When we hear the word ritual, we tend to think of it in terms of religion and religious ceremonies. But it isn’t really and rituals are very much a part of our daily lives and they’re important.
We all practice daily rituals, often without realizing it or thinking about them. Our two most common daily rituals are when we wake up and when we go to bed. We often call this our morning or bedtime routines, and they are a routine, but they’re also a ritual. Think for a minute about what you do every morning when you awake and think about days when you’ve not been able to follow that routine. It can throw off a day sometimes.
Rituals help us establish routines, providing structure and context to our days and lives. They can be spiritual in nature as well. The way and times you practice meditation, when you may attend church or some other religious ceremony. Families often create rituals around holidays such as Christmas, Eid, Beltane or Hanukkah when we spend family time together.
Sometimes, our rituals may be more formalized, such as religious or spiritual observances. Some rituals may be formal, but not religious or spiritual in nature, such as setting aside time every day to sit and contemplate or read with a good cup of tea. Rituals are largely liminal moments in our lives. They are a moment in time where we take actions between what was and what will be. A bridge between the present and the future.
In today’s digital world, we are even developing rituals around our digital lives. These might include a video call with distant family members, participating in group video chats with some form of celebration around them.
Sometimes we aren’t even aware of the rituals that we have created, other times, we create them with purpose and intent. Personal rituals are as important as cultural rituals. They help us feel centred and sometimes connected, either with friends and family or with nature and the world around us.
Anthropologists have studied cultural and community rituals for over a century and they can inform the health of a society or community and help us to understand each other as humans. You may not think you have rituals, but chances are very high that you do. Once you become aware of them, you will uncover a richer texture to your life than you thought. You may even want to add to them or create new ones. Either way, they are an important part of a healthy life.
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Author: Giles Crouch is a digital anthropologist and COO at Optimyz’ brand parent HUM@Nmedia. He writes prolifically on the intersection of humans and technology and occasionally contributes to Optimyz and Silver magazines.