Ceremony: A meaningful ritual or process that beautifies your daily life.
When we hear the word “ceremony” many of us often flashback to an important event in our life. Maybe it was the day you donned a cap and gown and celebrated your scholastic accomplishments. Or maybe the word “ceremony” invokes happy memories of a day filled with family, flowers and smashing cake in your partner’s face.
“Ceremony” is a word that we often associate with remarkable milestones—birthdays, weddings, new babies and graduations. It involves planning, sending invites and ordering food. Ceremony, with its sense of recognition and rest from routine, is an event.
The problem with this approach to ceremony is that this practice comes rarely. When we choose only to observe so-called “big events” as worthy of taking a joyful pause, we may miss out on daily successes and small victories as being worthy of our time, acknowledgment and delight.
By creating and performing personally expressive ceremonies for ourselves, we're teaching the same to our children. We take charge of marking and honoring the transitions and special moments in our lives that we find significant, in ways we deem meaningful. Ceremonies are tools that give us the freedom to take responsibility for the direction and purpose of our lives. Our task is to seize and shape this freedom—consciously, deliberately, and joyfully.
As human beings, we have been designed to walk through life together. Our victories and rituals belong to us. But how much sweeter would they be if we shared them with the people near and dear to us? In his book The Power of Ritual, Casper Ter Kuile emphasizes the way such spontaneous ceremonies can help satisfy our deep and abiding need for community and belonging. But in order to get the full benefit from these activities, we must be intentional about them.
Whatever activity we are undertaking, we must stop and ask ourselves: What does this mean for me? What do I want it to mean? What do I wish to honor, celebrate, grieve, remember?
Intention plus our full attention turns any activity that we deem worthy into a life-enhancing, sacred act.
Ceremony can be anything. It can be as simple as making a morning cup of tea. The real essence is the attention and intent you put behind it. You can make tea in a hasty rush to get out the door, barely tasting the scalding liquid as you drive to school drop-off. Or, you can make and serve tea with a focused attention and presence that changes the mood in the room. It's all about the intention you set behind the ritual.
So here we are, rounding the bend of this year, facing our own collective rite of passage. How are we to say goodbye to a year that has challenged our very ways of understanding the world, our role in it, and the future we want to build?
To nudge us along, here again is Mary Oliver, with her timeless advice:
“Let me / keep my mind on what matters, / which is my work, // which is mostly standing still and learning to be / astonished.”
How will you give voice to your astonishment as you bid farewell to this year and welcome the next?
How can I ritualize the little things in life? Are there any daily/weekly routines that could be more intentional in my life? What do I want 2023 to look like when I step back and look at the big picture?