by Briana Borten and Dr. Peter Borten
The span from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is only about five weeks, but it’s an unusual and often intense time. It has its own playlist of songs, a unique color scheme, interesting sweaters and lots of expectations. We’re told, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” but some find this season difficult or simply lacking in real meaning. If one finds himself or herself in the latter camp, or if one just wants to experience more connection, meaning and sweetness around the “holidaze,” it may be time to rediscover ritual.
For many Westerners, the word “ritual” has religious connotations, but one can experience the value of ritual with or without a religious intention. People have practiced rituals through the ages to establish anchor points that remind us of what’s important. They give us a reason to slow down, connect and feel gratitude. For example, a meal without the ritual is just an act of filling our stomachs. But with the ritual—cooking the food with love, expressing our gratitude, sharing it with others, lighting some candles—it becomes a deeply nourishing event. Ritual invites us to stop and go deep.
There’s specialness in forging rituals of our own that feel good and meaningful to us. Ritual can run the gamut, from serious to light, and simple to complex.
Here are a few basic guidelines to get started:
Look for opportunities to add meaning. Rituals allow us to elevate ordinary moments into moments of reverence. A ritual can be an activity in itself or it can be based around some task or event. Create a daily ritual for the specific purpose of setting a positive tone for each day. Seriousness is not necessary, but respect for the value and significance of what one aims to do makes a real difference in its impact.
Establish a structure. It helps lend legitimacy to the ritual when it has an opening and a closing. The opening could be as simple as acknowledging what the intention of the ritual is. The closing could be as simple as restating the purpose, or expressing gratitude for what was done.
Give the occasion significance. Besides the opening and closing, the main thing that makes a ritual stand out is that it’s different from our usual way of doing things. It’s this difference that makes a ritual become a checkpoint that infuses a sense of meaning. Besides making the presence different, consider incorporating one or more elements to make the ritual unique: lighting a candle, putting on a special piece of clothing, taking off shoes, placing hands on the earth, looking at a meaningful picture, or eating or drinking something special.
Look for opportunities to establish a new ritual this holiday season to make this time more meaningful and grounded. The more meaning one can cultivate in life, the sweeter life will be. It’s simple but true.
Briana Borten and Dr. Peter Borten are authors of the new book Rituals for Transformation: 108 Day Journey to Your Sacred Life (The Dragontree 2017) and creators of the Rituals of Living online community. For more information, visit TheDragontree.com.