Ritual //

We live in a day & age where anything ‘wellness’ sells.

The term Ritual has become one of those ‘alternate’ practices that is not only more widely accepted it has become a trending, hash-tagged fad.   At times I feel overwhelmed by the way society/corporation has commercialised & culturally appropriated some very ancient & sacred practices and I feel as if i am seeing more and more of it of late.  Having said that I am also very conscious that I don't wish to place too much energy into this feeling and therefore thought I might be better served using this time to reflect on the deeper meaning of ritual, how it applies too therapy and & focus on the importance of ritual in relating to the self & the relationships we hold with others.  

20 something years ago at the prime age of 18 I sought an alternative path than the one expected of me at the time; to find a stable office job, that was totally underpaid, spending my days fetching someone else’s coffees, while forever trying to increase my typing speed.
Instead I chose to work at what was then termed a ‘new age’ centre, now commonly referred to as a place for ‘wellbeing’. Here I was fortunate to have been mentored by some highly skilled ‘alternate’ practitioners & given an opportunity to explore a number of different religious & esoteric teachings & traditions. I threw myself into books about psychology, astrology, Egyptian mythology, pagan & wiccan practices, Buddhist teachings, Judaism & Islam.  I was surprised to find that no matter which tradition I sat with they all embodied a similar reverence for that of ‘ritual’.  

This word bought with it a flood of early adolescent & childhood memories.
Ritual as I knew it was tied to the traditional & prescribed Catholic ceremonies that I grew up attending where a series of actions were performed by a leader, followed by my automated response.  Raised in this system I saw ritual as being nothing more than an empty vessel of commands & encoded responses. 

Through my readings & subsequent practices I came to realise ritual was in fact a very raw & revered act that should not be dictated by my past experience. Amongst many others, Carl Jung founder of analytical psychology was a great supporter of rituals, often referring to ritual & ceremony as "a sacred state, a body-centred way to communicate between our unconscious & conscious mind, while enabling a connection to our natural & spiritual environment".  He is correct.  Ritual is a way to satisfy yearnings & longings for truth, bringing meaning & purpose into our lives.   Ritual also happens to facilitate one of the most basic human needs; connection, providing a fundamental opportunity to start relating to ourselves & others differently. 

Rituals invoke in us a calling, perhaps a return to another place &/or time when ceremonies formed a huge part of our natural human functioning.  Shared throughout humanity daily rituals have been around long before we existed & will remain long after we die. Rituals connected us to a universal energy of infinite abundance creating moments that are inherent & primordial allowing us to embrace our sacred power & experience the divine.

In our modern day lives this has become a forgotten space. The absence of ceremony & ritual has created deep caverns of loneliness & despair in the human experience, leaving us utterly disconnected & devoid of meaning & purpose.  It is often this level of dis-content (& dis-connect) that brings people to therapy or in the least is the driving force that awakens them to the need for something more in their lives.  I know this well, for as a young adolescent it was in this space of emptiness that I found a place for ritual. 

Rituals take many forms from the simple routines we follow consciously each day, to the more complex ceremonies, initiations or rights of passage.. 

In therapy I often call the smaller daily rituals, “active practices”, basic practices that build safety, develop trust, facilitates connections & allows for new narratives in our lives to emerge.  
More powerfully these small practices help us access emotions, through the actions of doing something, anything conscious we are putting energy into motion (e-motion) creating an intention (which builds positive inner-tension) reclaiming sacredness & reverence for each day. With this comes moments of sheer mindfulness, the simple (but not so simple) act of being in & of the present moment.

From a neuroplasticity perspective the act of every day ritual helps us create new & invigorated pathways that begin to challenge outdated thinking & behaviors. Ritual replaces rigidity & activates creativity, instinct & deep intuitional knowing.  Ritual engages the participant in self-exploration building confidence & wonderment in your own potential & allows you to be guided by your inner voice. 

Our ultimate purpose in holding ritual/observance or ceremony is to empower ourselves, to re-member who we are at our core, beyond ego & the defences we project.  Enabling us to connect to our divinity & finding a sense of stability & acceptance in that which life presents to us. 

As Donna Henes (2013) states through ritual we are making the ordinary seem special, & the special, extraordinary”.

xxB