Rituals are symbolic and meaningful steps we take at the beginning of a spiritual journey. There is often an order or rhythm to these rituals. They bring us clarity and set the tone for our journey.
What are rituals?
The meaning can vary from person to person and from culture to culture. They can be seen from a religious perspective or a spiritual perspective. We have societal and familial rituals, rituals between friends and partners, siblings, and parents and children.
I invite you to join me in creating a ritual for your individually designed spiritual journey separate from these norms. We will discuss rituals along with the practice of setting intentions.
What does it mean to set an intention?
Setting an intention is a creative process of engaging our bodies, minds, and hearts in focusing on an outcome for our highest good. Setting realistic intentions to prevent disappointment with unrealistic goals is always best. If our intentions are unrealistic in the first place, then we set ourselves up for self-sabotage.
Many people set intentions or start the new year with a resolution that often fades or fizzles away within the first few weeks of setting it. Why? It is often because the resolution is not realistic/difficult to attain or it is not something that they truly want.
So the first step of intention setting is to ask yourself, what is meaningful for/to me? What would I like to set an intention around? Create a ritual around it to help set the tone and timing. Here is an example. If you intend to start a meditation practice daily, decide on a realistic time.
Does it work for your routine to do it first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, or in the evening before bed?
How long does it need to be? 5 minutes can be enough when beginning a meditation practice. If it's too long, you may not want to set that time aside each day, and your practice will lose momentum. To learn more about how to create a practice, read this blog.
Now, you can add rituals for your intention setting. Perhaps you start by finding a quiet space, it helps to have that same space each time. There is a link on how to create your sacred altar space.
Light a candle and voice your intention to be in meditation for 5 minutes, " For my highest good, I would like to sit for 5 minutes every day at 7 am to meditate."
Add a flower or flowers to your altar space. Nature is a beautiful reminder to practice presence and invokes the senses of smell, touch, and sight.
Burn an incense stick or add your favorite aromatherapy/essential oils to a diffuser. The scent is a great way to ground your body and stabilize your emotions (more about essential oils in a future blog)
Bring awareness to your breathing. If your mind wanders, then simply observe that it is wandering, and then use your in-breath and out-breath to bring your awareness back to this present moment. It may help focus your attention on the flowers or the candle's flame to help.
When you complete your meditation, take a moment to acknowledge yourself and honor yourself for following through with your intention.
Here are some other ideas on rituals & intentions you can create for yourself.
Start a practice of yoga, chi gong, or tai chi.
Set the intention to follow a meditation practice for the New Moon and/or the Full Moon.
Go for a walk in nature or your neighborhood and observe nature everywhere by staying "unplugged" from all devices. Thich Nhat Hanh says that if we walk mindfully, noticing how we place our heels and toes on the earth, it slows us down, it slows our pace of walking, and we can say I have arrived.
Fine-tune your senses by listening to the sounds around you, looking and observing, breathing in and smelling the aromas that are present, and sensing with your hands and feet the textures that your skin connects with. It is fascinating how we become more aware of our environment when we tune in with our senses!
Have a healthy sleep ritual and disconnect from all devices 20-30 minutes before bedtime.
Take time to taste to start your day. Perhaps you have a beverage of choice that you begin your day with. Even if that happens to be water, taste it. Water can be sweet or more salty, brackish/hard, or smooth/soft depending on where you live. If you pause and sense the temperature, taste, and smell, this can be a ritual and a morning meditation.
If you like to write or journal, then make a ritual out of it. Choose the journal, the pen, the colors you use, and the space to journal. You can create a ritual by lighting a candle and blowing it out when you complete your writing process.
A Self-care ritual of starting your day with a shower/bath, moisturizing your body and face, and then consciously choosing the colors of clothing you will wear are all part of a self-care ritual you can initiate for yourself, notice the fragrances of the products you use do you have a preference, are they fragrance-free? (even fragrance-free has its own scent). These are all practices of mindfulness.
If you walk, drive, or take some sort of transportation to work, set the intention to be present in your environment and observe it.
The ritual of smell can help us in the practice of presence. For this ritual, you can breathe in the fragrant leaves of a tree or flower. You can use stick incense or an incense cone, and you can use a diffuser or burner to burn oils.
If you don't like incense or if you don't have any oils, here is a recipe for stovetop spice water.
1 liter of water
1 to 2 sticks of cinnamon
1 TS of Fennel
Simmer on low heat; you can top up the water when low and keep simmering.
Add 2 Springs of Rosemary to 1 liter of water and simmer
Add 3 cardamon pods to 1 liter of water and simmer
Add 1 tsp of vanilla essence to water and simmer
Our rituals hold a magical quality, guiding us on our journey, and it helps bring us home to ourselves, especially when we infuse them with intention.