The Importance of Ritual
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Cindie Chavez – ©2019
This year the idea of ritual has been on my mind constantly. I’m writing this in January, so it’s a relatively new internal nudging. At least it feels new in the scope of its intensity, it is top of mind, current, it feels big, important, fresh. So, in that way it feels like a new thing.
Not that I’m a stranger to ritual. I was born on Easter Sunday in a Catholic hospital. The hospital Sisters placed me in an Easter basket (along with a Catholic bible and a crystal rosary) and delivered me to my mother who happily celebrated her first-born’s arrival by attempting to change my diaper. The diaper promptly fell off as soon as she lifted my tiny body off the changing table. I was born three months premature and weighed in at three pounds. My parents had a priest on standby, ready to baptize me the moment I was born since they didn’t expect me to live.
I arrived to this world in a flurry of holy ritual and never looked back.
I took my first vow when I was six and according to my mother I had quite a few elaborate (and slightly ridiculous) rituals that I would perform before routine tasks, even as a toddler. My mother explains that as a three-year-old I would insist on picking up two small stuffed animals, tiny kittens I think, and touch them to my temples three times before I would be willing to eat my lunch. Talk about bringing picky eater status to a new level. I believe the word my mother used when describing this action was “clonked”. As in “you clonked them on your temples three times. Clonk, clonk, clonk.” I’m sure that this sort of odd behavior terrified my mother, who was a champion at worrying.
In my early thirties I had a discussion with a Rabbi who was an expert on the Kabbalah. A believer in reincarnation he postulated that we have some involvement in the details of our specific incorporation. He was commenting on a teaching story that says all Jews, past and present, born Jews as well as converts, were present at Mount Sinai when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.
At the time I was studying for an orthodox conversion to Judaism and I wondered aloud why then, if Judaism was my destiny, was I born into a Catholic family in a Catholic hospital on a Catholic holiday. He replied that I most likely chose this because of my love of ritual. I didn’t know this man, and he didn’t know me, or anything about my history save what was present in my wondering aloud. His response struck me like a lightning bolt because I realized in that moment that he was right, ritual has always been important to me.
In this regard his response was perfect, because it revealed something to me about myself that I shockingly hadn’t considered before. Epiphanies are like that, so obvious to the oracle and so surprising to the recipient. Looking back now it almost seems strange, this response, I mean, it’s not as though Judaism lacks ritual. Less incense maybe, but still. Perhaps it was the crystal beads. That must have been it. I do have a thing for crystal beads and incense. (Not to mention bunnies and colored eggs.)
Of course, not all rituals are religious or even connected to spirituality. Many of them are secular, or at least involve a type of superstition that may not be connected to a specific religion or brand of spirituality. A quick google search of “ritual + sports” provided some interesting examples. These examples help me feel slightly better about the kitten clonking.
We all have habits that we incorporate into our daily life, but there is a difference between a habit and a ritual. Habits are just tasks that we perform on a regular basis, but rituals are powered by intention. A ritual is an intentional action that is performed with an expectation of a specific outcome.
Astrologer Caroline W. Casey writes “the only way that the gods know we’re asking for help is through ritual.” – This is Casey’s “Visionary Activist Principle #4” – a very apropos follow-up to her 3rd principle: “The invisible world would like to help, but spiritual etiquette requires that we ask. Help is always available; (operators are standing by).”
These principles specifically are what have fueled my most recent excitement about the topic.
And then, while researching ritual I discovered an article in Scientific American titled Why Ritual Works. The article explains that research shows that ritual, whether religious or secular, helps alleviate grief, reduce anxiety, and improve confidence. And now it all makes perfect sense to me, why I would have ritual on my mind so strongly right now, at this time in history.
Because the world right now seems complicated and messy, unfair, difficult, and oftentimes frightening. Anything that can alleviate grief, reduce anxiety, and improve our confidence seems like a pretty good idea.
I took a vow to make the world a better place, and I want all the help I can get, invisible and otherwise, and apparently, help has a much better chance of arriving on my doorstep if I’m willing to ask for it.
Now, where did I put that incense?
More by Cindie:
Cindie Chavez is known as “The Love & Magic Coach”. She is the creator of MOONTREAT™ – and she has some great free stuff for you at her website: www.cindiechavez.com
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