Gill Stannard

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ritual and wellbeing

For me what differentiates a ritual from a habit or routine is consciousness and intent. Something as simple as having a bath can be habitual, but bathing may be a ritual when we light candles, add essential oils, turn the phone off and cleanse away the day.

Preparation is the key to a ritual. Sometimes we might meditate first, or go for a walk in a garden to find elements to add to an ‘altar’. During this process we are getting our mind, body and spirit ready, grounding ourselves and empowering the ritual.

Rituals may be markers to the seasons, beginnings, transitions and endings. If you practice no religion, how do you welcome a child into the world, bless a relationship or farewell a person or pet in our life? These big events have some cultural markers, but personal ones also help. A transition may be moving into a new house – washing the walls, ceilings and floors and smudging/smoking the interior, it may be planting something in a garden or placing a pot of jade plant at the front and back doors.

An ending may not always be of an unborn child or living creature, but of a job, career or phase in our life. Any endings and letting go can be enhanced by a ritual that has meaning for you, such as – writing your thoughts and burning them, releasing balloons or burying an egg with your farewell sentiments.

Making a temporary shrine or altar with photos or meaningful items, lighting a candle at it each day etc – gives us a physical place to concentrate our thoughts.

Healthwise – the grounding and focus that comes from a ritual – whether it be celebrating a solstice or reading the paper with a cuppa on the weekend often signals to the brain that we are safe and relaxed. Being in a tranquil state encourages a healthy immune response. Unresolved grief may do the opposite.

Different cultures have set blueprints for rituals – for example a pagan may cast a circle and call in the elements to begin a ceremony. But a self made ritual need not follow any structure other than what has meaning for you. For those who heard the show today – you probably won’t forget the story of the “lucky jocks”.

A ritual marks a time to slow down and be conscious of what our psyche desires. They can be shared, or private. Have fun making or becoming aware of your own rituals in everyday life.

a summer solstice altar copyright Gill Stannard (please do not reproduce without permission - citynaturaltherapies at

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