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It's the little things ...or the importance of rituals

I went to a bridal shower this past weekend, and in a conversation with an 11-year-old soon-to-be niece of the bride I found myself extolling the virtues of this practice: important women in the bride's life gathering to meet and bestow the gifts of setting up a household -- dishes, pots and pans, knives and utensils, small appliances, etc. But I wanted to say that it isn't about the stuff. It's the families coming together, it's the childhood friends, the work friends, the neighbors...all of us there to acknowledge the change that's coming, from single to married, and all that goes with that. It's the ritual that recognizes and facilitates a really significant transition.

We all have our rituals -- big and small. Saying prayers before going to sleep. Putting on lipstick before entering a room. Morning or evening meditation. Washing hands before eating. Tapping the loose dirt from your cleats. Touching a mezuzah. Crossing yourself. Setting up an altar. Taking a deep breath in and exhaling fully. Reciting affirmations aloud.

Regardless of the purpose and however it began, a ritual usually helps us prepare for something. (Sometimes, they help us close an event, too.) These acts set an expectation, put us in a mindset, bring our attention into sharper focus. Taken too far, a ritual can become a hindrance or, worse, an obsession, but for most of us and for most of the time, setting an expectation can put us in a good frame of mind for what is coming.

Look at your own rituals and how they serve you. Approaching your rituals with mindful intention can strengthen their meaning and focus. Bring the advantages of a new ritual into an area you wish to improve. And whether you are a guest at someone else's or focusing on your own, I urge you to honor the power inherent in the simple act of a ritual.

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