‘We lack rituals in this modern world,’ said Elizabeth McGovern.
It’s 6.25am, and the sun has just risen. At least I think it has. It’s difficult to know for sure, because it’s cloudy, here, in north Wales. But, I have my mobile phone beside me, here on the garden table, set to bleep at sunrise, and it’s just bleeped. Sunrise.
The ancient Celts put there hearts and souls into everything they did. We know this because of the prayers they recited about herding, milking, cleaning the house etc. The weren’t ‘afflicted’ with dualism, but saw the sacred and profane as one glorious mix.
Whenever I can, I like to start the day with some form of ritual. Today, tea is my ritual. I love coffee, but at the beginning and end of the day, particularly, I love tea. Green tea, Oolong tea and other types.
Today, in the tea pot ‘brewing’ away, is nettle tea.
How do you start the day?
There was once a time when I found myself racing around at breakfast time – oh, so long ago, but so easy to slip into that frame of mind – and then I would rush out the door, off to work, or to see the first client of the day, or to lead the first event.
Are you a bit like that, today? Rushing about?
If so, then ritual may assist you, not only to slow down just for a short time, but it may have knock-on benefits, ‘set you up for the day’, and have other benefits, too. As a latter-day Celt, I’m not a dualist – I don’t accept that the world is divided between the sacred and profane, but I do believe that we often think that way, and ritual can come to our assistance.
And so I pause. I wait in anticipation as the tea ‘brews’. It can’t be hurried. As I sit here I think of all those people involved in bringing this tea to me. Not in an analytical way, but in a ‘one-thought’ expression of gratitude to them.
And, ritual is the art of slowing us down, it’s a holy pause, a time to reflect silently. It is a way that we can ‘re-member’ who we are, and that all is sacred. It’s a though modern life has dismembered us, ‘fractured’ our psyche and scattered the pieces, and ritual joins the pieces together again, in a glorious act of re-membering.
‘Re-membering’ is the opposite of dis-membering’.
Rituals are beneficial. It is said they can:
– bring us into an awareness of the present moment, and a focus on our intentions. It is a ‘time out of time’. It asks, silently, what are we doing, really doing, and why.
– be ‘savoured’. There is no rush (or, their shouldn’t be). Relax, and enjoy the moment.
– bring people together. You might like to share this ritual with another, but even if you don’t you can always have someone, a loved, one in mind.
– give us time to be appreciative, to pause, and wonder, to reflect and give thanks. Being grateful improves our outlook on life.
– create meaning, by embodying what is most important to us, and/or declaring the sacred in the event. It is the ‘something more is happening here, so I’m going to observe’ it, and yet participate, too. And, this makes us stronger. And, yet it makes us humble. It puts the day ahead into context, too.
Whatever ritual we choose to do, it is the fact that we have intentionally set time aside to do a ritual, an action, that makes it effective. If done intentionally, it cannot fail. It sets us apart in time and space.
As I sit at the garden table, I’ve been silent for about five minutes. I pour the tea. The water streams into the cup, and steam escapes into the air. I hear the sound of water in the cup. I notice the colour, the aroma. I place the teapot on the table, and pause once more. I look at the water in the cup. A one-word expression of gratitude spontaneously arises in my thoughts, of gratitude to the Great Provider of water.
‘Despite the absence of a direct causal connection between the ritual and the desired outcome, performing rituals with the intention of producing a certain result appears to be sufficient for that result to come true.’ Scientific American (14 May 2013).
I intentionally wait several more minutes. And then I gently sip the now-warm tea. The water splashes over my tongue, and the taste of nettle is seemingly so strong, as I savour it. It taste so good, so refreshing. The is no rush. There is no thought. No analysis. I’m not a ‘slave’ to the clock. I’m in a wonderful ‘daydream’ frame of mind. Just an immense enjoyment of the experience. Of being aware of the moment.
‘Water symbolizes the whole of potentiality – the source of all possible existence.’ Mircea Eliad.
I’ve chosen a tea ritual today, but it will be different tomorrow; and if a tea ritual isn’t something that appeals to you, then another ritual may be suitable. Experiment. And, enjoy doing so.
After many more minutes of sipping and reflection, the cup is empty. I’m not trying to produces thoughts – though they will come, they always do – but I pause for a minute before returning to the world of activity.
Was that tea ritual worth all that time? I believe so. At least it meant something to me. And, that’s the important thing. It may not appeal to others, but your ritual should be important to you, something that means something to you, and maybe, to you alone. It’s personal. It’s beneficial in so many ways.