supports the business of simply living.
Ritual then is far more than just the observance of specific cultural or religious ceremonies. It is a basic requirement of humanity the world over. It is how we make sense of our lives, and our place in it.
It connects us to each other, to life and to the Earth we share. And there are no hard and fast rules as to how or what rituals you should have in your life—it really can be part of your own unique expression, your creator energy.
And so slowly, slowly, I am allowing the person I am in my head, in private, to show up publicly. To share my rituals, and create new ones, with my children and family, not caring if they think I’m silly or not. It’s simply part of process of learning to be myself in this lifetime.
It’s part of growth and letting go of all the self-judgement, the perfectionism and self-consciousness that has kept me alone, and lonely, disconnected from myself and others in the past. I now understand that ALL of life is a ritual. And I choose to participate. :)
“Ritual doesn’t make mystery happen. It helps us see and experience something which is already real. It does not create the sacred, it only describes what is there and has always been there, deeply hidden in the obvious.”—Rachel Naomi Remen MD