Three Tips For Starting Your Ritual Practice
Nearly every Sunday evening for the past 18 years, I drop everything at 8pm and listen to a Celtic music radio show while drinking tea and writing in my journal. This is a special time that I look forward to each week, and even though for the past several years I listen to the show as a podcast and can therefore listen anytime I want, I have stuck to my Sunday evening time slot because I have established it as a sacred time.
I ritualized the experience by having a prescribed set of actions at a customary time, and I elevated that day and time. For me, Sunday evening is a special time that is different from ordinary time, and I watch the clock and know where I will be at 8pm.
This simple Sunday evening ritual is a spiritual experience for me and holds deeper meaning than just listening to some music and drinking tea. It provides a time that I set aside to connect with myself, reflect, focus, enjoy my favorite music, brew a cup of tea, and treat myself to intentional time alone.
Rituals like these are an excellent way to infuse our lives with more awareness, meaning, connection, reverence, and ceremony. Below are three tips for creating rituals to deepen your connection and awareness.
Rituals need not be elaborate, as the most effective rituals can be simple and take only a few minutes to perform. The word ritual might conjure up images of churches and priests, incense-filled temples, or witches and black cats — which are all great for rituals — but a ritual can be as simple as my Sunday evening experience.
A ritual is really just a set of actions that we perform in a meaningful way. The key to ritual is the meaningful component that provides a temporary shift from normal time to sacred time. Rituals mark change and signify a special and elevated moment outside of ordinary time that allows us to connect with the moment, so that even short and simple rituals are a way toward a life of deeper meaning.
Start with a small and simple ritual that does not involve a lot of planning, materials, or time. You can create a ritual by simply bringing awareness and intention to a daily act that you typically perform thoughtlessly.
Perhaps instead of mindlessly dashing into the car, coffee in hand, rushing off to work, you could slow down, say a few words over your car, bless yourself, bless the car, even bless the coffee, and perform the act with solemnity. Perhaps when you wash your hands you can focus on the feel of the water, the foaming of the soap, the thanks and praise for that moment that can include an affirmation, even a bow of gratitude to the faucet and the water. These actions of pause and reflect can help us to focus more meaningfully at points throughout our day.
Rituals can include any action or type of experience, as long as they help us to become more present and focused on the experience. Like with most things in life, it’s not so important what you do, but rather how you do it. What you do should be meaningful for you, but that of course varies from person to person, so any activity that you bring a sense of reverence and ceremony to can be a ritual.
Rituals need not be long, elaborate, or involve much effort. Once you conduct a few smaller rituals, you will have a sense of what resonates with you and can build up to longer and more elaborate rituals.
Go It Alone
Rituals are a great way to create a sense of community and shared purpose with a group of like-minded individuals who also approach the ritual with awareness, meaning, and connection. They can help us to bond with one another, feel part of a larger whole, and can be powerful and spiritually enhancing.
However, when you are getting started with creating rituals, I recommend starting alone. You will be able to more fully focus your attention, minimize distraction, and be more in touch with your feelings so you can better connect with yourself. This will allow you to feel comfortable practicing rituals by yourself and to find enrichment in solitude. Performing your ritual alone will also allow you to do so without judgment, awkwardness, or self-consciousness. No one else will see or need to know of your “silliness” when you bow to the sink.
Where you perform your ritual isn’t as important as how you perform it, so you do not need a big stage or beautiful backdrop. A private space where you can be alone and turn inward without distraction is the key. This might mean anywhere from the woods to your bedroom closet, but if your ritual becomes a repeated ritual, it’s best to use the same place each time in order to foster a greater sense of connection to the ritual and a more powerful experience.
Though I could perform my Sunday evening ritual anywhere I have my phone, I like to listen at home and in a space where I do most of my journaling and self-reflection, because no matter where I’ve lived, that space is always a little more special than other places in my home.
I like to conduct rituals at home beside my altar, because that space becomes more ingrained with the power of the ritual. In fact, the ritual and the space both become more powerful the more the ritual is practiced in one particular spot. The most important element of the space, however, is that it is a private, to allow for greater levels of self-reflection and fewer distractions, whether physically, emotionally, or energetically.
Choose A Transitional Time
Large scale life transitions such as graduations, weddings, divorces, births, deaths, career changes, and relocations are powerful times, and these are excellent times for conducting rituals in order to mark beginnings and endings, honor who we were, where we are, and who we are becoming.
But we don’t have to wait for major life changes to conduct rituals. We are always in transition and experience numerous transitions on a yearly, monthly, and daily basis, which are also great times to create and conduct rituals. When you wake up, arrive home from work, or go to bed are examples of transitional times during the day when you may want to incorporate ritual. Rituals signal change and can therefore help us to transition even in small ways, such as a desire to shift from work to home mode.
Rituals also empower us, so you may consider a time during your day when you tend to feel the most stressed or disconnected to perform your ritual. Because rituals provide us with the space to alter our mindset, reconnect, or at least provide an opportunity to temporarily relieve stress, they can help to improve your mood during trying times, including even daily stressors. As a deliberate elevation of your actions, ritual serves as a break from the everyday and therefore an opportunity to hit pause on life’s play button.
Because rituals empower us and signal change to the brain, we can also use them when we want to create change. If you want to move on from a break up, acquire a new skill, attract something into your life, improve your health, or make any other kind of change, a ritual allows for the space to focus, set an intention, and create a new beginning for ourselves. By helping us to focus, change our mindset, set an intention, and move forward with a greater level of readiness, creating rituals allows us to experience more richness in life.
Christian Reifsteck of Standing Stones Healing Co. is a certified Reiki Master, a powerful card reader with a variety of decks, and has served as a spiritual guide and coach for over 20 years with kind, respectful, compassionate understanding for clients at all stages of life. Visit standingstoneshealing.com for more information or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.