From the time we are born, we take part in several rituals. Some involve us directly while others do not. I remember my father handing out cigars when my second brother came along. At the time, that was the ritual. It was right of passage for a man to show his friends he was a father.
Rituals are everywhere. As a Catholic, baptism and confirmation were two must rituals in my home. We had family rituals, mealtime, bath and bedtime to name a few. As the rituals became second nature, more were added. Ultimately shaping me into who I am today.
“A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of the psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are being, as it were, put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you anyhow. Your consciousness is being reminded of the wisdom of your own life.” ~ Joseph Campbell
I am not sure we understood the wisdom of rituals at such a young age. What seems to be clear is they indicated a transformation was about to take place. A rite of passage so to speak. These rites of passage usually came at the hands of older siblings, friends and teammates. I remember getting on the high school basketball team and being hung up by my gym shorts on the hooks in the locker room. I missed the entire practice. Woah, what a wedgie.
Joining a sports team required many of us to participate in some kind of hazing. It was an initiation into the brother/sisterhood and because rituals are transformational, they can leave a legacy for us to prosper from or stall us like an anchor in the sea. Sadly, transformative rituals have all be disappeared from society. And the hazings morphed the transformational experience into something to be forgotten rather than cherished.
Today, our boys and girls rarely partake in a life-transitioning ritual. Instead, my generation became the key-latch kids. As both parents worked to maintain a middle-income lifestyle. And now our children are raised on gadgets leaving many of them measuring their worth on the number of “likes” and “followers” they have.
We’ve lost our purpose because we have lost the power of ritual in our lives. So, what can we do today to make rituals part of our life? Casper ter Kuile, in his book The Power of Ritual, reminds us that ritual is about intention. Ritual is about the gaps you’d like to fill in our lives and we fill those through ritual and connection.
“By composting old rituals to meet our real-world needs, we can regrow deeper relationships and speak to our hunger for meaning and depth.” -Casper ter Kuile, The Power of Ritual
So, where can we add rituals to our lives? We can start by developing a ritual with the self. This can take the form of sacred reading. Sacred reading doesn’t have to be from scripture, it can be from any fiction book. The key is to read with intention, analyzing the lessons within the writing. Next, we can practice rituals in how we connect with others. In my home, connection happens around the dining room table. Start a monthly supper club with friends and then look to expand the group.
How about adding a ritual with nature? My wife and I started hiking on the weekend. Not long ones but enough to get us into the ritual of being with nature. We love to vacation in Sedona and have always wanted to do longer hikes in that amazing topography. So we thought why not enjoy our very own backwoods first? It is a great ritual for growing closer as a couple and connecting to our spiritual side.
And finally, we can connect through transcendence. This is really about rethinking the practice of prayer. It’s about having a conversation with yourself out loud. Think of it as journaling out loud. The way I do this is through an affirmative prayer called spiritual mind treatment. It has five components beginning with recognition(God is), unification(I am), declaration (I accept, I affirm), thanksgiving (I give thanks) and release (I let go and let God).
I believe living a purposeful life is in direct correlation to our rituals. As we increase our intentionality in everything we do we increase our connection to our true self. There’s no need to wait to join a group, start a ritual today and get to know yourself.