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, negative emotional states become ritualized. Their days don’t begin with a sense of gratitude for life and the people in their lives, nor a means of connecting to and giving thanks for Mother Nature’s gifts.
Instead, they begin with a lot of complaining, self-judgments, judgments of others, watching the (bad) news, reading the paper and reinforcing their inner state of negativity. They see millions of people who are living just like them with poor health and vitality, and in constant fear of this thing or that thing.
Resist change at your peril
Many people tell themselves they don’t have time to take a (ritual) vacation, or live in such ways that they mismanage their money like they mismanage their lives, then grumble because they can’t take any downtime and resent those who can and do.
These people are the most profitable to the medical and drug industry, not to mention the legal system, but at the same time are the most costly to our society at large.
These people are the ones who resist change on a personal, professional, societal and spiritual level. Why? When one lives in a state of stress, his/her consciousness is anchored in a reptilian brain, which kills creativity.
It is never a good idea to do cartwheels when running from a (perceived) lion. Additionally, what commonly becomes ritualized in such people are disruptive, aberrant hormonal rhythms.
Because hormones are the interface between the subtle, high-vibration states of the mind and the lower vibrational states of cells, organs, glands and the body at large, the internal stress signals produce negative emotional states that reflect the survival fear created within body systems regulated by the autonomic nervous system.
So, it becomes a ritual to experience and express fear-based mental-emotional states, which reinforces the accumulation of stagnant energy within both body and mind. Their way of relating becomes something like love with sharp teeth.
Children are managed reflexively and often with anger. Productivity at work goes down, yet expectations of more money “for being there so long” stay up, so the fear of not getting the money needed to cover the cost of perpetual compensation for unproductive living can drive one into a crisis.
Sometimes it’s a health crisis. It can be anxiety and depressive disorders or a midlife crisis (this can occur as early in one’s life as age 18 today).
The Eternal Child archetype
Now, we have a growing population of who are often professionally referred to as “Eternal Children,” which is the Eternal Child archetype.
Such eternal children avoid responsibility for themselves, often live on governmental financial support and handouts from friends and family members. They live the life that Joseph Campbell calls a neurotic, which he defines as “someone who acts irresponsibly when they should be acting responsibly.”
We are in a very dangerous time in the evolution of humanity because we’ve gotten so trapped in the world of ideas and the social mind that we’ve become lovers of science, gadgets, phones, games and quick fixes.
Too many people are unaware of the health and needs of Mother Earth, where our food is coming from, how it is being raised and what we are doing to the soil, insects, sea life, birds and the rest of the animal kingdom that support us.
We are unaware that drugs are most often a means of avoiding our responsibility to feed and care for ourselves. We let computers do the thinking that we should be doing for ourselves. Often, this leads to believing so-called authority figures, be they doctors, lawyers, politicians, professors or bankers.
Because the media is skillfully used to program people — and make them profitable — if a person has no authentic ritual, they have no inner reference to ground themselves, and think from a place of knowing the simple and essential.
An example here is people suffering from illnesses and disease due to poor diets and lifestyle practices. Most often, they run to doctors and are told they need dangerous drugs or surgeries before trying natural approaches that give the body-mind what it needs to restore their health and vitality.
Too many people fall for it hook, line and sinker all the time.
I’m glad you are having fun and laughing a lot. Also, I hope your joy is connected to enough conscious awareness that you use it to be a positive example for others, and are capable of being a contributing “adult” in the world when it needs us to ritualize effectively so we have the energy, heart and willingness to make changes where and when they are needed for our collective survival and that of our planet.
For those of you wanting to learn how to care for yourselves and develop healthy rituals that facilitate a balanced means of living between the rational and irrational aspects of ourselves, my CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach Level 1 course is an ideal place to start.
This course is available online, so you can access it anytime, anywhere from the worldwide web. Those wanting the support of a skilled instructor/mentor can choose the online option, or you can attend live training.
Love and chi,
For over thirty-two years, Paul's unique, holistic approach to treatment and education has changed the lives of countless people worldwide, many of his clients, his students and their clients. By treating the body-mind as a whole system and finding the root cause of a problem, Paul has been successful where traditional approaches have consistently failed.
Paul is the founder of the C.H.E.K (Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology) Institute, based in California, USA and the Chek 4-Quadrant Coaching Mastery and P~P~S Success Mastery Coaching Programs.