Ritual. When you read or hear that word, what does it conjure up for you? For me the word recalls Sundays in the Catholic church of my adolescence with candles and incense and Latin. But not just the rituals of that formal setting. I also think of all the informal rituals I've been performing all my life: dancing alone in my room as a teenager as a literal escape from bullying, the morning practices of my adult years (journaling, prayer beads, yoga), my sometimes over-the-top holiday decorating, the little daily rituals I share with my cats.

Rituals are everywhere. They are most often associated with religions as every tradition and path has oodles of them. Congregational worship services are punctuated by well-defined rituals. So are the customs and traditions of indigenous peoples: ceremonial dressing, dancing around a fire, smoking a peace pipe. Broaden your perspective a bit, and you'll see that other areas of community life are filled with ritual activities: the opening coin toss of a sporting event, the ringing of the opening and closing bell at the Stock Exchange. In our homes, we may have morning rituals around getting up and bedtime stories for children.

Ritual plays many roles in modern life. In December 2013 the Harvard Business Review Blog Network published an article about new research that shows "rituals make us value things more." Barbara Biziou, known as the "Ritual Lady," says she "began creating rituals with the purpose of transforming everyday events into sacred moments" and defines ritual in her book The Joy of Ritual as "an act in which we literally join the metaphysical with the physical as a means of calling Spirit into our material lives." I've been fortunate to experience Barbara's teachings in person at my seminary. She has helped me to see how powerful simple rituals can be; they don't have to be complicated with lots of props and prayers and accoutrements. When you start with attention and intention just lighting a candle can be a very powerful ritual.

I feel very fortunate that I've been exposed to rituals and have allowed them to be so prominent in my life, but I still find myself yearning for more. When I looked around my circles of friends, I realized that many life changes/situations/rites of passage weren't being acknowledged and honored that were perfect for rituals. I also noticed a trend: many of us wanted to belong to a community only to find that most interactions take place through social media rather than in-person. I wanted to connect with others in real time, in real presence through ritual and community. So I started a monthly Ritual Salon.

The Ritual Salon is a laboratory where about ten friends and I explore creating rituals, do one together, and discuss its impact over a potluck dinner. My hope for this blog is what I hope for the salon, that it provides a space for sharing about rituals and how we can bring them more fully into our daily lives. I'd like to help ease any hang-ups you might have about doing rituals. Ultimately I hope you'll come to this space for ideas so you will engage in rituals on your own with family and friends.

I will be sharing about the rituals we create, inspirations that informed them or led to their creation, and any other interesting things we come across and discover. As of February 2014, we've got three salons under our belt, and I already have much to share. So stay tuned.


Darren on January 17, 2017

@Debbie D - I love your sand box idea. Going to have to create one of those for myself. It's a much simpler and personal version of the Patience Stone ritual I posted about. Thank you!

Debbie on December 28, 2015

This sounds beautiful. My best friend just died on December 2, 2015. I am at once in shock and numb and inspired and bursting. These alternate. Both are overwhelming. I am needing and exploring rituals now. I am open to whatever arises.

Debbie D on January 2, 2016

I love the idea of ritual. I have a box with sand in it; not very deep. There are shells, rocks and one man-made rock with the word "love" engraved in it. This "rock" is black and lovely. There is an elongated shell which spirals into a point at the end. I use it as a pencil. I write in the spaces between the rocks and shells. Each message is a "To Do" for the day. I like to watch the words disappear when I gently shake the box from side to side. I think I will change the purpose of my box. I would like to write worries, and watch, as I shake it. The sand from underneath seems to rise and bury the words. It reminds me of how the ocean waves slide onto shore; burying what was there. Most dramatic eraser is the undertow. It pulls my feet down and covers them quickly. It always amazes me how my heels and toes disappear and an anklet of ocean water surrounds. Just as I regain my balance from the ocean's pull, it marches back and triumphantly engulfs my heels and toes again. The water shows me that it is stronger than me. It also makes me see my resilience.

Jennifer Knowles jenny@pjknowles.com.au on February 11, 2016

I am ready to run a group for parents who are experiencing the devastation of having a child addicted to drugs. My own experience for the past 16 years. I wonder if you would help with a ritual to take the participants from aloneness and isolation to being in a safe community of parents who can share their stories, hopes and dreams and also grief, loss and sadness.

Robyn Greene on April 27, 2016

I'm a Certified Life Cycle Celebrant/Wedding Officiant. I think that rituals are very helpful in marking the passage from one stage of life to another. Or, on a smaller scale, just from one part of the day to another. Or to mark the change of seasons. I think we yearn to create meaning in our lives and rituals help us do this. I love the idea of a ritual salon and I'm glad that you started one.

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