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Healing power of ritual

Posted Nov 08 2010 12:20am

I’ve written about the power of ritual before. Here, for example (with bonus lyrics).

I’m incredibly curious and interested in the ways that we use ritual in our lives – and the extent to which we seem to be losing some of the rituals that have defined us or bound us together on this planet for centuries. I think perhaps it’s time for us to create some new ones.

By rituals, I mean both those particular events or actions that we choose to create in our own individual lives to consciously mark or celebrate something; and those times when we come together collectively to do the same.

A ritual could be as simple as waking early in the morning to watch the sun rise or lighting a candle and meditating for ten minutes or writing down in your journal everything that you’re grateful for in your life.

I think the point, though, is to do it purposefully, and with intention.

On Saturday, I went to a community bonfire in a small vllage north of York. People had come together to organise a torchlight procession from the village green out to the sports field.

We wove our way in a little band down the main street and into the dark where the first torch bearers lit the bonfire. We’ve been doing this for centuries in one way or another. Lighting up the dark. Getting ready for winter. Warming ourselves on the last flames as the year turns and our lives with it.

For me, this time has always had an extra significance. It’s my birthday tomorrow and the bonfire parties and fireworks at this time of year always give me a secret thrill. I remember as a very small girl watching my dad lighting a catherine wheel he’d nailed to the fence post and turning to me with a smile, saying, ‘This is for you, Sophie.’

And I suppose that’s what I mean when I talk about ritual. I’m so grateful that my dad created that moment for me, lit the touchpaper that has continued to burn for me so brightly down the years. And some years, just remembering that, looking up into the night sky, has been more than enough to light up my own dark.

I think we badly need rituals right now. There is so much doom and gloom out there; so much potential dark.

Here’s the challange. How can we create small moments that make new meaning out of our lives, celebrate our hopes and dreams, our trials and achievements, what we’ve learned, the journeys we’ve made this far, what we’ve come to understand? How can we share them with the people around us?

And perhaps, with purpose and intention, everything can become a ritual. Yes, a dark field lit by stars, a place at the edge of the fire, a new sun rising can do that for us, creating a space for us to step out of time and connect with what’s bigger or wider than us and what’s deep within us and what we’re part of.

And also preparing a meal for people we love; or writing a letter to someone telling them how much we cherish them in our lives; or making a space for ourselves at the end of each day to reflect and to choose to focus on what we’ve already made happen rather than what we haven’t yet done. These things too.

Whatever it might be for you, I think we need more of it.

And as I looked up into the sky on Saturday, I had a thought and I just wanted to share it with you here and find out what you think too.

I began to think that maybe this is our time, for our generations now, on our particular little corner of the planet, to consciously and purposefully and collectively decide, to set our intentions about what we’re really here for, how we’re going to live, what we choose to celebrate and what we’re going to spread around.

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