Ritual- An established or prescribed procedure for a religious or other rite; any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner.
Something I have realized about myself recently is that I really truly need ritual in my life and for a variety of reasons. Namely, ritual gives me a manner to communicate with God and the people around me when I don’t necessarily have the ability to form the words or thoughts that express what I need to say. Also, I have realized that ritual without words gives me a way to have an open and free dialogue with God. When my body is physically busy completing the ritual, it opens both my ears and my heart to allow things both in and out.
I’ve also realized how this has manifest itself throughout my life. In early middle school and high school it presented itself in my involvement with The International Order of Rainbow for Girls and The International Order of Job’s Daughters. In fact, my first office in Rainbow was the Ritual station of the Bow. It’s like the Universe was already at that early stage shouting at me what my path in life would be. I soon took office as Faith in Rainbow and, eventually, Chaplain in Job’s. Later in high school I felt the strong urge and desire to hold offices in any and every organization, club, troop, etc. that I was involved with. At one point in my senior year, I was the Youth Service Fund Chair, a Leader In Training for Girl Scouts, and the President of my youth group AND my show choir. I found that all of the driving I did back and forth between my hometowns(I spent my childhood and my teenage years in different towns roughly 30min apart) provided an amazing opportunity to do profound personal work. I made the drive back and forth roughly 6 days a week and in those times I would sing my little lungs out, I would think through the things that were on my heart, I would talk/cry/shout with God, etc.
In college I didn’t have access to my car all that often, but I had access to the Theta Omicron chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota and I trained with them in the Spring of my freshman year. I spent nearly all of my time as a member of ΣΑΙ as the Vice President Ritual, and my junior year I was elected as the President of the chapter for the following year. It was the perfect combination of leadership and ritual to give me that fix that I needed so desperately. When my then boyfriend and I split, I dove even further into the life of that organization and buried myself there. Meetings gave me the opportunity to shut the world out and only deal with the matter at hand, and the other aspects of the organization(namely ritual and song rehearsals) gave me the opportunity to have those conversations with my inner self and with God.
Now, though… I don’t really have any of those things. For the first time in my life I am not terribly active in any organizations or clubs. I haven’t promised away any particular evening for a weekly activity. None of it. This has been both good and bad for me. It has definitely meant that when I need to be productive I have a more difficult time entering into that head space(I have also realized that spending my free time on Netflix versus in a book effects this). It also means that I have had to find more creative and intentional ways to get in touch with God. I don’t have a regular reason to drive anywhere, although soon I will, but still it will only be one day a week. I don’t have a set ritual for an organization with which to physically busy my body with rehearsal. So I’ve tried a few things out. Going to the gym helps a lot! I feel better physically and mentally afterward. Unfortunately, I don’t really have the time right now for that, because I’m always so tired afterward. However, the one really good habit that I have started and that is helping me a lot is that on Saturday mornings I clean my dorm room. This is good for my mental state throughout the week, because I have to have that clean space to work in so that I don’t feel disoriented. It also, again, gives me that alone time with just myself and God. With Reading Week and Finals fast approaching, the cleaning rituals have picked up to 2-3 times a week. Another really great thing is that now that I’m not afraid I’ll lose a limb to frostbite, I have been able to get back in the habit of walking back and forth to work and then once I’m at work, I get to spend a few hours thinking through my life! It’s pretty wonderful. 🙂
Still, I do miss those ritual-based organizations at times. Not as often or for the reasons that I thought I would, though.
Anyway, something to think about in your own lives. 🙂