We're all searching for a foothold in the past and for
peace and meaning in the chaos of modern life. We all
want to give our children a place of refuge and a sense
of predictability. We all wish to make the difficult
times easier and the unknown feel safer. Rituals have
served these functions for ancient cultures; and rituals
can now do the same for us, too.
Most of us participate regularly in rituals without
realizing it. You may not think that a daily trip to the
playground or a family breakfast qualifies as a ritual,
but it does. I call them unconscious rituals.
Sadly, while we do these things often and may even look
forward to them as part of our routine, we don't
recognize their significance in our lives.
Many ancient cultures have used rituals to strengthen
their family ties and to deepen their relationships. For
example, in South America it is a common practice for a
mother or grandmother to bless each person as he or she
leaves the house in the morning, with the intention of
strengthening the family bond as well as each family
member's connection to Spirit. In Mediterranean
cultures, as in Italy and Spain, it's customary for
everyone to come home for lunch. Dad leaves work, the
children get a break from school, and everyone, even
grandparents, takes part in a midday family meal.
Rituals can mark everyday moments or significant
times, they can ease us through transitions and
especially in times of rapid change, bring structure and
stability into family life. Family traditions and rites
help establish a common spiritual ground on which bonds
can be forged-bonds that transcend age, gender, and
individual interests. Indeed, a strong spiritual life
can help a family achieve harmony even when there are
unusual differences. As Annie, a mother who had adopted
eight children from different countries told me, "Our family rituals bridge the gaps between cultures.
They give us an even playing field."
We no longer have the option to look at life in the
same way as our grandparents did. Change and transition
are the only stable things left in our lives. As the
world changes and the makeup of our family structure
changes, we need to incorporate meaningful rituals that
give substance and guidance to the way we will
experience the world.
Children and Rituals
Rituals are particularly wonderful for families,
because they bring adults and children together in a
sacred space. If we take the time to stop and bless what
we have--our loved ones, our food, our home--and to honor
the seasons of change, both within the family and on the
planet, we can learn to appreciate each moment and gain
happiness from living in the fullness of the present.
By using rituals, we help ourselves and our children
make better sense of the world. They begin to regard
even the mundane--a bath or family dinner--as sacred
moments of connection and togetherness.
We must educate our children and ourselves about
other cultures and races. Our country is truly a global
village and to ignore this fact leads to the
disintegration of any real communication for the future.
It will be more and more important as we move into
globalization to make sure our individual identities do
not get squashed and homogenized.
Think of it as weaving a tapestry. Each one of us
brings our own unique flavor to the whole. This is the
source of our creativity. Without this, our world will
be a dull place to live.
Wisdom of the Elders
For thousands of years, the elders of a tribe
contributed to the education of the children. They
shared their wisdom, stories and expertise and were a
valuable part of the community. In fact, in many
cultures even today, the grandparents are sought out and
highly respected. Especially in Africa and Asia,
becoming an elder is an honored position in society.
Just think, in Hawaii, one is not considered wise until
they reach the age of 80 and then there is a great
ceremony to honor them.
It is about time we appreciated this resource in
America. We can now "adopt a grandparent".
What a gift this is to the kids who desperately need
guidance and unconditional love. Grandparents are
tutoring children in schools, caring for foster-care
kids and sharing their skills and years of knowledge.
Kids have the opportunity to learn about history from
those who have lived it.
Wake up and Acknowledge Diversity!
It is time to acknowledge this diversity. Why not
create stepparent's day or "gotcha day" (the
day you adopted a child) as I describe in my book The
Joy of Family Rituals? The more we celebrate
diversity, the more we will feel connected and part of
something larger than ourselves.
When holidays come along, we all think we want the
Leave it to Beaver nuclear family complete with
grandma baking cookies in the kitchen and the family dog
playing with the kids, but the new family rarely fits
that description. It is no wonder depression is ramped
at these "special times of the year. Why aren't we
seeing more advertisements with Jamie and his
grandparents as well as Susan and her two mothers?
Unfortunately, when most of us commemorate holidays,
we rarely think about, and in some cases don't even
know, that many holidays--"holy days"--were
originally created to mark the changing of seasons and
other happenings in nature. Even worse, as our
celebrations have become less about meaning and more
about material concerns-getting presents or wearing new
outfits-holidays can be both stressful and laden with
I would like to suggest that this
year let us celebrate from our hearts The most
meaningful rituals are those that strengthen our
relationship with The Divine. Such practice helps us to
develop the spiritual muscles that ultimately strengthen
us in the face of life's greatest tragedies. I pray we
all can develop conscious spiritual practices capable of
sustaining us during these challenging days ahead and
help us to better navigate these uncharted waters.
Sacred Rituals are as
Basic as All Other Survival Skills.
KEY ELEMENTS FOR
CREATING A SACRED RITUAL:
• Open your heart
• Create sacred space wherever you are using
elements from nature, a picture of your Beloved Deity or
favorite sacred image--anything that connects you
more deeply to your heart.
It does not matter if you are in a temple, home,
mosque, church, school or office. Spend time wherever
you find solace.
Rituals are for the good of all sentient beings
Manipulation must never be used. Rituals are about
aspirations. Do not use sacred ritual for revenge or
Have a Clear Motivation
Intention is the purpose of the ritual
Focus your intention.
Consciously creating rituals can keep us centered in
the present, allow us to transform the past, and
inspires us to re-imagine our future.
To honor yourself and others
Purple Candle (spirituality), essential oils of orange,
lemon, lime in a diffuser or a bowl of warm water (or
cut up oranges, lemons and limes in a bowl) shells,
stones, crystals (abundance)
Take a few moments to reflect on how far you have
come this year. No matter what your life is like at this
moment it is important to acknowledge any and all
progress that you have made. Don't forget the baby
Light the candle to acknowledge that you are part of
a larger plan--spirit directed (whatever that means to
you). Inhale the cent of the lemons, orange and lime and
let the aromas heighten the sense of joy and happiness
in your life.
Take a shell and acknowledge aloud the qualities that
you have developed that added to your success. Now take
another a shell for each person who has contributed to
your life. Nothing we do is in a vacuum:
true collaboration, partnership and acknowledging our
friends, family and co-workers is the key to real
Sometime in the next week, make sure to call and/or
write to share your appreciation with those special
people in your life. Give them a shell and tell them
what you appreciate about them.
We cannot underestimate the power of friends, family
and community at this time. Our bonds of connection are
• Hug more people
• Take time to connect and make every encounter
meaningful whether it is your bus driver or local
• Create alters to peace and wholeness
• Do simple prayers every time you light a candle
• Find a meaningful way to serve others and your
community and world.
• Be mindful
• Celebrate the winter solstice
• Be open to the wisdom teachings from all
• Attend a temple, church, mosque or Kwanza
• Share with others what is most important to
you-give gifts from the heart
• Play music, dance and sing.
Let us come together in the strength of our diversity
and the wisdom of our difference. We are all being
called to live in authentic ways. We will walk through
this new gate together in compassion and caring.
© Copyright 2001
Barbara Biziou. All Rights Reserved.
Barbara Biziou, America's foremost ritual expert, teaches us how to restore
ritual to its rightful place as food for the soul. Through practical, easy to
use ritual recipes that are powerful and inspiring, Barbara teaches people
how to effect remarkable changes in their lives. Since 1981 she has traveled
the globe, showing individuals and companies how to incorporate spirituality
into their hectic lifestyles. Whether you're releasing fear, creating a new
career, bringing deeper meaning to a family or community gathering, or
celebrating life's passages, her books, The Joys of Everyday Ritual and The
Joy of Family Rituals, are like wise best friends that can reconnect you to
your heart and soul.
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