The Importance of Ritual, Part 1

Ritual: A Series of Actions, Taken Mindfully, Preparing a Transition to Another State Of Mind.

Ritual: A Series of Actions, Taken Mindfully, Preparing a Transition to Another State Of Mind.

What do you think of when you see the word “ritual”?  Do you picture candles and chanting?  Or do you visualize all the things you do when you first wake up in the morning?

Okay, okay.  The things you do when you wake up in the morning are probably just a routine.  Or are they?

Let’s start by figuring out the difference between a ritual and a routine. Wikipedia says…

A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers, or dictated purely by logic, chance, necessity, etc.

Routine is a course of normative, standardized actions or procedures that are followed regularly, often repetitiously.

For me, a routine is something I do from habit.  It is a program I have created in my life, much like one would craft a computer program, something that runs without having to think about it.  It’s the route I take to get to work in the morning, or to drive home at night.

A ritual on the other hand, is a series of actions I take mindfully, that prepare me to transition into another frame of mind.

Using our example of getting up in the morning, let’s say I wake up, drink some water, have breakfast and get dressed. If I do all of these things every day without thinking about it, because it’s what I’ve done every day for the last several years, then it is just a routine.

However, if I drink the glass of water because I understand that it gently starts my digestion process and moves my body from fasting to eating while hydrating my body; if I eat breakfast and get dressed mindfully, knowing that these actions are transitioning me from sleepiness to wakefulness, and as preparation to go to work, now I have made my morning routine into a ritual.

In my case, on work days, it is more of a ritual.  On my weekends, it is routine.  It happens a little more haphazardly over a much longer period of time.

Another thing that helps me distinguish between routine and ritual is my intention.  A sense of sacredness and purpose turns a routine into a ritual.

Next week I’ll talk more about why I would want to have more ritual and less routine in my life.  See you then!



6 Responses

  1. Just lovely. I take my shower as a ritual- the cleansing water and the release of stress and tension burning off in the hot water- I often imagine any sickness in my body being washed away- yes, this is a ritual. thank you!
    Katana Barnett recently posted..Why go on a Spiritual Journey or Retreat Guest Post by Sheri Rosenthal

  2. I found a way to incorporate ritual into my usual routine art assignments. First if i am doing a drawing that represents hawaii for example, i showered( purfiying my body), put on my kihei, and a lei of kukui nuts and a plumeria in my hair, then using my eagle feather i asked the universe to give me the divine inspiration to create the piece i intended, and by burning candles, and listening to music, and imagining a sphere or bubble of sacred space around me, i then pick up my tools, mindfully aware of the energy around me begin. By listening to your insights, i was able to find joy in what others could consider a chore, a task that i am now grateful to have the oppurtunity. As you said- “What’s the story you want to tell” A good one of course!
    Mahalo and Brightest Blessings to you Mary.

  3. That is a beautiful ritual, Katana! I love it!

  4. I am so glad to hear that, Phoenix. It really makes a difference when you can shift your perspective.

  5. Thank you for this beautiful insight! In my pottery class last week, I thought of the routine of centering the clay as a ritual instead. It was so much easier, and that’s after seven weeks off! I’m trying to approach more of my life this way. Thank you!

  6. I’m so glad it helped you! It makes a huge difference for me viewing life through that perspective.