Do you ever feel like you need more ritual in your life? Do you ever wish you had a regular space to go deep with some of your personal questions and strivings, but struggle to find a tradition that feels like the right match?
For those of us who self-identify as “spiritual but not religious”, this question may have an added potency. When we are defining our spiritual life outside the context of organized religion, it can sometimes feel like we’re starting from scratch.
But in fact, you really don’t need to identify with any of the major organized religions to bring more ritual into your life. Really, to bring the power of ritual into your life simply requires the desire to do it, the openness to experiment and find what is authentic for you, and the follow through to make it be.
Here’s how to bring more ritual into your life:
Where do you connect with Source? That is, what kinds of settings and practices help you connect most deeply with your own deep sources of strength?
For some of us, this might happen in nature. For others, it might in the presence of one or more beloved friends.
For others, it might be a voice of inner guidance. Perhaps, in a difficult time, you have had the sense of hearing a “still small voice” that rises from within you, just at the time you most need it.
Think about this part of yourself, and where you feel it most strongly. What kinds of practices might help you connect with it more strongly?
2. DECIDE ON A PRACTICE
Just as to learn anything takes practice, our sense of spiritual wellbeing grows stronger through regular practice. What matters is simply to find a practice that resonates for you. Here are a few of the practices we use in my groups for grown-ups:
Meditiation: Meditation can be either guided or silent. You might start with simply sitting quietly, and bringing your attention to your breath. Set a timer, and spend ten minutes just watching your thoughts as they arise. If you are new to meditation, there is a wonderful app, “insight timer” that offers a free beginner’s course that can help you get started, right on your own at home.
Journeying: Journeying is a shamanic practice that is found in indigenous, earth based traditions around the world. It has been practiced in some form by cultures on nearly every continent, including (I recently learned) ancient Scandinavia!
In journeying, you listen to a repeating sound – traditionally a frame drum or rattle. This can be done either with a real drum or rattle, or with a recording. As you listen, you allow yourself to take an inner journey, where you can meet inner guides that can offer you their wisdom.
Journaling: Have you ever explored writing as a restorative self care practice? Journaling can be a wonderful way to access our intuition. This kind of writing is entirely process oriented – it’s just about writing freely and seeing what comes through.
Singing: If you know me, you know that I’m wild about singing as a way to connect with each other, and with our own deep sources of strength. This form of singing is non performative, it’s un self conscious, and it feels great!
And so many other practices… Yoga? Prayer? Process art? What matters is just that the process is authentic to you and to your community.
Which brings me to the next important piece in creating ritual:
3. GATHER YOUR PEOPLE
Think about who you’d most love to have present at the ritual you are forming. Who are the people that inspire you? People it just feels good to be around. People you feel seen by.
4. PLAN YOUR RITUAL
Plan an event that holds space for all of you to share in one of the practices above TOGETHER.
You might want to enlist a person who you resonate with spiritually – a sacred space holder, Dharma teacher, shaman or priest. Or you might simply do it on your own.
5. DON’T FORGET THE PHYSICAL NOURISHMENT
Many of us struggle in our lives with having inadequate time devoted to self care. Could you end your ritual with a wonderful dinner? Hot tea and chocolate?
I had a wonderful experience of this recently at a ritual created by a dear friend of mine. She was marking her transition out of the early post partum days with a “closing of the bones” ceremony for herself, and a naming ceremony for her son.
Her magical event closed with a dinner, prepared by the amazing Kristin Matthias of Mother Ayurveda. It was a truly amazing experience, after what we had just experienced together, to sit and talk and laugh and break bread together.
The food was so delicious, and what we had collectively experienced was so potent, that the food felt like a sacrament. I felt, perhaps more powerfully than ever, the way that food can nourish us, body and soul.
So if you’re drawn to the idea of ritual, I hope you’ll continue to experiment to find what works best for you in your own life. And I’d love to hear from you – how do you bring spiritual practice into your own life? What creative rituals have you been a part of?
If you’re looking for an existing ritual circle to join, I welcome you to join us for our San Francisco New Moon Circle for women, meeting next Sunday, August 11th, 5:30 – 7PM. It’s a beautiful group of women who gather, and we’d love to welcome you to our circle!