What is a ritual?
From the extreme to the subtle, the cultural to the personal, we all practice some form of ritual. It can be a weekly yoga class or an annual visit to the grave of a passed loved one, an evening bath or a slow cup of hot coffee. They’re not tied to any particular religion or belief system, although they can be. Rituals are actions big and small, performed with purpose and passion that reflect what is most important to us.
The element that defines a ritual is that it lacks an outcome. The result of a routine is external and tangible: clean teeth or a timely arrival at work. The effect of a ritual is inward and transcendent: an inspired mind, expanded heart, or renewed dedication to a goal. Where routines can deplete energy, rituals provide us with a sense of renewal. They offer us a time-out from cyclic existence, a moment of magic within the mundane.
Why we need rituals?
Joseph Campbell said, “Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” For some, that might be a church; for others, it could be a swim in the ocean. We need rituals because they remind us who we are and what we believe. They’re the outward demonstration of our inner values, a bridge between past and future that enables us to access our identities. Without these moments of magic, we fade into the minutiae of everyday life.
Today, few of us live by the religious structures our ancestors did. What’s more, many of us live in a different country than where we were born, meaning our cultural customs shift or fade entirely. However, regardless of our belief systems and backgrounds, we all need to feel connected to something greater than ourselves. Taking time out of each day to write in a journal (connect with yourself), enjoy a meal with your family (connect with others) or say a few words of gratitude (link to a larger reality), can bring us closer to ourselves and our loved ones.
Lastly, rituals bolster our psychological safety net, enabling us to take more risks and live a more purpose-driven life. Think of the characteristic behaviors we perform before, during, and after a meaningful event – wearing a pair of lucky socks to a job interview, taking a couple of power poses before a speech or knocking on wood to prevent something terrible happening. These rituals may seem like superstition, but there are scientifically proven positive effects1, including reduced anxiety, greater self-confidence, increased performance, and lower disappointment when things go wrong.
We all go through hard passages in life: break-ups, job loss, or even wildfires. With more rituals in our lives, we might make it out on the other side with ourselves intact. We dedicate the Ayin journal to the exploration of these rituals, the ancient and new, the ordinary and extraordinary. We hope it serves as a place of inspiration, with the tools and ideas to help you elevate your everyday.
1Why rituals work - Scientific American