Although I hear it everywhere—and frankly I don’t like buzz words—I can’t argue with the evidence that suggests humans need ritual, and having it supports success in our relationships, careers, health and general wellness.
Prayer/tradition/ritual is our birthright and our human nature. You don’t have to buy it, you don’t have to learn it from a teacher or a priest. It already belongs to you.
a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. “the ancient rituals of Christian worship”
Some folks like to place more importance on the “prescribed order” (or more so the simple daily repetition) rather than the “religious or solemn” nature of the ceremony. That’s fine, and makes sense—it’s easy to do something every day. But brushing your teeth isn’t a ritual, it’s a routine and a duty. We all brush our teeth, take our vitamins, clean our toes, drink our lemon water, whatever. Every day.
A habit can even be of a religious nature without being a ritual. So many of us watched our parents or grandparents dispassionately attend church weekly—seemingly not out of love and devotion but obligation.
Because the key to ritual isn’t what you do.
It’s how you do it.
Mindfulness and focused energy are the essence of that. Whether you’re kneeling by the bed to ask for guidance at night, or sipping that lemon water in the morning, you can use these steps to make it a meaningful and authentic ritual.
ENVIRONMENT – Find some amount of consistency in your ritual. It can be once a week on Sunday mornings, or nightly before you go to bed, or anything in between. It’s been proven that routine and consistency is key to any form of growth—I’d argue that it’s especially true when it comes to the path of spirituality and mindfulness. Try to always do your ritual in the same place and at the same time, or create a little travel altar if you move around a lot to create a sense of continuity.
INVOCATION – Begin your ritual by inviting in the Spirit. Maybe this governing force is something you call God, or the Universe, or even Science or Physics. There’s something you believe in that is the force behind life itself. Invite that consciousness into your space through a prayer, a song, or a silent conversation. Be open to listening during and after your invocation—you may hear an answer you didn’t expect.
RITUAL – A few ritual ideas: repeat mantra for every bead on a japa mala or rosary; pull a Tarot or Goddess card; drink a cup of coffee or tea; burn sage or incense; journal/freewrite; draw Yantra; play a musical instrument. Again, it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you focus, undistracted, on the thing that you’re doing. Remain open to listening and receiving.
INTENTION – When you’ve finished your activity, take a moment in silence. Decide on one thing you will do better between this moment and the next time you meet your ritual. It can be very small or quite significant. “I will go out of my way to let people in front of me in traffic”; “I will go on a hike to connect with nature”; “I will choose patience instead of lashing out at the people in my life”.
CLOSING – Thank your version of the Divine for sharing this time with you. Thank yourself for showing up. Let yourself fill up with gratitude. Perhaps there’s a song or prayer you want to end with. Or maybe it’s just a little bow, and a “thank you”.
Think of the womyn and witches who celebrated Samhain (“sow-in”), the celebration of the cycle of life and death that takes place at the end of the harvest season. There are lots of Samhain rituals you can find online if you feel particularly moved by the seasons. Finding a special ritual to complete on a holiday can anchor us throughout the year.
Ultimately, it doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated. It doesn’t need to be beautiful. It doesn’t need to be anything but yours. Ritual is also a wonderful thing to do with children, who thrive on routine and can take ownership over this part of their day.
Try a few things until you find something that really feels like prayer to you. Throw it on your Instagram story every day if you need some accountability. And, above all, be compassionate with yourself when you deviate from your expectations. If it was easy to be mindful, everybody would do it. Remember that it’s a path, and even when you’re not doing it “right”, you’re still doing it. Carry on.
By ~ Ellen Humphreys