Growing up, I didn’t really understand the power of rituals.
Take religion, for example. I never considered myself a particularly religious person. I didn’t attend services regularly, although I did study with my Grandfather and had a Bat Mitzvah. As a family, we celebrated Jewish holidays as an opportunity to be together, to feel the love we shared for one another, to remember our heritage and to honor our past.
It wasn’t until my adult life that I realized the through line in my personal values were all rooted from these practices: feeling connected to others, having a loving family, building community, being present, listening, having time for reflection and contemplation, valuing past experiences as they shape the future, and honoring the sacrifices ancestors made before me.
In our family, my husband and I initiated some rituals of our own, like Friday night Shabbat. On Friday evenings, at the end of a stressful work week, we would put it all behind us and light the candles, bless the wine and the bread, and often host friends for dinner. Together we shed the tension of the work week, discuss current issues in the world, and cultivate hope and community through Shabbat dinner together. If we weren’t hosting friends, we would even make it to a Shabbat service.
Although we’ve managed to keep up with services and see friends and family over Zoom, this ritual doesn’t really offer the same relief as it did before COVID-19. There’s been an empty feeling on Friday evenings that we can’t quite replace.
It’s made me more aware that rituals are also acts of community. They bring us together around a common purpose to reaffirm one another and our shared purpose and belonging. They’re also important markers of time — another year around the calendar, a passage into adulthood, a celebration of love. As each day blends into the next while we continue to distance ourselves from one another, creating daily rituals can help us mark the passage of time.
Here are some daily practices I’ve doubled down on, or started during the pandemic:
- Meditation. Meditation is a great daily practice, which helps adjust our perspective and feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. Meditating alongside my husband not only supports my own personal practice, but it also makes me feel more connected to him.
- Unplugged Dinners. After putting our phones away, we each share three highlights of our day and something we are grateful for. We highlight overarching moments of pride or happiness that we’re holding on to that evening. Even on days when everything seemed to go wrong, the practice of finding something to be grateful for keeps us grounded — especially during a global pandemic. After a long day of Zoom and phone calls, it’s extremely helpful to banish screens to an unreachable place.
- Movement. Now that we can’t leave our homes and are staring at screens even more than usual, it’s easy to feel extremely wired. Find 15 minutes for a walk, stretch, or restorative yoga to cultivate some energy and shift your focus away from work.
- Morning and Evening Micro Moments. My morning ritual is the Artist Way Morning Pages, which helps me clear my head going into each day. My favorite ritual is every evening after work when my husband and I share what we are grateful for at that moment. This keeps us connected to ourselves and one another, even when everything around us is swirling.
Now that I have two young daughters, I’m thinking even more about how we can incorporate ritualized practices and the values they cultivate in ways that work for us, not just on Saturdays or Sundays, not just on Christmas, Ramadan, Yom Kippur, or Diwali, but every day. Simple reminders that keep us grounded, connected, and grateful.
It’s critical that we build our practice so that we have an expanded toolkit when we need it. That way, we’re not waiting until a moment of despair or difficulty to practice cultivating gratitude. Instead, we’re prepared for moments that challenge our core values, because we practice with ourselves and our loved ones every day.