I recently came across an article in Yoga Journal that I thought really conveyed the message about why ritual can play such an important role in our lives. You can read it here:
The author notes that “spiritual traditions involve some form of inner and/or outer ritual. Why? Because a ritual returns you to what matters. The very act of beginning a ritual puts us in a state of mind where we can break with the routine patterns of the mundane and remember the sacred.”
I totally agree. Particularly now, when the days seem to blur together and many of us are at home much more than ever before, having a way to change things up and connect with something greater sounds quite appealing.
The fullness of the experience of ritual lies in the intent behind it. When we do anything with intention, it amplifies the impact of the action. In the linked article, the author suggests some simple ways to add ritual to your day.
Make mealtime special. Dinner, or any meal, can be made into a sacred ritual by unplugging the phone, turning off the computer, and laying down a place mat. Light candles or a say a prayer of gratitude for the food before you. It helps to have a general time when the meal starts each day, as this conditions the mind (and the digestive system) to tune into being present.
Ritualize your yoga practice. Having a special spot where you do yoga and meditation helps create a ritualistic element to your daily practice. Before you begin, energetically clear the space by burning sage, lighting a candle, or saying a prayer. It could even be as simple an act as putting the dog outside so you can practice uninterrupted.
Try a bedtime practice. The ancient yogis used the energy of going to sleep as a way of preparing for death itself. While we don’t need to go that far to make a ritual of preparing for bed, you can move more deeply into rest by creating a ritual that makes you feel safe and sweet. (If you have small children, you probably already do this with songs, bedtimes stories, or prayers.) Try this for yourself: Rub sesame oil on your feet and cover them with socks. Lay down, close your eyes, and mentally travel backward through your day in intervals of 30 minutes until you reach the moment you woke up, trying to stay aware of any undigested thoughts and feelings. Simply let the thoughts and feelings arise with a sense of observation and non-attachment. Then let them each go into the flame of your loving, present attention. This helps you move into sleep with a “digested” mind.
Let the mundane be sacred. Even something as seemingly tedious as feeding the cat can be an important ritual. Use this moment to feel your connection and responsibility to these little creatures, and your gratitude for their company in your life.
Anoint your body. Celebrate your body by creating a bath ritual of anointing it with nourishing oils and meaningful symbols. Massage your body with warmed organic oil (grapeseed, jojoba, or almond work nicely) spiced with a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Sink into a hot tubful of water, close your eyes, and soak. Mentally scan your body, part by part. Imagine placing a tiny ritual offering at the doorway of each of your body parts. For example, see a golden flame in your brain. Imagine a white rose petal at each eye. Taste a drop of honey on the tongue. Smell the smoke of sandalwood at your throat. Use your imagination and intuition. Keep going until you have filled your entire body with ritual offerings. Consider yourself anointed.
Join us at SWC on March 27th for Ritual and Grace--A Practice of Reflection, where we will explore how to use ritual in our lives, as well as meditation and prayer.
We can’t wait to welcome you!
With love and light,