It is the holiday season. We just shared Thanksgiving and soon it will be Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice and New Year. Have you ever looked closely at how you celebrate your holidays and why? What rituals do you follow in these holiday times?
Rituals are a feature of all known human societies. They are commonly often defined as religious. But if you go to your best friend’s house every New Year, drink and dance with all your friends and sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at midnight, then this is a ritual too. Rituals can be defined as a sequence of activities involving known and expected gestures, words, and objects, being performed according to set sequence. Rituals are often prescribed by the traditions of a religion, belief-system, community, and families, and as characterized by formalism, traditionalism, sacral symbolism, and performance. However, rituals is not only about what you are used to from relations with your childhood religion, or long term habits with family and friends. They are also personal habits, conscious or unconsciously executed.
Many people who grew up with family rituals around the holidays and then moved far away for work and are alone around the holidays, often get very depressed, because their rituals are no longer there, and the loss of family and the familiar have all the more impact. For others, the holiday season, with all its joys and meetings, induces stress and impossibly long to-do lists.
But whether you believe it or not, you are to a large part in charge of how the holidays will turn out. A great place to start is taking a step back and observe your personal rituals in your daily life. This gives you insights and the beginning of the power to change and improve them so they serve you best.
Do you always drive the same way to work? Do you always get up have a cup of coffee, shower, dress and head out to work? Do you sit in front of TV after dinner for hours, or do Facebook? Life habits become rituals and often make us mindless, rather than enhance our lives.
I have lived and traveled frequently in Latin America, especially in Peru and Mexico. Things I took for granted from my life in the USA were not how things were done there. And partaking of Shamanic rituals in the Yucatan or the Amazon Jungles is very different from religious rituals I knew here in the USA. These experiences made me more aware of the impact rituals have in our lives, and how much they can differ from place to place.
One Mexican shaman once told me that many shamans perform rituals exactly as they are taught. I have decided that for me, originality, spontaneity and creativity are more important than old traditions. I believe spirit wants us to be authentic and clear in our intent and desired outcome.
I have tried to bring this back into to my everyday life. If I am washing the dishes and my intent beyond getting them clean, is to be performing a ritual act of washing away all the aspects of my life which do not serve me, then the simple act of washing dishes becomes a powerful ritual.
If I am working in the garden and beyond working to nurture the growth of healthy food I see myself nurturing the growth of all the healthy aspects of my life, then I have made that work into a powerful ritual.
In the same way, if you go into a challenging situation and make a ritual of it by saying ‘I will do great. I want to achieve my best possible outcome’, and in addition to this see a picture in your mind of what it will feel like when you have achieved your hoped for outcome, then you just increased your odds algebraically. Try it. Ritual can be a new kind of mind games or self-mind control.
I try to live my whole life as ritual and I love it. As an example, me and my wife Sofia, take time to create magic rituals after dinner a few nights a week, turning off all technological communications, and giving ourselves permission to open up to the spirit world. We sit in a comfortable place and co-create a magical environment where we then call in spirit and request insights or assistance with aspects of our lives, or the lives of people we wish to assist. Through these evenings we get much knowledge and energy that we can use for all kinds of things in our daily life. As the year changes, we adapt these evenings. Winter is a time to focus on hope and light. Spring is the time of renewal and so forth. Rituals require that we keep making it real, such as remembering to be thankful and say a prayer to whatever spiritual beings you feel most aligned with during harvest season.
If you look at how you choose to celebrate your holidays of this season, then you can start seeing that your personal rituals serve to empower or entrap and depress you.
Around the holiday season it takes major efforts to stay a bit removed from your rituals and even more to alter them. Maybe instead of buying expensive presents you could give people a written promise to share a time with them, like fishing with your son, or massage your partner. Maybe you always wanted to stay at home and cook your own Christmas dinner. Let people know that is your plan this year. Just decide to do something different. Instead of what stresses you out and depletes you. Cut your to do list in half, and decide to enjoy yourself with your own homemade holiday rituals this year.
You can make ritual your tool to use when you want and how you choose. It has been used by all religious and spiritual teachings throughout history because it works. However most of us do not realize that any individual or group can reclaim ritual as their own personal tool, their own way of enriching their lives.
Michael Peter Langevin was the publisher/ editor for twenty-seven years of Magical Blend Magazine. He has authored three books: Secrets of the Ancient Incas, and Secrets of the Amazon Shamans (Career Press) Spiritual Business, (Hampton Roads). His company Langevin Marketing specializes in Social Media Marketing and Public Relations Consulting. Their logo is: “Let us help the world know you better..” To contact Michael email:Langevinmarketing@gmail.com