Do not feel lonely. The entire universe is inside you. ⁓ Rumi
In times when the world feels fragmented and distracted, and fears of scarcity abound, and authentic connection is short-circuited by social media with its ratings and social comparison, it’s no wonder we crave some kind of reprieve. A safe space. Some sense of meaning. Inner peace.
A young woman I met recently found herself out of sorts and dislocated, not sure how to find her footing in life after a series of disappointments and is faced with the uncertainty of her future. I could write this description about any number of people with whom I cross paths. I could write this lament about myself. If there is any certainty in life, it’s that life is always in flux, ever changing.
I wondered aloud with her about what has brought contentment to her life in the past. It turned out that it was going to church. Church was something she no longer had time for, and truth be told, it felt scary now that she was in a new city and had to make the effort to make new friends. Faith was important to her, she said. Connection to God was affirming.
It’s a time of year where such longing can cut deep. The emptiness she was feeling appeared to be an absence of something sacred. Some solace. A ritual. Like advent. Or lighting candles. Singing. Prayer. Community.
We are wired to seek comfort, to have a sense of connection to each other as well as to something greater than ourselves. So we create ritual. Sacred rituals meet the essential human needs for safety, love, and belonging. Of course, rituals can serve to harm as much as heal. Yet, when the intention is a caring one, rituals can assuage dark nights of the soul, mark happy occasions, and create lasting bonds.
The word ritual is derived from the latin word ritualis and ritus, meaning rite. A ritual is “an established form for a ceremony” according to one definition and is a feature of all human societies. But ritual can be more than ceremony. It can be a constant reminder. It serves as an acknowledgement of something valued or treasured. The synonyms include: custom, fashion, habit, pattern, practice, second nature, and trick. I like the notion of creating ritual as a kind of cultivation, as in planting seeds and reaping a harvest.
And I quite like the paradox in the word “trick”, meaning the presence of a characteristic or trait, and also the ability to outwit, deceive, or mystify.
In a way, this young woman I met needed to find renewal and a felt sense of connection. Short of getting herself to a church service which she didn’t foresee until a holiday trip to visit family, I invited her to think about creating a short and sweet ritual in her own space. In this way she can both build a habit while tricking herself into taking in the good. The intention is to outwit her wily mind, which is easily thwarted by a negativity bias, overthinking, and inner gremlins. In essence she can cultivate meaning, connection and presence within herself by outwitting her fears.
10 ways to create a ritual nook at home
It’s time to get creative. Keep it simple. Allow your sacred space to grow over time. Get to know it as it gets to know you.
- Find a comfy quiet spot in your home or your room where there is enough space to stand or sit or meditate.
- Stack some pillows, find a shawl, or have a comfy chair to sit in.
- Use a windowsill, table or shelf as an altar.
- Collect a few meaningful objects that evoke serenity and calm. For example, a candle, feathers, crystals, rocks or shells from a favorite vacation or nature spot, or book of poems or spiritual readings.
- Find a small vase for a fresh flower.
- Add a spiritual relic such as prayer beads, small statues, or an oracle or affirmation card.
- Consider having a photo of yourself as a very small child, for example one that brings a smile to your face, and conjures up warm feelings of care, tenderness, and protection. Or perhaps you may prefer a photo of a loved one or mentor that brings to mind courage, grit, peace, or resilience.
- Use a small portable speaker to play a song from a comforting playlist or have ear buds handy to listen to soothing music.
- Have a journal or note pad handy to write down thoughts and feelings.
- Refresh with a bottle of water.
You may even want to grab one of those “Do Not Disturb” door signs the next time you travel or create one for the door, if there is one. Tiny details matter.
My young friend liked this idea. Even if her day is so busy and there is no time to sit for 20 minutes, simply standing for a few moments and taking a nourishing deep breath or two in this sacred space can be inspiring. She can wave, motion a high five, blow a kiss, or wink at the altar, as if the very presence of it is just like seeing a dear friend. She can carry a rock in her pocket. These gestures can trigger the feel good hormones in the brain and shift the mindset toward a pleasant and optimistic orientation.
Think about this for yourself. Are you ever thrown off kilter by life or by a negative headspin? Can you trust your wise self to be there for you every step of the way? The trick just may be in creating a daily ritual. Just for yourself. In a nook in your home. Your safe place.