JOURNAL

The Rich Gift of Ritual

Article by Julie Pointer Adams - Writer & Photographer

The air is warming here in the Northern Hemisphere, which means it’s time to reconnect with our outdoor selves—the people inside us that readily welcome rituals of the open air. These are the repeated practices that renew and restore us on a daily, perhaps even hourly, basis. The word ritual can feel stuffy, or complicated to carry around, but at its beautiful core it can represent moments of simple ceremony that breathe life into our day, reminding us who we are. 

Rituals that come naturally to us are often dictated by where and how we live…our surroundings give shape to the ways and places we find moments of quiet celebration throughout our comings and goings. Your ritual might be a walk through the neighborhood, noticing what moves you and hearing the sounds of the sky; the leaves; the passing cars. Or a dip in the frigid waters of whatever plunging place you have available to you (the ocean, a pool, a pond): perfect surrender, every time. Perhaps you have a garden that calls to your attention in the interim times—a place you spend weeding and pruning, tending with tender care. 

These recurring acts of devotion give form to who you are in ways that are likely imperceptible in the moment, but are made manifest with time. One of the loveliest byproducts of these kinds of habits is the self-forgetfulness that can occur along with them…if only you invite it. Let the distractions fall away, like the urge to share every blessed moment—the need to capture every uncapturable, sublime moment of beauty or peace. Put that insatiable burden down, and just let yourself be. Completely unrestrained, unobserved by the outside world, and wonderfully whole.   

Our favorite ritual for any time of year, naturally, is firing up the hot tub and sinking in for a deep, delicious soak. Every part of the experience is a perfectly coordinated dance that brings us to another state of mind: chopping or gathering the wood, lighting the fire, waiting for the tub to warm. And, finally, stepping into the hot water that seems to wash everything away. Slipping in means a willful escape from everything else that vies for our attention. This entire act is an elemental series of tasks and motions that takes us back to a time before our time, when things moved more slowly and were considered worth the wait. And rituals cannot be rushed. The point of this type of unceremonious ceremony is to forget time altogether and let yourself be bathed in the present moment. These little respites from the whirling, twirling world are what save us from getting too wrapped up in the constant fray. 

And now, spring and summer are the ideal seasons to step outside with your morning coffee or evening glass of wine and simply see what you see. Watch the bees in the trees; consider how the sun perks up your skin. Hang a birdfeeder and fill it with seeds—you’ll be surprised by all your visitors. Get lost in the moment without a to-do list hovering at the front of your vision. We spend so much of our lives flitting from one diversion to the next that we rarely give ourselves permission to simply sit; to notice how easily the natural world moves around us without rush or anxiety. Wouldn’t we do well to take a few cues? 

When we invite our rituals to happen out-of-doors, we’re more readily reminded of our inherent relationship with nature, and all that binds us to the earth. It’s so easy to forget how much we rely on the sun, the trees, the plants, the air, to feed and fuel us in practically every sense.  But we suffer when we let these ties lie latent, and it serves us to keep our touch with creation intact. Having our hands and feet in the dirt—perhaps literally, or maybe figuratively in whatever way you know how—gives us the essential grounding we need to survive our days. And not just to survive, but to thrive in a way where our wellbeing flourishes. Rituals that fill our cup are well-worth the time and space needed to make them just that: daily repeated acts that carry some kind of meaningful weight in our lives. Minor rites of passage that help us move from one moment to the next in a more fluid, fulfilled way. Where will you stop, and look, and listen, and give in to the rich gift of ritual today? 

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