Ritual

Usually I do fewer blogs over the summer because people are in more ‘vacation’ mode.  This June I didn’t blog because I truly couldn’t find anything substantive or inspirational to say.

I’ve been reading a lot.  Mostly novels about WW1 and WW2. Trying to make sense of what the world went through then, and what we are going through now.  Naturally, I found a bunch of similarities.

Here are just a couple:

  • In a way, we have had a small taste of rationing…granted mostly about toilet paper, and hand sanitizer (which I still can’t find).
  • Curfews and stay at home rules create the same kind of isolation and restrictions as the blackouts did during WWII.
  • Inability to gather together, restrictions, rules – those are all part of war, aren’t they? As Americans, we get really grumpy when we are restricted.

It all comes down to a loss of control and autonomy.

The pandemic/Corona Virus/Covid 19 thing is scary.  It’s beyond our ability to really grasp. The numbers continue to rise, and many people want to just believe it isn’t there. After the Spanish Influenza of 1918 finally left in 1920, people and schools just pretended it never happened.  They did not have the research and science we have now to share with the world how to protect against it, so they just turned a blind eye to it.  Frankly, similar to the people today not keeping social distance, or wearing masks as states ‘open up’.

This health crisis we are in is very much a ‘War’ – However, instead of fighting another country this time, the enemy is a virus.  As such, we don’t really know how to manage or cope with it.  The techniques we would use in any other circumstance don’t even come to mind. New information comes to us in many forms ( some good and some bad) and it’s hard to know whom to trust and follow in these challenging times.

Oh, but wait, there are a couple of other BIG things happening that also have us all concerned.  We are in the midst of a Presidential election year that is likely, in my opinion, to be the most important one in our existence as a country. It seems that we are finally, really getting serious about recognizing the critical importance of treating all humans as worthy of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’, as promised in the Declaration of Independence.

I’m not aiming to get into specific conversations about any of these circumstances.  I’m just wanting to point out that they are all very present for all of us right now.

What I do want to do, and what I often aim to do with my blog, is offer some insight on ways to make the road through it all a bit easier.

One of the components missing from the losses we are now suffering and many of the great losses from our history is, Ritual.

Humans are pattern makers, and ritual is a reflection of that.  To my thinking, ritual serves a multitude of purposes.  It signals us as to when something is starting – such as, the lights being dimmed in the theater.  It prepares us for when something is over – closing prayer or benediction. For centuries humans have thrived on customs surrounding birth, coming-of-age, marriage, and finally, death. Rituals give us the opportunity to step away from the world for a bit and honor what we are feeling.  We use ritual to honor both sad and happy events.  We use it for closure and acceptance of what we can’t change and must endure. Within the container of ritual we process our feeling and fears.  We make it easier for us to continue on.

Here’s an example of a place where ritual is sadly missing.  The ironic sounding place named: Hart Island is near the Bronx in New York and it is basically a mass burial ground. Burials on Hart Island include individuals who were not claimed by their families or did not have private funerals; the homeless and the indigent; and mass burials of disease victims. So many  Covid 19 victims. We saw the stacking of the caskets on TV, but we didn’t see any memorial service to go with it.

Even if you haven’t lost a friend or family member to Covid 19 you still may have your own personal things to mourn, both large and small.

Ritual is part of what is missing right now!  We don’t really have a protocol set in place for these important, life-changing circumstances.  We can’t sit with our dying grandparent.  We can’t gather and hold hands.  We can’t visit and hold the new baby in the family.  It feels like the emotional side of this is just getting whisked away in the expediency of staying safe.

What we have been doing is the white knuckle version, just trying to get through.  We have no idea how much longer this will continue so, let’s change that!  Let’s get creative!

Rituals don’t have to be somber or serious, they don’t have to be any way at all.  What they need to do is involve something that has meaning to you.  Something that allows you to acknowledge and start to heal those losses. You may end up with a myriad of them.  You may also find you have been practicing some rites without giving them the title of ritual. Acknowledging that the action is a ritual helps.

My favorites often have fire involved.  I like writing something I would like to change or banish on paper and then safely burning the paper.  My cat, Miss Teak, has a bizarre observance of looking intently at a photograph of her predecessor, Ponzu.  It’s definitely a ritual.  You’ll find one or more routines that fit you, just look around a bit, maybe even do some research and see what calls to you.

Rituals can help us figure out what to do with the emotion and the sentiment around all of these challenges we have no way to control.  Ritual is written deep in our history as humans.  Please find ways to use it now when it is so needed!

Shell Tain, the Untangler

2 thoughts on “Ritual

  1. Gina Cochran

    Thank you so much for this post. I value all your posts but this one was particularly something I needed.
    Gina Cochran

    Reply

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