Like the Achuar who share their dreams every morning before sunrise, all cultures have rituals, including our own. We use them to connect to our surroundings, create community, and bridge the spiritual and emotional realm with our physical reality. Although it might seem like an unfamiliar concept in the West, ritual is a universal expression of awe, transition, and gratitude that we can adapt for our lives today.
Begin the Day Intentionally
We cannot control when the sun comes up, but cultures have always found ways to participate in the daily wonder of a sunrise. Native Americans face and greet the sun each morning, and the Achuar begin each sunrise in their gardens.
Begin the day with a small ceremony of your own design: a sun salutation, meditation, a moment of mindfulness over your coffee, a prayer, poem, or a few minutes to remember, write or interpret dreams. Create a moment of mindfulness to be aware of the rising sun or the changing light in your surroundings.
Make Meals Sacred
Our Peruvian teacher Arkan Lushwala suggests saying a prayer over every meal. Offer part of it to somebody else -- particularly someone in need. If you have a garden, Lushwala suggests placing a piece of your food in the soil as a symbolic act of reciprocity for the earth that provided your food.
Remember that despite the stress that has become attached to eating for many people in our culture, eating has always ultimately been about nourishing our bodies, and that is sacred. Take time to sit down and eat without distractions. Be mindful of what you eat and where it came from. Take a few minutes of gratitude for the energy, comfort, and nourishment your food will give you.
Make Small Offerings
Day-to-day, take note of the things that are beautiful or awe-inspiring, and find a small way to act upon the grateful impulse. This is a fundamental act that creates the base of all spiritual ritual.
Create Your Own Ritual
Archeologists have found evidence of flowers being placed in graves with our earliest ancestors. Human communities have always found ways to add our own meaning to events outside our control like birth, death, and the changing seasons. Although today in many ways we are disconnected from the natural world, we can likewise find creative, meaningful ways to participate in the mysteries we all experience as individuals and communities. Regardless of how you choose to do this, here are the basics of creating ritual:
Make the time separate from normal time: No matter how much time you have, make it sacred in some way. Mark the beginning and end of the ritual time with a deep breath, a prayer, the lighting of a candle, or whatever feels most meaningful in the setting.
Engage the senses: Rituals can create a connection between the spiritual and the physical, so using sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste will make the time the most poignant and memorable.
Allow it to feel natural and meaningful: Many spiritual traditions have lasted for centuries because their rituals evolve over time and remain meaningful in changing contexts. The most fundamental aspect of ritual is that it arises naturally and expresses the ineffable. It can maintain its structure and meaning even as it is adapted for different individuals and communities.
At Pachamama Alliance, we are committed to bringing forth a spiritually fulfilling world that serves and empowers people of all religious backgrounds. Learn more about engaging in our mission of meaningful action that honors the earth and all people.