Why We Need Rituals

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Rituals are actions steeped in life purpose and passion. They are ceremonies big and small that reminds us of a larger reality; they invoke a visceral understanding of universal paradigms like unity, connectivity, reverence and awe.

In this way, rituals are our lifeline to the divine.

Nowadays, most of are somewhat estranged from the religious structures in which we were raised. The traditionally instituted ritual forms no longer serve the circumstances of our modern lives. They do not always satisfy our longing for meaning, our craving for spiritual communion nor our yearning for truth.

But the absence of significant ceremony in our lives has left many of us feeling disconnected. We float in an enormously complex universe without a spiritual safety net to hold us when we fall. 

Yet we do not need to follow a set of prescribed observances in order to develop and express a relevant, resonant ritual for our truest selves. Nor do we need ordained priest/esses, rabbis, ministers, imams, medicine wo/men, shamans or gurus to design, direct or officiate our important events and passages.

We each have within us the resources based on our own unique life experiences to create ceremonial order to our own existence. We have everything we need to mold our meaningful moments into our own psychic support system.

But how do we know what to do in a ritual? How do we know what is right for us? 

If we examine the social patterns that we've created throughout our lives, we can begin to recognize, identify and affirm the ways we have already—intentionally or not—established a system of celebration and commemoration for our families, our communities and ourselves. This realization can help develop a confidence in our sense of ritual —our own ceremonial ability.

Building on this new-found assurance, we can begin to nurture our creativity and encourage our inner voice by studying our dreams, trusting our intuitions, heeding our instincts and exploring our impulses. By freeing ourselves to follow the promptings of our private signs and signals we can develop our own symbolic vocabulary. We can invent and reinvent a individual ritual language and charge special moments and daily routines with clarity, energy, meaning and grace.  

"Ceremonial observance adds lucid layers — depth, dimension, drama and distinction — to our lives, making the ordinary seem special, and the special, extraordinary."

Through the practice of ritual we are privileged to experience ourselves as prepared, present, passionate, principled and potent. When we set aside the quality time and claim the space for ceremony—when we assume the authority to do so—we are able to transform our perceptions, our perspectives, our experiences, and in the process, our reality.

Simple rituals to practice

There are some basic rituals you can add to your life that can enhance and transform your outlook, and over time, your life. Yogic wisdom says that thoughts lead to actions, your actions become habits and your habits determine your character, and ultimately your character determines your destiny. As the late Wayne Dyer said:

You do not attract what you want, you attract what you are.

Space Clearing

Creating a sacred space in your home is a beautiful and health-giving ritual. Temples and sacred places around the planet were made sacred by the devotional practices and rituals that took place within them. Your home and your body can become temples when you treat your space with reverence. You can sanctify the space in your home through space clearing by regularly smudging, using sacred sound and/or burning incense.

Self-care rituals

We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping.
– Elizabeth Gilbert

Rituals of self-care bring relief when everything is falling to pieces. Having a daily self-care practice of some sort holds you together when things fall apart. Because relationships do break up, jobs end, friendships have bumpy bits, illness hits and the unexpected happens. It is during these times that we need inner resilience, something that can help us navigate the foggy territory of human suffering. While yes, sometimes we need to fall apart, it is helpful to have practices to rely on, a cushion that will break your fall and support you to eventually get back up again. See ALL-DAY AYURVEDA—DINACHARYA: WHY ROUTINES ARE IMPORTANT & HOW TO CREATE THEM for ideas. 

Keys to creating rituals

  • Start small
  • Make it a daily commitment
  • Do something you enjoy
  • Be kind to yourself if you forget or don’t do your ritual

In essence a ritual is about bringing sacredness into your life, and about honouring something greater than you and me. As we become more aware of this higher force moving in our lives and express our gratitude for it, it expands and colours daily life with a radiance and light that connects us to all living things. 

Sachi Doctor

Elemental Alchemy, 90 Rio Vista Avenue, Oakland, CA, 94611

Sachi Doctor is an Ayurvedic practitioner and holistic health coach who founded Elemental Alchemy with the mission to provide a resource for those navigating their way towards optimal mind-body health.

Diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at a young age, Sachi has spent over twenty years exploring different health modalities, treatment plans, diets and mindfulness practices to help alleviate chronic pain and restore balance.

After years of looking to others for a model of health with no relief, Sachi realized that the answers she sought were not hidden in someone else’s prescription for wellness but unique to her, and that the first step towards discovery was actually tuning out what was right for others and tuning into herself.

As she tapped into the wisdom of her own body, she discovered that the elements foundational for health  — the blueprint she so fervently sought — was within her, within each of us. Since then Sachi has been passionate about helping others also cultivate clarity and inner wisdom for vibrant health.

In addition to her Ayurvedic and nutrition education, Sachi has completed over 800 hours of yoga teacher training and continues to study with her mother, her first yoga teacher, for whom these practices are a way of life.

Sachi is a board member of the Prison Yoga Project at San Quentin State Prison and serves as an ambassador for Yoga Gives Back, a non-profit that raises funds within the US yoga community to support microcredit programs for women in India. She holds a Msc in Development from the London School of Economics.