— Jack Kornfield in A Path with Heart
Many of us yearn for the kind of beauty, meaning, and coherence reflected in this African ritual. We admire traditional cultures which give ceremony and celebration their proper places in the center of the private and public lives of the people. We marvel at the stories of Celtic men and women who structured their days and deeds around blessings and prayers. We are deeply moved by the ways Native Americans honor the traditions of their ancestors with regularity and respect.
In fragmented and frantic modern cultures, ritual is usually given short shrift. Most people are barely conscious of their everyday rites as when and where they get their first cup of coffee, ways of greeting others, or their bedtime routines. We try desperately to muster enthusiasm for birthdays and anniversaries. And in the context of weddings and funerals, we're often so concerned about whether we have done it properly, we fail to honor the meaning of the event.
It seems to take every ounce of our energy to do something special for the celebrations of Thanksgiving, New Year's, Valentine's Day, and Memorial Day. And if we are members of a religious community, we are constantly challenged to pay attention to the nuances of liturgy and the rich sources of tradition behind religious holidays and seasons.
Anthropologists and historians of religion have pointed out that ritual assumes a prominent and resonant place in people's lives during periods of great stress and widespread soul-searching. That may explain why there is a renaissance of ritual experimentation today in our world.
Ritual has its genesis in the movements of the soul and our need to express deep emotions and intuitions in story, symbol, and action. Through prayers, blessings, rites, ceremonies, and celebrations, we honor our connections with God, others, community, nature, the world, and the whole comic dance.
Ritual need not be complicated or bound by tradition. A ritual can be personal or communal. It can be as simple as a grace said before a meal and as elaborate as a day-long liturgical celebration. What rituals do is give us a way to ground our yearnings and our devotion in concrete activities.
We're making May "ritual month." We have looked through our book reviews, quotes and practices databases, and collection of book excerpts to find rituals for your use and to spark your imagination as you create your own. Be sure to also check out the books where we found these ideas. And if you have a favorite ritual, please email us a description as we are developing more resources about rituals for Spirituality & Practice.
A Month of Rituals: A Resource Companion
- Everything as a Ritual
- Rituals that Shape Our Experience of Living
- Opening Ourselves to God's Grace
- Morning Rite
- Walking the Dog
- Leaving and Returning
- New Home
- Prayer Flags
- Back to School
- Safe Passage Through Childhood
- Circle to Reclaim Sacredness and Safety
- Using the Telephone
- Leaving Home
- Keeping Bonds Alive
- Doing Chores
- Prayer Pebbles
- Holiday Bush
- Ending a Relationship
- Four Questions for the Birthday Person
- Symbols of the Hearth
- Transition into Womanhood
- A New House
- Prayer Fingers
- Charitable Giveaways
- Ecstatic Dance
- Coming Home
- Receiving the Blessing of an Elder