Here comes the dreaded question:
“So, what are we going to do for Christmas?”
My husband is asking it with extreme caution, but also with encouragement in his voice, because he is a wise man. He knows that Christmas is a tricky time for me. It marks the time of many defining moments. Some just plain sad, like the loss of my beloved Grandma or our first not-together-Christmas. Others were very disturbing, most of them very stressful and one just plain awful.
As it usually is, the awful one provided a lot of learning, including the opportunity for making a stand, creating clarity and embracing authenticity. Without getting in too much detail, let´s just say that it was a thunderstorm long overdue and necessary to clear out weeds in order to make the flower(s) blossom.
It was also the end of some old rituals, hence hubby coming up with the question.
I´m repelled by the consumerism that is promoted at every occasion, especially at Christmas. Too many times I have observed how family members are competing with each other to provide “the best” present, making sure that the child would know who gave it to them. Buying and giving in return for being loved. Isn´t Christmas about celebrating unconditional love and connection?
So in order to design a more meaningful Christmas, we decided to create pleasant and memorable moments. The most effective way to do this is through rituals.
Other than strategies, which we usually execute unconsciously/automatically in order to achieve a certain outcome (drying ourself after a shower, brushing our teeth, getting dressed, etc…), rituals are a set of actions that we do intentionally.
A ritual can be anything: wearing a certain set of clothes or accessories for specific occasions, performing a combination of gestures before playing a ball, a certain phrase before going to bed or after waking up….
Depending on the nature of the ritual, it can provide many benefits:
1. Rituals increase accountability
With a stressful schedule, there´s often no time left for exercise, which easily gets neglected, forgotten or constantly postponed. If exercise is made part of your ritual however, to go for a walk with your partner or a friend at a certain time of the day, it is more likely that you take time to actually do it.
2. Rituals enhance the mood
A resourceful morning routine can make all the difference between a good and a bad day. Reading and contemplating over an encouraging quote, a breathing routine or a brain switch-on exercise will give the body and mind a positive start into the new day.
3. Rituals create connection
If you have people who share some of your rituals, it creates a connection between you and them. That could be a regular phone call, a scheduled dinner or barbecue day, or making it a must to write a monthly or yearly “status-update” to family and friends who live far away.
4. Rituals give comfort
Wishing your child or partner – or yourself – a good night and sweet dreams or a good morning is much more than just courtesy. I remember my father wishing me a “Good night and dream sweet of sour cucumbers.” The content totally confused me as a little child, but, silly as it is, it became a saying that I then naturally passed on to my own children. It hardly ever fails to put a smile on the face.
5. Rituals encourage values
The attitude of gratitude is a very powerful value to install in a child or yourself. Looking back at the end of the day and writing down what we are grateful for will keep us focused on the things we appreciate, thus creating a frequency that resonates with and attracts more of what we express our gratitude for.
6. Rituals shape “forever”s
When we visited our Grandma, we always went into the garden first, to see what was growing at the time. She would already have prepared the stock for the soup and together we formed little marrow balls and hand made egg noodles. When I think of my Grandma I see her garden and I remember “Marrow Ball Soup”. These memories will stick with me forever, keeping my love for “Anna-Oma” alive.
7. Rituals promote legacies
When Tony Robbins was young, his family experienced some financial hardship. One Thanksgiving, a stranger knocked at their door and gave them a basket with food. Not only was that one of the moments that changed Tony´s life, it was also the foundation for a legacy he built: since he became successful, his foundation is delivering Thanksgiving baskets to thousands of families in need. By encouraging participants of his seminars to do the same (or something similar that is meaningful to them), he increases this legacy exponentially.
8. Rituals facilitate authenticity
Our choice of rituals can tell us a lot of what we value, what´s important to us. Creating rituals that are in alignment with these values, facilitate opportunities to practice our favourite virtues, like f.e. kindness, creativity, connectedness or others. The more we live in alignment with our virtues, the closer we are to our authentic self.
9. Rituals introduce peace
Very often, we are judged – or judge ourself – by the emotions we experience and express. Emotions however, pleasant or unpleasant, are only the messenger to show us how connected or disconnected we are to our true self, to our Divine spirit. They only carry the message, therefore they give us a clue where we are in relation to our truth, but not who we are. Being aware of who we are deep in our core is an essential prerequisite to experiencing peace.
10. Rituals empower change
You become that which you think you are. Or, it is not that you become it, but that the idea gets very deeply rooted – and that’s what all conditioning is. – Osho
When we make a conscious choice to introduce change in our life, our unconscious mind has a tendency to resist that change. As a result of that, self-sabotage is a common issue for those who want to transition into new states of mind. Creating resourceful, sustainable rituals can help to overcome self-sabotaging behaviour to re-condition or “re-train” our mind.
And here´s an extra bonus:
11. Rituals reduce stress
Coming full circle to the question above.
In some families it is a tradition to gather at the oldest person´s house. Others rotate the host of the party according to a specific system. Going away on a holiday and avoiding family gatherings all-together is another option.
Then there is the question of what to eat….Again, if there is a favourite menu that the whole family enjoys and agrees on having every year, that can be ticked off. Shopping becomes a much easier task and if it´s an extensive meal, its preparation is best planned ahead (planning is a great tool to reduce stress!), with different responsibilities for every family member, creating some more “forever”s.
Apart from Christmas, having a resourceful daily morning ritual or evening routine – possibly with a certain time frame and maybe even a tick-off list – can create a nice flow to start into or fade out of the day.
So what are we going to do for Christmas?
Apart from upgrading the “practice” to become a “studio”, which will require a lot of our energy, I would like to take some time for reflection. The idea how I´m going to do it is still a bit immature, but I would like to honour Scrooge´s three ghosts of Christmas, from Charles Darwin´s Christmas Tale: the ghost of the past, the present and the future.
We have a jar in which we collect our blessings. I have coloured papers, on which we write what we are thankful for and then put it in the jar. It also contains invitations to parties, movie tickets or other “memorabilia”. At the end of the year we take them out and my plan is to create a scrapbook, maybe with additional pictures, little stories or what was so special about that memory. Kind of a yearbook, but very family oriented.
To honour the present, I think of a Family Crest. Who we are, our values, what defines us as a family…
A vision board for the next year could become our motivation to plan what we need to do to work towards achieving our dreams, providing constant encouragement to give our best. True to my friend´s motto “Make the rest of your life the BEST of your life”, why not make a bucket list to round it all up?
I have a few ideas for some personal rituals too. Continuing and strengthening my meditation practice is one of them, getting up earlier to write on and finish my book another.
So, what do you think? Is there another reason to start or continue a ritual? What´s yours and how has it served you? What will it be? Please share your (positive and respectful) thoughts and insights below.
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