The power of rituals is not so much about what you do, it's about the meaning you give to what you do.
It is not a situation, activity or an event that lends significance to a moment; it is the moment that lends significance to that experience.
What is a ritual?
For the purposes of this article we are not talking about rituals that form a once in a lifetime "rites of passage" such as weddings, births and deaths etc. we are talking about rituals based on the occurrence and re-occurrence of everyday experiences.
The power of rituals is that they can be subjective and deeply personal and they are sacred because you decide that they are, to you.
The word sacred is associated with religion but it has a wider meaning.
Rituals are sacred because they celebrate something that has meaning and significance and that is important to you
The 3 elements to a ritual
Casper ter Kuile the author of "The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities Into Soulful Practices" says there are three elements to a ritual:
Rituals vs habits
A ritual is not to be confused with a habit.
Habits relegate whereas rituals celebrate
Rituals are the opposite of habits. Habits are intended to make things less conscious, less intentional and to be performed on autopilot.
Whereas with rituals we want to increase intention and pay more attention and do so consciously. With rituals we want to repeat the ritual with the same level of conscious intention and attention each time we do it it.
With habits we relegate to the unconscious and automatic whereas with ritual we celebrate and do so consciously.
The purpose of ritual is connection
According to Casper ter Kuile there are 4 aspects of connection:
I want to share a memorable incident which took place in Chiang Mai, Thailand, a few years ago.
The occasion was the celebration of Western New Year.
I was with family and friends and we enjoyed a very good dinner at a restaurant beside the river Po.
This was a wonderful evening of love and friendship with family and friends and a celebration of the deep connection that we all felt with each other, with the beautiful open air environment, and with a strong sense of occasion on a New Year's Eve.
After dinner and at midnight there was fantastic firework display from the other side of the river. After this, I noticed people wandering around with large paper lanterns.
I asked our local friends what this was about and I was told that it had become a local tradition for groups of families and friends to light and release large paper lanterns on this night and the purpose of the lantern was to carry people's hopes, dreams and prayers for the upcoming year.
One couple in our group were planning a wedding and another person in our group was looking for a new job. I had launched a new business earlier that year and this was a major undertaking with much at stake.
So as we gathered round and lit the lantern and released it into the air it carried our collective hopes, prayers and dreams..
As the evening drew to a close and as all we walked back to our homes I looked up into the sky and could see hundreds, probably thousands, of lanterns across the sky above Chiang Mai.
Each of those lanterns carried the aspirations and prayers of thousands of people. I found it a profoundly moving experience.
I have never forgotten that night and every New Year's Eve, wherever I am in the world, I re-imagine that night and in my imagination I release another lantern for the upcoming year.
When Coronavirus restrictions lift and international travel resumes, I look forward to returning to Chiang Mai for a New Year's Eve and the releasing of another lantern to celebrate answered prayers for the new marriage [now with a young son], the successful outcome to the job search that has led to a blossoming career, and the financial success and prosperity of my business.
The power of rituals is founded in two core practices featured on this site:
Framing is how we:
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