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The Importance of Ritual
Ways to incorporate meaning into your life
by Maryam Henein

In this unpredictable and always-on-the-go world we live in, rituals provide us with a sense of security, stability, connectedness and belonging. Whether it's sipping that cup of yerba mate tea each morning while reading your email or reading in bed with your lover at night, ritual is something you can count on. It holds you in its arms like a warm comfortable sweater on a lonely day.

Ritual practice is as old as humanity, developing from people's compelling need to understand and connect with the infinite, archetypal, unexplainable mysteries of life, explains Donna Henes, an urban shaman, contemporary ceremonialist, popular speaker and award-winning author. "Rituals offered our ancestors a glimpse of the divine order as well as a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves."

Thoughtful ceremony

It's important not to confuse habit with ritual. The former is simply mindless behavior while ritual is intentional focused action. It's a ceremony of sorts which begins with thought, purpose and an identified aim. Also, it's not passive, but participatory. "There is no way to benefit from a ritual by just watching it, or by reading or hearing about it. It must be experienced to be affective, or effective, for that matter," says Henes.

Ritual imbues even the most mundane parts of life with significance and celebration. So for instance, eating a meal becomes much more than the mere intake of calories and nutrients. It becomes a sacred act that places you in the moment and fills you with gratitude.

Personalized ceremonies

Rituals are not homogenous—in other words they're definitely not one size fits all. You need to customize them to fit your unique personal history, interests and your quirky take on life. "I always say that I practice my spirituality exactly the way my foremothers in the caves did, I make it up as I go along," says Henes, who teaches a workshop in NYC called Spelling It Out: Creating Contemporary Ritual. "You know in your heart and gut what feels right to you. Trust yourself and do it! Don't worry about whether it's correct. Have confidence in your sense of ritual appropriateness and ceremonial ability. Anything is possible as long as it is well conceived and conscientious."

When we carve out a niche in our busy lives to establish a ritual practice, we produce beauty, order, harmony, reverence, patience, and appreciation, which enriches everything that we do. Ceremonial observance adds layers—depth, dimension, drama, and distinction—to our lives, making the ordinary seem special, and the special, extraordinary.


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