rituals of peace

by christie shumate mcelwee

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ritual as, “a ritual observance; a ceremonial act or action.”   

Performing daily rituals may help combat the swirling stress and anxiety, especially now as we enter the winter of this pandemic.

What rituals can we incorporate into our lives? I am sharing a few of my own that help lower my anxiety and allow me to uncover a corner of peace from the chaos.

prayer – Some read Bible verses, others offer words to whomever they worship. All are prayer. Me? I have begun to whisper these words each night and then ceremoniously release them to the universe. 

I acknowledge the pain, anger, and anguish of lost celebrations, closed businesses, and canceled plans.

I honor all grief.

I pray for the sick. I mourn the dead. I wish for an end to all this sadness.

I give thanks for simple joys.

journal writing – I have been writing in a daily journal since I retired. Even though I may miss days, returning to my own messy handwriting centers me. 

coffee – Filling my French Press and making my husband’s pour over each morning have evolved into small sacred steps.

exercise – I have my own home yoga practice. I turn on soothing music, roll out my mat, and for an hour relish in moving meditation.

walk – When I walk I often listen to music or podcasts, but lately I’ve hiked through woods in silence. Each birdsong and crackling leaf brings me closer to grace.

candles – I have a candle in my office, and before I begin work, I take a moment to inhale and exhale and then light the wick. Breathing in the scent inspires my soul.

read – Right now I am working my way through Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights, and yes, it is delightful.

twinkle lights – We have twinkle lights set for 4:00 pm on a privacy screen in our backyard. Every time I see them turn on, I whisper a prayer of joy.

poetry – My favorite poets are Mary Oliver, Joy Harjo, and Naomi Shihab Nye, all brilliant and ethereal.

I encourage you to discover your own rituals, and permit the acts of performing them grant you a small sanctuary of tranquility amid the disarray that is our world right now.

…I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”