As a collective, as a nation, we’ve very recently experienced an ending and a beginning. This is how we honor the transition of power in our country… we say farewell to one leader as we welcome and prepare for another. This is our way. We mark this process with ritual… as we did with the presidential inauguration. We infuse this ritual with purpose and meaning through poetry, song, pledges, witnessing and tradition and in doing so we are ushered into a space for something new to take root. In this case, new leadership.
A presidential inauguration is just one type of ritual among many. This post invites readers to consider making ritual a regular part of our everyday lives, wrapping the small, quiet moments of life in sacred meaning and creating a space where the soul waits. “Ritual maintains the world’s holiness. Knowing that everything we do, no matter how simple, has a halo of imagination around it and can serve the soul enriches life and makes the things around us more precious, more worthy of our protection and care.” These are the words of Thomas Moore, from his book Care of the Soul: A Guide to Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life, which inspires us to consider that the soul has requirements for thriving, one of which is ritual. Making ritual accessible is the invitation here, which begs the question; what are the basic ingredients for creating and honoring the sacredness of our daily lives through the practice of ritual?
I spoke with Boulder psychotherapist Merryl Rothaus, MA, LPC (see bio below) about this idea of the basic ingredients for creating ritual. She’s an artist and a believer in the healing potential of ritual and has been practicing the art of ritual with clients and in her personal life for years. In our recent phone conversation, Merryl shared with me what she believes the basic ingredients for ritual might be… remembering that there is so much freedom in it for each of us to explore for ourselves too.
Merryl suggests that the first ingredient is to have an intention to make something in your life sacred or special. This could be as simple as intentionally setting a beautiful table for yourself for dinner each night or lighting a candle in the morning to illuminate your day. The options are endless… allowing intention to imbue our daily activities with focus and meaning is the point. Intention also helps us bypass the psyche and move out of the mind. Ask yourself… what do I want to welcome in to honor this moment or this activity? And how do I want to show up in it?
The next ingredient is to bring a spirit of collaboration to the space we intend to create. This means having an understanding of an I-Thou relationship, or as Merryl says “to invoke something outside ourselves… a Thou such as Mother Earth, the land, our ancestors, Spirit, God… there’s a witnessing component that is important here, because we are not alone. It’s important to remember and connect with the unseen realm”. Get quiet and ask yourself who or what would feel helpful to ask to join you in this ritual?
The third basic ingredient is to take an action. This can be, as suggested earlier, as simple as lighting a candle. Doing so creates a threshold or a bridge, beckoning us to cross from who we’ve been or who we are into a quiet space of not-knowing. In the language of mindfulness study, taking action signals a time to be still and step into presence. Merryl points out that “Ritual, brings presence, it is absolutely not necessary to be present already before engaging in ritual… the ritual itself can infuse us with presence and connect us with life energy”. With this in mind, what action would feel meaningful to you in order to signal the start of your ritual and offers the possibility of stepping into the Now? Traditional options include burning incense, reading something meaningful, spending time in prayer, honoring a keepsake and connecting to the energy of it or simply sitting in silence.
Author David Richo says that “a ritual enacts a newfound consciousness, making its deepest reality proximate and palpable. It sanctifies the place we are in and the things we feel by consecrating them to something higher than the transitory”. Try it yourself… explore how incorporating daily rituals opens up possibility and “newfound consciousness” in your life.
Moore, T. (1994). Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life. New York, New York: HarperPerennial.
Richo, D. (2002). How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving (1st ed.). Shambhala.
Merryl E. Rothaus, LPC, LMHC, ATR-BC, CHT, is a licensed psychotherapist, a registered and board-certified art therapist, a certified Hakomi therapist, and a Somatic Experiencing and Brainspotting practitioner. She is also a dedicated Meditation Practitioner and a Shamanic Practitioner. She is currently working on a book about her journey and attempts toward motherhood and what it is like to be a “Mother Without Children”. You can learn more by visiting her website https://www.merrylrothaus.com/ or by following her on Instagram @merrylrothaus.
Michelle is a mother, a partner, a friend, a spiritual seeker, a psychotherapist and someone who enjoys connecting with herself within a mindfulness meditation practice. She has a BA in Communications and Humanities from the University of Colorado and an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Mindfulness-based Transpersonal Psychology from Naropa University. Michelle’s practice, Soul Care Counseling, offers mindfulness-based practices that support clients seeking to become less anxious, less stressed, less reactive and more grounded, present and connected with their own inner ally. As a result of their work together, clients are able to communicate with themselves and others with greater clarity, care and compassion. https://soulcaredenver.com/