Rituals are deeply a part of being alive, and I suspect they are not just limited to humans. An old friend recently shared an article in ScientificAmerican “Why Rituals Work”, it presents some studies that show there are real benefits to rituals, religious or otherwise.
For me, being an un-churched Hippie Christian, I am aware of my personal need for rituals that possess deep meaning. Not that I need some religious ritual to appease an angry God, but I am seeking a point of contact between the spiritual and material worlds. Somewhere beyond Sunday, beyond beads and incense – not that these aren’t valid rituals it’s just that I am seeking simple daily personal practices.
In my past job working with adults with disabilities and now raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) I see ritualistic behavior on the extreme end up close and personal every day. Ritualistic behaviors are one of the key diagnostic features of ASD, and they serve a very real purpose that is not always apparent to the observer.
Mostly, for those with ASD, ritualistic behaviors help provide relief from anxiety by allowing the individual some sense of order in an otherwise overwhelming world. Ritualistic behavior allows the ASD individual some limited control in their life that in turn calms them. They have a place and a practice that they can repeat with predictable results, something that they can excel at that gives them joy in a world that has too many expectations that seem impossible to them.
I am trying to employ simple daily practices in my life such as walking and breathing to serve as ritual along with mindful conscious and unconscious prayer – being in the moment every possible moment. Even writing this blog post is part of my quest for ritual.
Peace, Love & Light!