As we adjust to our new ‘normal,’ time continues to march forward. We’re in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet people all over the world are celebrating religious holidays like Easter and Passover. Steeped in rituals, these traditions can help us feel comforted when under duress.

As one of the 24 character strengths, spirituality is about connecting with meaning and purpose in daily life. It’s accessible to all of us, not only those who practice organized religions. Notice that within the word itself lies the noun, ‘ritual.’ In times of hardship, rituals can be powerful tools for managing stress and emotions. 

The Restorative Power of Ritual, a Harvard Business Review article, describes how we can expand our perspective on the power of rituals. Mike Norton, a Harvard Business School professor who studied the effects of rituals on well-being, says that:

  • In the face of loss, rituals can help us feel less grief,
  • Rituals with families can make us feel closer, and
  • Rituals between partners can reinforce their commitment to each other.

These rituals don’t need to continue forever, only while they’re helpful. 

The Inspiration

This week’s practice is designed to help you discover a comforting ritual of your own. As I was completing this practice myself, I discovered a ritual that’s both meaningful and comforting. Each morning after my cup of coffee, I listen to the Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli duet of the song, “The Prayer.” Many thanks for a friend of mine who shared a video of herself singing this song on Facebook. She was my inspiration.

Why did I choose this? For me, music is like a salve that soothes. It connects me with some of the most meaningful experiences in my life, like singing in a choir at the Berlin Wall many years ago or performing a holiday program in a local nursing home. Music fills me with positive emotions like hope and joy. In my experience, it can be a unifying power. It may seem strange, but at this time, it’s what comforts me. 

Now, I invite you to give it a go. There isn’t a “recipe” you can follow, but the reflection and practice below will help guide you in discovering your own comforting ritual.

The Reflection

Begin your reflection by pondering this thought: 

“When facing difficulty in the past, the rituals that brought me the most comfort were…”

Take your time with this reflection. You might wish to journal or speak with a trusted friend about it. Feel free to let your thoughts flow, free of self-judgement as you fill in the dots.

The Practice

  1. Choose a ritual from your reflection that might bring comfort to you now. It can be religious or not, that choice is yours

  2. As an option to #1, craft your own new ritual as I did. Gather inspiration from anything or anyone you feel drawn to – nature, other people, something you read online, etc.

  3. Complete the ritual you’ve created, and decide if continuing it would be helpful. If you’re not sure, try it and see.

  4. Verbally, internally, or in writing, describe how your ritual provides you with comfort.

If you choose to do so, share your ritual with someone you trust. Perhaps even invite them to create their own.

Whether you describe yourself as religious, spiritual, or something else, I leave you with the lyrics from the award-winning song, “The Prayer,” by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager, Alberto Testa, and Tony Renis. Perhaps a phrase or word will inspire you in some small way.

The Prayer

I pray you’ll be our eyes and watch us where we go
And help us to be wise in times when we don’t know
Let this be our prayer
When we lose our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe

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