The Purpose of Rituals

"Rituals can be used for many purposes — connecting with others, healing, enhancing creativity, ushering in a new life stage, and even simply acknowledging daily routines. They can take seconds or hours. They can be simple or complex, traditional or created in the moment to meet a specific need. They can be performed alone, with one or two other people, or with a large group."
The Joy of Ritual: Spiritual Recipes to Celebrate Milestones, Ease Transitions, and Make Every Day Sacred

Transition Rituals

"Transition rituals have been performed throughout time by virtually every civilization. They sanctify everything from the change of seasons to important life passages such as birth, puberty, marriage, and death. It is important for us to recognize, as our ancestors did, that these transitions matter and that rituals support our journey from one state of being to the next. We may act them out in different ways — for example, black signifies bereavement in our society, while in many Eastern cultures mourners wear white — but their underlying meaning is the same.

"Rituals endure because they work. For example, the Zulu culture believes that traditional rituals constitute the family treasure. Neither money nor possessions provide a sense of security — only the rituals passed on to them by their ancestors offer feelings of stability. Among the Amish and the Mormons, Sunday dinners provide important bonding times for children, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles by sustaining and strengthening ties to the past. In a landmark study of alcoholic families, Washington, D.C., psychiatrist Steven J. Wolin, M.D., found that despite one or both parents' dysfunction, the continuation of family rituals served as a major protective factor for children. Unfortunately in modern times, particularly in highly industrialized nations like our own, the pendulum has swung from tradition to materialism. Our constant focus on money and material success has led us away from the spiritual and the sacred."
The Joy of Ritual: Spiritual Recipes to Celebrate Milestones, Ease Transitions, and Make Every Day Sacred

Morning Rituals

"How many nights do you crawl into bed thinking, 'This day started off badly and just kept getting worse'? How do you sleep after inevitably reviewing the mix-ups and mess-ups that filled your day? And how do you greet the next morning? Emotionally hungover? Too depleted to make the new day any different from the one before?

"A morning ritual helps you begin each day with peace and optimism, believing in your own ability to cope with whatever awaits you out there in the world. Time for yourself can change the entire energy of your day; it can clarify your perceptions as it enriches your physical, emotional, and intellectual resources."
The Joy of Ritual: Spiritual Recipes to Celebrate Milestones, Ease Transitions, and Make Every Day Sacred

Rituals of Transition

"We have become nomads, focused on our own small clans and concerns, isolated from our far-flung extended families and traditions. We no longer have a sense of community and its once recurring — and therefore predictable — events. In the process we have lost touch with a sense of connection and with the rituals that once made life seem coherent and complete. When change happens, it blindsides us; one change triggers others, and suddenly it feels as if every aspect of our lives is off-kilter.

"Rituals of transition can help us segue from one circumstance to another, one year to the next, and one life stage to another. They provide perspective, clarity, and a sense of purpose, while at the same time they calm the physical and emotional upheavals that accompany change.

"These rites of passage will transform your view. Instead of seeing change as a nasty trick of fate, you'll recognize it as a valuable gift, moving you away from feelings of alienation and toward an understanding that your life is part of a grander scheme.
The Joy of Ritual: Spiritual Recipes to Celebrate Milestones, Ease Transitions, and Make Every Day Sacred


"For some reason, we tend to take positive behaviors for granted. We're too quick to criticize others when they're not doing things our way, and we're far too slow in acknowledging the good things they are doing. This is particularly true in the workplace, where we spend more waking hours than we do anyplace else. Relationships with colleagues are crucial — a bad day at the office can mean a worse evening at home.

"This ritual [Appreciating Coworkers] can change the way we see others, as well as the events and interactions that surround us every workday. For example, at some point in your life you've probably felt underappreciated by a boss, but has it ever occurred to you that the boss might feel underappreciated by you? Expressing admiration — to supervisors, peers, or assistants — is wholly beneficial. You'll feel better for having spoken; they'll feel better for having heard you. After this ritual, don't be surprised if you begin to sense a significant change in office morale — the mutual good feeling that comes from sharing regard for another can be contagious."
The Joy of Ritual: Spiritual Recipes to Celebrate Milestones, Ease Transitions, and Make Every Day Sacred

Rituals for Children

"Parents today are also more isolated than ever. Many work outside the home and are on busy, tight schedules — as are their children. The complexities of daily living, not to mention a shortage of quality time, weigh heavily on everyone. But rituals can keep a family together. Regular and steady, they are the cement that today's kids need to feel secure. Indeed, after psychologists Steven and Sybil Wolin conducted a series of studies on dysfunctional families, they concluded that rituals act as a buffer against problems.

"Likewise, family therapist Ron Taffel advises that parents can engender respect and forge connection with their children 'by creating predictable routines and rituals.' He refers to birthday and anniversary celebrations, intergenerational family gatherings, or any kind of tradition, such as storytelling, that makes family history come to life. He also defines as 'ritual' the ordinary, recurring routines we share with our children — stories at bedtime, the drive or walk to school, weekly board games, even Saturday chores. The constancy of these mundane occurrences gives children a sense of stability. In fact, when he asked kids from nursery school through sixth grade, 'What is your favorite thing to do?' 80 percent — four out of five — cited everyday rituals with their parents. Taffel advises, 'Rituals should continue as long as people live — and in the best families, I've found that they do.' "
The Joy of Family Rituals: Recipes for Everyday Living

The Power of Rituals

"Rituals aren't magic but they can certainly seemmagical. Whether they're done in the privacy of your home or backyard, in the sanctity of a church or temple, or in a hall packed with a thousand people, rituals can ease a transition, inspire a new approach to an old problem, help heal the wounds of a bad relationship, or bond a new family together. I get calls every day from former students who are amazed at the difference after only a few weeks of performing a particular ritual. As one woman told me, 'I realize that I'm giving myself a different message, and as a result, my life is going in a new direction.'

"There's another reason rituals work: they slow us down. The Buddhists have a concept calledmindfulness that embodies this idea, which is about paying attention to the here and now. As we slow down, we gain a new perspective on our lives and are better able to deal with the ups and downs. So many of us spend so much time reliving the past or worrying about the future that we wind up ruining the present. Rituals keep us centered in the present, and at the same time allow us to deal with the past and envision our futures in a very healthy, directed way."
The Joy of Family Rituals: Recipes for Everyday Living

Meal Rituals

"People of virtually every religion say prayers and blessings over food, taking time to honor its sacredness. In Bali, for example, no family would sit down to eat without first offering small pieces of sustenance and beauty to the spirits — banten jutan (banana leaf with rice and salt) and canang (palm leaves woven into little baskets into which flowers are placed). They then eat their food, sharing it as if they were having a communal meal with their ancestors and deities.

"I have been heartened to see a similar trend taking hold in this country. Today, 63 percent of our population gives thanks before meals, compared to 43 percent in 1947. I've also started seeing families join hands in restaurants. Some cultures even eat in silence, the idea being that you never take food for granted. You become more aware of what you eat, you are mindful of the act of eating, and you set a clear intention: to be nourished. By blessing our food, we literally encourage the nutrients to interact with our bodies and sustain us."
The Joy of Family Rituals: Recipes for Everyday Living

Blessing a New Home

"Other cultures have traditions that celebrate and bless a new home. On Malta, a priest prays inside a new house for seven days before newlyweds are allowed to move in. For centuries, Russians have swept their new homes with rock salt, which they believe releases negative vibrations. American settlers came together to help raise the roof of a new home, expressing their welcome and best wishes for safety and security. The Amish still do this. In India, when a family moves into a new home, they paint images of the sun, the Tree of Life, or parrots over the doorways of the house for protection. And for hundreds of years, Jews the world over have placed a mezuzah (a small cylindrical case containing a scroll of Torah verses) outside the door of a new home. Every time anyone enters or leaves, the person touches his fingers to his lips, then to the mezuzah, and recites a prayer: 'May God protect my going out and coming in, now and forever.'

"Although some of these new-house traditions have been carried to this country, more often such spiritual rituals have been replaced or at least overshadowed by housewarming parties. Although parties and presents are wonderful, we're cheating ourselves if we don't connect with the deeper, symbolic meaning of this important transition.
The Joy of Family Rituals: Recipes for Everyday Living