On ritual

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of incorporating ritual into our daily lives, both within the context of cairn building and everyday activities. Hence I was interested in reading about research done on rituals by Harvard academics Francesca Gino and Michael Norton, who concluded that rituals do indeed help people perform better and reduce their stress. “You don’t have to believe in rituals for them to work,” Norton told the FT, adding: “The more you do rituals the more they work.”

For a long time I have wanted to perform more rituals without knowing how to choose or create a rituals which are meaningful for me. Then it occurred to me recently that I should create new rituals when the gestures involved arise spontaneously. For example, I have started bowing when I enter or leave my office, with the idea of making the space more sacred. This was inspired by a habit from my earlier practice of martial arts, where one bows upon entering and leaving the dojo.

The other day, while visiting Britain, I saw the sea up close for the first time in a long while. I was spontaneously moved to kneel down and perform a deep bow, pressing my forehead and palms against the grass. It seemed like the appropriate thing to express my reverence. I repeated the gesture during my last visit to the shore at the end of the trip. It marked a suitable closing to the visit and helped me leave in a good frame of mind without the usual regret at going away.

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