This Week he Becomes a Man – the Power of Ritual
This week my nephew becomes a man. At the tender age of 13, his reading of a portion of the Torah marks the beginning of his responsibility as an adult in the Jewish religion. You might think 13 is quite young to suddenly be considered an adult, but some youngsters are out there making babies at that age, so perhaps it’s appropriate after all! “What’s the point?” You might ask? So there will be a great hoo-hah, everyone will be looking even more young and beautiful than usual, you know who you are ;-), and we’ll all mark the occasion with the solemnity it deserves and then party on afterwards, but so what?
Actually I think these things are really important, and I’ll tell you why. You know in the old days when pretty much everyone had some form of religion or at least some form of superstition, don’t you think that life’s events were marked a little better? Important occasions in a person’s life were always communal occasions- be they births, marriages, deaths or anywhere in between. You had some form of support and acknowledgement as you passed from one stage to another – and you had living proof around you that other people had done the same and survived it. Except death of course – and even then many traditions had it that your deceased relatives would come out and accompany you to heaven, if you were lucky enough to get there. So what could potentially be a scary event if you did it alone became a celebration of moving on and moving up. A celebration of becoming more than you were. Religion has done harm as well as good of course and hence been ditched by many, but sadly I think a number of bathing babies have been thrown out with the bath water, one of them being that we don’t have the same sense of community as we used to and sometimes have to navigate life’s passages alone.
I’m glad my nephew has his loving family around him as he begins to move away from being a child and starts to take more responsibility for his world – I wish him Mazal Tov (congratulations) and would like to reassure him that whilst adulthood brings responsibility, it also brings you the power and resources to do all the things you’ve always wanted to do. Just as having power gives you responsibility, taking responsibility gives you power … use it wisely!
Ritual isn’t only found in religion of course. When you think of ritual as something you oblige yourself to make a habit out of, or something you engage in ‘religiously’ until it becomes an action you almost can’t stop yourself doing, in it’s looser sense we engage in ritual quite a lot. There are global rituals e.g. taking a bath every now and then and personal rituals – e.g. the time you choose to wake up each day. I have a road ritual, to do with what I think is called ‘lane discipline’. I make sure I ALWAYS stay cleanly in whatever road lane I’m in, or if I’m changing lanes that I do so tidily and having indicated, instead of making free with the road as some drivers do when there are no other cars around. I do that because I want it to be such an ingrained habit that I’ll drive safely even if I’m exhausted, or if my concentration is low that day.
That particular ritual has served me well (so far at least!). Which brings me to my point. Rituals are there to serve us. What you do repeatedly and with focus becomes who you are. What you practice when you have energy to spare can save you when you are low on gumption. So here are my questions to you:
*What rituals do you have that serve you? Do you regularly get enough sleep and wake up at a sensible hour? Do you make a ritual out of regular exercise? Do you have a group of positive people that you regularly spend time with. so much so that you’re almost obliged to touch base with inspiration, no matter what mood you’re in?
*Are there any rituals you have that don’t serve you? Destructive eating habits? Smoking? Watching the same TV programme each week that you know is going to annoy you, just because everyone else is? Renewed awareness is the first step to making a change!
*And finally, what rituals can you install? Remember, what you do repeatedly becomes who you are. So who are you now, and who do you want to be?
Want to be healthy and fit? Get thee to a gym, or find what else works for you. Make a habit of buying the right foods. Make time to prepare the right foods – very few healthy things come plopping out of a tin, so if you want healthy food you’re going to have to make time for that. Want to be inspired and inspiring? Hang out with those kinds of people regularly, and read and watch things that inspire you … on a regular basis. Want to be a giving person? Sign up for volunteer work, or perhaps set regular charity payments on your account even if it’s only a small amount of money a month. Maybe make a habit of considering the well being of strangers around you to be your partial responsibility. This is something I’m personally working on at the moment. To be honest it doesn’t come naturally to pick up other people’s litter when I’m walking out in nature, or stop my car in the middle of the road to move the stray road cone out of other people’s way, instead of just driving round it. I’m doing those sorts of things anyway when I can – because that is the kind of person I want to be.
I find a diary helps with installing regular habits, and if you can set alerts on your phone and actually schedule in time for the habits you want to take on, you’re on to a winner. You can also use NLP to install triggers that remind you to do a certain action, when a particular event occurs – ask me how – it’s a pet subject! However you do it, make sure you do it – and you WILL change your life for the better, guaranteed.
Take on great rituals and celebrate the great rituals you already have … in fact why not go forth, get your rain dance on (or whatever those guys in that fantastic picture are doing) and have a ritualistic week!