Throughout antiquity, our ancestors had rituals. These rituals are poorly understood by most people — even educated people today — but they were essential for the survival of people and nature. Either we are supportive or destructive of nature.
This article is a response to a question from a viewer on my YouTube channel. I hope you enjoy reading my response to this question, and feel inspired to create and maintain your own healthy rituals.
John Horvath: I find that the more ritualistic/disciplined someone is, the more seriously they take life. And, this seriousness paradoxically seems to counteract their attempts at being healthy and vital!
The reason I say this is because I know so many people in my life who are so disciplined, yet I am smiling, laughing and giggling 100 times more than I ever see them!
I don’t think even the best diet and lifestyle regimen in the world could be more powerful than a true lover of life. Too much knowledge can take us out of our hearts and into our heads. What do you think of this, Paul?
Two kinds of rituals
I appreciate your perspective here. Sounds like you’ve been reading OSHO!
There are some deeper aspects to this issue, which I’ll touch on briefly. First of all, there are two kinds of rituals, and you are talking about one of them.
I’ll address both of them here.
1. Positive/Healthy ritual: This is the kind of ritual I describe in all of my videos here and elsewhere unless I specifically address the negative aspects of ritual.
When speaking of ritual, I’m talking specifically about ritualizing the key elements outlined in my 4 Doctors model for wholesome living.
Such rituals include:
A. Starting your day with a practice of positive affirmation for your day. This means setting your inner-state such that you consciously choose to create and maintain a state of consciousness and heart-centered means of relating to yourself, your life, relationships and experiences inherent to your daily life.
For me, this ritual begins by giving prayers of gratitude for all that I am, all that supports me and affirming the beauty of my life.
B. Having a ritual means engaging your bodily needs, which are inherently woven into your emotional and mental needs. The body always mirrors the mind back to us, and the mind influences the body. The mind and body are like two sides of a coin… where one goes, the other does too.
This expression of ritual can include things like starting your day with a cold shower to naturally invigorate the body-mind, or drinking adequate amounts of quality water or whatever you like, be it tea or fresh juice.
Ritual practices for feeding your body based on its authentic needs are important too. Ritual engagement of practices for growing conscious awareness may include tai chi, qi gong, meditation and meditative art.
Ritual engagement of exercise is also very important. Without conscious awareness of these rituals and honest engagement, they fall by the wayside and are replaced with coping strategies, which often lead to the kinds of issues I’ll describe later.
Having wind down rituals are also very helpful, particularly for people who are busy and need to stay productive enough to accomplish their dream objectives, keep bills paid and have enough order in their lives so they can ritualize unbound play or have time to “do nothing.” This may be anything that allows them to enjoy mindlessness.
Next, having a ritual for sleep preparation and sleeping is very important. Those who don’t usually have rituals for taking pills and seeing doctors to deal with all of the challenges produced by not having healthy rituals.
2. Unproductive rituals: What you are describing aren’t really rituals, but “coping mechanisms.” There is a big difference between the two.
Rituals emerge from our past when we needed ones that supported and sustained life, such as being aware of the seasons and doing the necessary tasks to engage each season.
This includes things like planting, hunting and gathering, or working the crops (depending on what era one is referring to) that spawned rituals for eating and even expressing creativity, which often included dance and storytelling. Most cultures had rituals tied to moon cycles because of their influence on water, crops and human beings.
In fact, the female menstrual cycle is a built-in ritual, and one that is often not honored or even understood by a big percentage of women today. Such a loss of understanding and ritual comes at a great cost to one’s body-mind health.
When people don’t ground themselves in the positive rituals I’ve described here, they lose their connection to the earth, and to themselves, so life becomes a challenge that people try to “survive.”
Therefore, what gets ritualized are things like eating the same foods over and over, drinking stimulants and taking drugs to compensate for a lack of connection to, and respect for, their bodies, their lives and nature, all the while chasing the ever elusive “American dream.”
Without rituals for moving one’s body, the body becomes congested and dirty. What follows is a progressive decrease in vitality and an increase in symptoms, which results in the now great American ritual of using drugs to cover up the pains of detachment from the reality of being in a body and part of a larger universe (the earth and solar system).
You will see that in such people,