Ceremony and ritual have been part of humanity for a long, long time, and for good reason. Ritual gives life depth and meaning, as well as cultivating our personal strength to move through the world in the ways we want to – with intention and attention. Ritual gives us the power to make every task on our to-do list sacred, or at the very least, intentional.
For many, ‘ritual’ or ‘sacred’ implies fancy ornamentation: feathers, stones mined from far-away countries, special cloths, and iconography that you may or may not have taken the time to develop a personal relationship with. It is deeply important to remember that the most powerful rituals are created with what we already have, what is local and native to us, and that with which we have cultivated a true and personal relationship with.
A clean and clear space with flowers from your garden and a stone you found on your morning walk has far more real power than all the semi-precious stones in the world. Your own breath will take you farther into the sacred than grasping at practices from places you have never been. If you are drawn to a practice – using smoke for clearing, for instance – take time to learn about it. People all around the world, from the beginning of human-time, have used smoke for clearing – but they have most often used the herbs that grew native to their lands. Learn what grows near you; learn how your ancestors cleared spaces with smoke. This is not to say that we cannot learn and share sacred ways from other cultures, but always, always, always take the time to learn and cultivate your own deep connection with a practice first. Learn from the people these practices come from, as a way of honoring the practices themselves.
Life is a Sacred Space.
When we bring intention and attention to our lives, it becomes clear that all of life is sacred, and that there’s opportunity in every moment to bring some element of the sacred—however you define it. The only thing that actually separates the sacred from the mundane is simply being thoughtfull or thoughtless; being filled with intention and consciousness versus coming from unconscious habit and reaction, and one of the best ways to do this is to create a ritual around it.
Ritual Makes the Mundane Sacred
Nothing is inherently sacred or mundane, it’s what we bring to it—how we intentionally experience it—that makes it this way. When I create and tend to my altar, making sure the candle is fresh, dusting, taking various objects off and either putting them back on, or choosing new ones—this is what makes it sacred. While I do believe objects carry energy, just like everything else in the world, it is the intention and attention I bring to my altar that makes it sacred.
When I’m in my office, at my desk, working on my computer, from the outside it probably seems like the least sacred space there is. But whether I’m paying my bills, doing a Facebook live or working one on one with a client, I believe it’s sacred, so I make it sacred. I tend to my work-space, I light candles, I bring in fresh flowers, I often bring objects from my altars into my work-space for specific calls, or clients. For years my office was a nook in my bedroom, but I always had a few special objects, a candle and fresh flowers to remind me it too, is sacred.
Whether we’re cooking, eating, going to bed, waking up, paying bills, or attending to our children, there are so many opportunities to make the mundane sacred through the power of ritual. We can take a small moment to appreciate the beauty of the vegetables before chopping them, or feel the pleasure of hot, soapy water as we wash the dishes, or give thanks for having enough clothes as we do the laundry. Even taking these small moments to pause and shift our attention make a dramatic difference in experiencing these as mundane (and possibly annoying) tasks, to a way of tending to our lives in a sacred way.
How to Apply More Ritual in Your Life
The way ritual works will be different for each of us. The options are vast and varied. However there are a couple of places I encourage you to begin and explore.
Start with breath.
Breath is one of the simplest, cheapest and most effective rituals. It’s also the perfect ritual because it’s always available to us. We can take a few deep breaths as we wait for the kettle to boil, or everytime we walk through a certain doorway. Three belly breaths before making the bed in the morning, or a full exhalation before starting to eat. Each of these breaths is an opportunity to make the space sacred, and a reminder that we’re moving on ritual ground, even if we’re doing something as simple as drinking tea.
Cooking and eating.
Humans have long had rituals around cooking and eating. How we engage in the whole process of food production, and how we sit down together at a table are all prime areas for including more ritual in your life. One the things I loved most about living in a monastery is the way we’d eat. It was a long, intricate ritual, from the way we brought the bowls out, to how we unfolded everything, and even how we were required to ask for more food—everything was set with intention.
Choose something small: Flowers on the dining room table, or a candle that gets lit only at mealtimes. For me, cloth napkins help make mealtimes a ritual, as well as offering a round of gratitudes with my kids at dinnertime.
Cleaning and Clearing.
A person I studied traditional broom-making with once said, “There’s no quicker way to change the energy in a space than to sweep.” This has absolutely been true to my experience, both with sweeping, as well as with cleaning any surface. There’s no need to clean the whole house every day, but for making a space sacred, sweep the kitchen floor, or the floor of your office; wipe down the dining room table, or your desk with a clean rag and water; take everything off your altar at least once a month and clean the whole surface – only put back what is calling to be placed on your altar now.
Devote yourself to something.
In my women’s programs, I often have each woman choose her own intention to be devoted to each month in both a personal and transpersonal way.
For example, if she wants to be devoted to connection, it’s less about the linear connection between two people and more about the energetic of connection in the universe. How do we make every moment, whether we feel it, or feel like it, an honor to connection? This becomes a living question: How to set the table in a way that magnifies connection? How to wash your face in a way that offers devotion to connection? It’s less about coming up with the ‘right’ answer, or way to do things, and much more about living into the question. This level of intention and attention makes life a living ritual.
The most amazing thing about working with simple rituals and practicing making all life sacred, is that, not only is the space itself imbued with power, but we actually become more powerful as a result. By bringing consciousness and intention to our actions in the world, our capacity to impact the world in a positive way is magnified.
If you are interested in finding ways to create a more sacred life through ritual, along with a wealth of other information about cultivating your intuition, getting in right relationship with your money, honoring the wisdom of your body, and so much more , check out my online community, The Collective.