Discovering Rituals that Serve Me

I love rituals. From mindfully preparing my food, to afternoon tea, to following the seasons as I work in my backyard garden, my life is full of these little ceremonies. A ritual is defined as an observance or practice that is performed the same way each time. Truthfully, we all practice daily rituals such as brushing our teeth, taking our vitamins, or fixing our hair.

So it was a challenge when my activity from the Love Your Life in 30 Days course instructed me to choose a new ritual to perform, daily, in the upcoming days and weeks.

After much thought, I could not come up with a totally new ritual, so often do I perform ceremonies around my various activities. I chose to group together several rituals that I enjoy, and create instead a different bedtime routine.

It is important that my new ceremony be easy to prepare and relatively brief…10 minutes or less. I performed a trial run this evening of my new nighttime ritual, and of course, I captured the moments in photos.

I chose my bedroom for this pre-bedtime routine, lighting eight candles to soften the room and relax my mind and body.

Burning dried herbs is a key part of several of my favorite rituals. I love the fragrance that wafts through the room and the smoke that curls toward the ceiling. It seemed natural to include this practice.

I prepared a hot drink to soothe me toward sleep. Tonight’s choice was a health packed apple cider flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, ginger, cloves and cranberries. Every evening, as I prepare for slumber, I will jot down five things from the day that I am grateful for. My grandson Jonathan gave me a personalized journal for Christmas, that is perfect for writing my gratitude in.

Jonathan included a cute giraffe bookmark as well. Expressing gratitude daily focuses my attention on the best parts of my day, expanding my heart and filling it with quiet joy. And it prepares me for the final segment of my ceremony.

I concluded the ritual with five minutes or so of meditation, closing my eyes, relaxing my body, and focusing on my breathing. Long slow inhale of breath…hold for a few seconds…slow exhale of breath…pause…repeat. I love how quickly this simple meditation centers me, slowing my heart rate and releasing muscle tension.

As I finished the meditation, I visualized my bright and shiny future, full of travel adventures, writing, abundance, optimal health, love and creativity, without delving into the details, or burdening myself with the hows and whens. I just allowed joy and gratitude to bubble up, and flow outward.

It has taken me longer to write about my ritual, than it did to experience it! This is a very doable ceremony that brings my focus to the present moment and allows me to express gratitude. There is a sacredness in ending my day in this way. Sacred implies holy, set apart, and that is precisely the underlying feeling that I intend. Every action lends itself to reflection and relaxation and the releasing of joyful appreciation, making this time very much like a prayer, or an offering of my heart and soul, to my Source.

I look forward to seeing how this nightly practice impacts my sleep…and my life.

A Little Cheering Ceremony

I worked part of this gorgeous Sunday, so it was late afternoon before I turned my attention back to the question I asked this morning.

How shall we play today? 

This morning I had received a quick flash, a mental image of me sitting in candlelight. By afternoon, curious about lighting candles and with no clear idea yet of what I was supposed to do, I asked the question again.

How shall we play today?

A Little Cheering Ceremony

This time, a clear image of Julia Cameron’s book, Walking in This World, came to mind. I am almost finished with this creativity book, and working through a chapter strongly appealed to me.

I didn’t know how reading a chapter in the book connected to candlelight, but I didn’t need to know. Trusting the guidance given is an important part of my journey. I grabbed the book and a pencil, and began reading.

It was on page 229 that a paragraph caught my attention, causing my heart rate to increase. Julia writes about taking the heart seriously and listening to it. She says, “A heart does not need to be told, ‘Oh, toughen up’. It needs you to plan a tiny cheering ceremony and execute it.” 

I was captivated. I love little rituals and ceremonies, reminders of my spiritual walk and the symbolism and messages that I discover along the way. I knew just what to do!

A Little Cheering Ceremony
A Little Cheering Ceremony
I lit candles throughout my bedroom, realizing this was the mental picture I was given early in the day. The string of Edison bulbs added additional soft white light to the room. I prepared hot herbal tea in a dainty vintage tea cup, for all my favorite rituals involve hot tea, and sectioned a blood orange.

I arranged a pretty tray to hold my tea and orange slices, and included a silver heart tea light holder from Scotland and a stone burner with a circle of charcoal smoldering within. When the briquette was ashen, I sprinkled dried herbs from my garden on top of it. They released an earthy scent as they burned, the fragrant smoke curling into the room.

A Little Cheering Ceremony
In the next section of the book, Julia suggested making a list of 50 things my heart loves. This seemed to me to be the perfect inclusion for my little cheering ritual. In my candle lit bedroom, surrounded by things that I love, I had no problem coming up with 50 things that make my heart sing and bring me great joy.

I could have listed hundreds of things that my heart loves. I stoppped writing at 61. I had achieved the desired conclusion, which was to recognize that I live in a “rich, savory and enjoyable world where, if I will just take heart, things are bound to work out well.”

A Little Cheering Ceremony
Before I began my little cheering ceremony, I looked up the word “cheer”. For this ritual, I adopted the meaning  – “to give support to, to encourage, exhilerate, gladden, hearten.” The word originated from the Greek word kara, meaning head, and morphed through Latin and Old French to chiere, meaning face. The sense was that cheer was an outward expression of an inward condition. Beautiful.

My little cheering ceremony brought me great joy. I loved taking the time to prepare a ritual with the intention of supporting and gladdening my heart. How very precious. How very meaningful. Cheer did indeed expand my heart, becoming an expression of quiet joy on my face.

This may become a cherished weekly ceremony.

A Little Cheering Ceremony
Check out Julia Cameron’s book, Walking in This World:

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