Creating and Altering Rituals

Creating and Altering Rituals

How to Make New Rituals with Others During Social Distancing

Sheltering in place could also inspire people to create alternative events to mark special occasions, such as a Zoom dance party to celebrate a graduation, which may even end up being more memorable than what was originally planned. Or special event such as online Coffeehouse for Turbulence Times, where people can “stop by” and meet others for an hour of music, laughter, and camaraderie. You can just bring yourself or bring something to share (a poem, song, humor, story, recipe, or whatever you’d like to share).

Jan Stanley, who works as a celebrant—someone who designs rituals for weddings and funerals—says that it’s not too hard to create rituals online if you keep certain things in mind. She suggests that you:

  • Ask people to bring to their online gathering something symbolic to share, like a candle to light, a memory or story, a picture, or a poem. Getting people to contribute in that way can help create a sense of oneness.
  • Mark the moment by having someone provide an opening statement that designates the beginning of any ritual and explains the purpose of being there. That sets the tone and makes people realize that this is a special moment in time and not just another online meeting.
  • Create emotional highs, perhaps using music, dancing, poetry, moments of silence, or something else with high emotional resonance to augment the experience.
  • Always have a distinct ending that includes an emotional peak, because people tend to remember an event better that way.

Though an online ritual may lack some of the power of an in-person ritual, says Stanley, it still has value. Even doing rituals alone can be useful, she adds, if it’s meaningful.

But beyond the cleverness required by coming up with novel rituals it is often useful to establish a daily routine or ritual that is associated with something that does not change. Example include practicing meditation or prayer first thing in the morning, using sunset or bedtime as a signal for comforting contemplation.

A final thought on ritual. Because of limited resources, it is impossible for everyone to satisfy their desires for material goods. What people can do is decide whether to act on a desire or not. Ritual also teaches people to channel, moderate, and in some cases transform their desires so they can satisfy them in appropriate ways. When it is right to do so one satisfies them, and when that is not possible one moderates them. This allows both the partial satisfaction of desires and the maintenance of social harmony. All of this is made possible by the ritual principles of the “Way”, when the alternative is the chaos of the state of nature.



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Ivan Zy LimDr Ivan Zy Lim is a Clinical Psychologist with over 15 years of extensive practice experience in treating mental health issues. He is passionate about helping adults and adolescents with psychological and emotional difficulties. Prior to this profession, Dr Lim had over 20 years of experience in the corporate world. He has extensive experience in multi-cultural consulting, training and team facilitation; and has delivered workshops in 13 countries around Asia pacific. Dr Lim is a strong believer in living a balanced and healthy life. His other passions include Chinese martial art, Qigong, Chinese philosophy, spirituality and Lion & Dragon dance. His passion for Chinese Martial Art comes from the unique philosophy within the system that he believe is transferable into a counselling and life philosophy context. His Chinese Martial Art path was and still is a significant part of his physical, philosophical, emotional, psychological and spiritual being. Dr Lim have integrates Chinese martial art philosophy (Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism ) and Western talk therapy, a fusion of Eastern ideas with Western process. It provides an approach to learning and living well; the practical, the psychological and the spiritual, which he believe more adequately explain Asian behaviour.

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