Design Your Own Rituals for Mindful Loving

This activity brought to us by Rabbi Callie Schulman. Dedicated to the work of living in alignment with one’s gifts, Callie is Associate Rabbi at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle, WA. For more of Callie’s work and writing visit www.rabbicallie.com.

Ritual helps us navigate the ephemeral and makes concrete that which is theoretical, or passing. We use what I would call Big Ritual to guide us through life’s major milestone events (beginnings, endings, transitions, death, etc.). We use ritual to ground us in the present moment and to make significant that which would otherwise be fleeting. There’s power in those big moments of shift, but perhaps an even more potent power in elevating mundane, day-to-day tasks from routine to Ritual.
 
In this exercise, we’ll uncover power of the Little Rituals that we already do on a daily basis in order to grow in love (of the self and others) so that there’s no place for the destructive power of senseless hatred in our minds or bodies. 

Step 1: 

Do this exercise on your own, or  sit with a partner, and take turns describing the unfolding of an average day in your life. Make particular note of anything that you do on a daily basis (brushing your teeth, making the bed, preparing food, walking the dog), the more mundane the better. 

Step 2:

Then ask the following questions: 

  • With what attitude do you typically approach these tasks? 
  • How do you feel on days when you forget, or otherwise aren’t able to complete these tasks? 
  • If you could get rid of one of these tasks per day, which would it be? 
  • If you could luxuriate in/take your time with one of these tasks, which would it be?  

STEP 3:

Offer help in reflecting upon which of these daily routines could be elevated from “task” to “Little Ritual" for the month of Av. Some thoughts to consider as you choose:

  • Which of these tasks is particularly grounding (helps me get out of my head and into my body)?
  • Which is particularly softening (helps me to relax and ease up on the controls)?
  • Which helps me be more loving to myself (bonus points if mind, body, and soul are more easily aligned within one particular task.) 

STEP 4:

Ritualize it!

Every day, for the month of Av, turn this task into a ritual. Do it with regularity and with the care you would afford a Big Ritual. You might want to consider a sensory change to your space as well (dim or brighten the lights, burn some incense, play some soft music, make music of your own). At the end of Av, we begin preparations for the High Holy Days. Let this month of Little Rituals ground and expand your heart center as you navigate the rocky emotional terrain of Av. Making a Little Ritual will help you increase your love of yourself and others, and better prepare you for the soul-accounting to come with the next New Moon. 

 

More from Rabbi Callie Schulman:

In an effort to make sense of the destruction of The Temple, the ancient rabbis do what the Jewish people have done for centuries: they tell a story. The story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza tells the tale of two men, too full of pride to stop their hatred for each other from resulting in a national disaster. The hatred begins with a petty feud, and escalates from there as one wronged party uses his power to feed lies to the governing Romans, which spurs them to destroy the Temple. The rabbis teach that “senseless hatred” seeded this evil. It was a seed that took root and bloomed into the fires of destruction which ultimately razed the Second Temple to the ground.

When The Temple stood, it was considered to be the meeting place between humans and the Divine. Later kabbalists, mystics who set out to find the Divine in a world without the Temple, came to understand that human beings, not any man-made structure, are the place where heaven and earth kiss. When faced with senseless hatred, it’s our job to remember that our very bodies are vessels for holiness. During Av in particular, we hold in our hearts the reality that our actions can either facilitate Divine Love, or unleash the destructive powers of senseless hatred.

Sarah Waxman