How We Can Change the World Through Rituals
Through ritual, we grow into ourselves and master the mindset and skills necessary to lead and create positive change in the world.
The Power of Ritual
Anything we do with consistency over time has the power to “work us” as much or more than we “work it.” This is why many high-achievers focus on creating “better habits.” I have nothing against habits when they are helpful, but more often than not, our habits are the problem.
Instead, I like to focus on rituals. Like habits, rituals are actions and behaviors performed in response to a trigger. Unlike habits, rituals are intentional. If I’m going to engage in a practice that has the power to affect me on a cellular level, I want to do it intentionally. Don’t you?
The ability of rituals to change us is one of the “superpowers” of rituals that I have observed over several years of personal experimentation and helping others implement sustainable rituals.
In this article, I want to share with you two of the “personal evolutions” that rituals catalyze, and why rituals will be the linchpin to healing our world.
How a Ritual “Works” Us
Through practice, a ritual catalyzes various shifts in our mindsets, beliefs, emotions, and physiology.
At the most basic level, practicing rituals creates space for transformation. The specifics of what happens within the space vary based on the practice — for example, does it involve physical activity, reading, speaking, or feeling. The specific transformations may also vary, but the general areas of transformation are consistent across a range of practices.
The two transformations I will explore here are the evolution of belief and the evolution of understanding.
(1) Evolution of Beliefs
One way rituals create transformation is by catalyzing an evolution of our beliefs. As I engage in my practice, I begin to notice a shift in my beliefs. Sometimes we shift a belief related to the ritual; for example, my fitness practice has shifted my beliefs about the capabilities of the human body. Other times, it’s more general.
This change is not just a shift in intellectual cognition. Rituals work because they affect our physiology and nervous system.
We catalyze an evolution of belief by performing actions that carve new neural pathways. This is the principle that “neurons that fire together, wire together.” Rituals can be auditory, visual or kinesthetic, but the most effective rituals combine at least two of these modalities.
Incantations offer a good example of how this works. An incantation is a word or phrase spoken aloud, repeatedly. In an incantation, we want to use our entire body and our emotions as we recite the statement. It’s this integration of speaking and feeling and moving that carves the new neural pathways. When we practice this ritual over a sustained period of time, we shift our beliefs.
(2) Evolution of Understanding
Another way rituals “work us” is by shifting our understanding of events, circumstances, ourselves, others, and the objects in our world.
The more we look at, read, or examine something, or the more we work with something, the more time we spend with someone (including ourselves), the more we learn about that thing or person. This is an obvious principle that we often overlook when we are acting without intention or awareness.
Example: Viewing a Painting
You can walk past a painting and notice it is there, without truly seeing it. What you see, if anything, is at the surface level. Or, you can pause, stand in front of it for a while, and take it in. If you spend some time looking at it, you will begin to see more than just the picture. If you engage in conversation with someone else about what you see, you might open up to even more dimensions of the work.
Rituals work in the same way. Through an intentional practice, we begin to see more layers of ourselves, others and our world. We extract deeper meaning. Suddenly, we see something that we couldn’t see before.
The evolutions of understanding and belief work together
As we deepen in our understanding, we evolve in our beliefs. Through our new beliefs, we create more space for wisdom to emerge. This continues, each time moving us to deeper levels of understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
This isn’t available to us with habits, because habits are unconscious actions. Habit is walking by the painting and seeing it on the surface. Ritual is when we stop and take it in.
Rituals require us to be intentional, to create space for awareness.
Revolutions Emerge From Evolutions
Think about the great leaders of the most significant movements in history. Each of them started with themselves: Evolving in their beliefs and understanding. Grounding in their truth. Conquering their inner demons.
Only after we effect our own transformation can we turn our attention to the external world.
Global revolutions begin with personal evolution.
This is What Our World Needs
We are living in an increasingly fractured world. For those who are called to the task of offering healing, who feel drawn to lead movements and create global transformation, the first step is an evolution in our individual consciousness.
Change begins within.
The global revolution begins with a personal evolution.
And this evolution starts with rituals.
If you’re feeling called to help lead the healing in our world, I invite you to learn more about The Ritual Revolution.