In response to my recent post on moving, I received several emails and comments about my suggestion to implement a ritual as a way to concretize the feelings activated by a move. While the person writing was open to the idea of a ritual, they all said that they had a hard time imagining suggesting the idea to others because it sounded to “hooey-wooey”. This is fascinating to me because the word connotes the antithesis of hooey-wooey in my mind; for me, it evokes grounding and connecting in a way that people have grounded and connected for thousands of years.
A ritual is, quite simply, any act that is done with intention. A ritual can also be an automatic act that is empty, like shaking hands when you first meet someone. You may not want to shake hands and there may not be any conscious intention behind the act, but you do it because it’s a ritual in our culture. But when I talk about rituals in connection to transitions, I’m talking about anything that will help you drop down into your body, to slow down into the present moment and access the answer to the central question of a transition: What is it that I need to let go of?
Does a ritual have to involve candles? No, but before you brush off the idea of candles, consider for a moment how you feel when one is lit. Does a ritual have to involve prayer? No, but again, consider how you feel when you’re in the presence of true prayer. Lighting a candle and saying a prayer are ritual actions that people have enacted for centuries, not just something hippies started doing forty years ago. Instead of dismissing the word immediately because it sounds too much like something out of Woodstock, perhaps it’s time to restore the word to its original meaning, with roots in the word rite, as in rite of passage, which is really another word for transition.
Just for fun, I consulted Wikepedia on the matter. Here’s an excerpt:
Rituals of various kinds are a feature of almost all known human societies, past or present. They include not only the various worship rites and sacraments of organized religions and cults, but also the rites of passage of certain societies, atonement and purification rites, oaths of allegiance, dedication ceremonies, coronations and presidential inaugurations, marriages and funerals, school “rush” traditions and graduations, club meetings, sports events, Halloween parties, veteran parades, Christmas shopping and more. Many activities that are ostensibly performed for concrete purposes, such as jury trials, execution of criminals, and scientific symposia, are loaded with purely symbolic actions prescribed by regulations or tradition, and thus partly ritualistic in nature. Even common actions like hand-shaking and saying hello are rituals.
What determines the efficacy of a ritual is the intention behind it. If you’re using a ritual to protect against your feelings – as is often the case in the new age movement – nothing positive will be achieved. On the other hand, if you’re utilizing the ritual as an aid toward dropping down into your emotional body and accessing the wisdom of your Higher Self, rituals can be extremely effective in helping you move toward the questions that need to be answered in the midst of a transition.