I have been a lover and teacher of ritual for more than three decades. It has helped me through a difficult divorce, the sudden loss of my sister to brain cancer at 25, and a multitude of career changes.
For centuries ritual has not only helped us make sense of the world and where we fit into it but has expanded our awareness and connected us to the great mystery of life. The very word “ritual,” derived from an Indo-European root, means “to fit together.” Every ritual conveys an act in which we literally join the metaphysical with the physical. It is a means of calling spirit into our material lives.
We all long to return to a time when a wedding truly celebrated a rite of passage, when the naming of a child signified a sacred event (not simply the act of picking out a name from a baby book), and when the lighting of candles signified a real desire to illuminate—to bring virtue, healing, and deeper meaning into our homes. We hunger for both community and communion, the feelings found in the conscious practice of rituals. I have made it my mission to help bring back their ancient power, translated for our modern times.
What is the source of rituals’ power, and how can they enhance your life?
Ritual is one of the greatest spiritual technologies of the 21st century
This series of consciously created symbolic acts gives you tools to shift your mindset, break through hidden barriers, and open yourself to an expanded vision for your life. Rituals can be as simple as transforming your morning cup of tea into a ceremony of connection or placing a coin in a “success jar” to acknowledge your accomplishments. Or they can be as complex as organizing a wedding or memorial for hundreds of people.
Rituals anchor us and give us a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves
They also add substance and meaning to our lives—enhancing daily routines, enriching milestones, and guiding us through life’s inevitable transitions. Rituals both support and honor the changes we experience and increase our capacity to overcome adversity, strengthen our relationships, and experience joy and abundance.
Brain research confirms that rituals have great power and influence over our minds
If we perform a ritual of release (letting go of a symbol that holds negative energy or writing down limiting beliefs and then ripping up the paper), a part of our brain reads it as if it were true. When you participate in a ritual, in essence you are telling your brain you’ve already completed whatever you’ve enacted symbolically—the victory has already been won!
Here are four of my favorite rituals that can bring you energy and meaning in the new year:
Review the year. Toward the end of each December, I like to examine each part of the preceding year to acknowledge my accomplishments, see where I parted from my mission, evaluate what worked and what didn’t, and think about what needs to be changed. What new opportunities came to light? What did you learn? What challenged you and helped you emerge stronger? Write down your list of the year’s top 10 highlights.
Out with the old. As the year comes to an end, I find myself wanting to stay home and clear out the old things that clutter up my life. When I lived in Italy, I remember being amazed that the Italians threw things out the window on New Year’s Eve. I don’t suggest you go that far, but I was taught by my mother that if you get something new, you should give something away. I try to make that a continual ritual.
Welcome good luck and prosperity. For good luck in the coming year, people in some cultures throw money into the house the first time they enter after the new year has begun. If you’ll be staying home on New Year’s Eve, go outside your front door a minute after midnight and throw coins through the entryway. Bless them with all the qualities you want to bring in—joy, clarity, success, and good health. Leave them there for 48 hours and then give them away to charity. (As a bonus, wear new red underwear while you do; it helps bring in love, too!)
Focus on the first 12 days. One of the most powerful teachings I ever learned from my first spiritual teacher, the Bulgarian master Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov, was that the first 12 days of the year represent the whole year. (January 1 stands for the month of January, January 2 for February, and so on.) By practicing lovingkindness, openness, and generosity while giving thoughtful attention to the significance of each of these 12 days, you will consecrate the entire coming year.