Enjoying a morning cup of coffee or chamomile tea as the evening winds down. Reading a book or writing in a journal before bed. Chanting OM at the end of a yoga class. All are rituals. Rituals are usually associated with spiritual or religious ceremonies, but rituals are also a part of everyday life. What rituals do you love?
This post is updated from an original posted in June of 2014.
When I was young, my father would leave the coffee on when he left for work. I would get up just as he was leaving and sit on the floor sipping coffee while reading the newspaper. With two older brothers, the house was never quiet except in that first half-hour—just me, the newspaper and a cup of fresh, perked coffee.
Yes, I was probably too young to drink coffee, but I loved it and the peaceful morning. To this day, I love to greet the morning quietly with a cup of coffee. Whether in meditation or in prayer or just breathing in the aroma of a cup of coffee, rituals bring conscious awareness, connection and a sense of the sacred into our daily life.
We also have rituals for transitions or milestones in life. Births and deaths each have their celebrations and ceremonies. A ritual can be as simple as honoring someone with a toast or lighting a candle. For several years, I used to make sure that yoga was a part of my birthday either through a national conference, a visit to Kripalu or a local workshop.
According to Why Rituals Work in Scientific America, rituals whether big or small or religious or personal are effective. They reduce anxiety and increase confidence or alleviate grief, and they can even improve attention.
Think of any ballplayer, whether basketball, football, or baseball, there are many famous rituals. Some are superstitions, like wearing the same socks or eating the same food on the day of the game. Others are more ritualistic like saying the same Psalm before each game or having an elaborate ritual that involved fixing your gloves, kicking your shoes and swing your bat.
The below ritual by baseball’s Nomar Garciaparra helped bring him into the moment, concentrated his attention on the job at hand, and helped to keep out some of the distractions that baseball parks are famous for.
Look around you, what are your rituals? Your daily ones or the ones for holidays or birthdays or transitions in life. Even if you think you don’t have any, if you pay attention, you might be surprised.