“Rituals set apart a time and place to celebrate our right to profound, cathartic emotion, emotion that is hard to express in the dynamics of daily living. Feeling these emotions allows us to let go and move on.” – Ingrid Bacci, Ph.D., The Art of Effortless Living (2000)
What is a Healing Ritual?
A ritual is typically an act of honor or reverence that is observed or performed on a regular basis. Rituals often define the customs and traditions of cultures, religions, and belief systems. However, a ritual can be something as simple as a routine that one follows on a regular basis. The repetitive, care-free nature of rituals can be very healing as they provide an opportunity for effortlessness, and even enable you to surrender to a higher power or act. The term “ritual” sometimes has a negative connotation. This is unfortunate since most rituals send positive energy, thoughts, and actions into the universe creating the opportunity for healing.
Many rituals are practiced in order to attain spiritual enlightenment and improved health. The following are some examples of healing traditions that lift the spirit:
- Prayer – a simple daily prayer of reverence or gratitude can work wonders. More than 1600 studies have demonstrated that religious practices can greatly enhance health.
- Meditation – meditations are best performed on a regular basis so they become routine.
- Tea Ceremony – tea is a healing drink on its own, but making your cup of tea into a moment of peace and appreciation enhances its benefits. Consider these words from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh: “You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea. Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup. Only in the present, can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy. If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea. You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone.”
- Burning Incense – the basic act of burning incense brings in the healing elements of aromatherapy, and is a tradition that has been practiced for centuries.
Ritual has been a particularly powerful component of Shamanism. Most Shamanic rituals aim to honor and invoke the spirit of the natural world. The following are some examples:
- Full Moon Release – Meditation – a full moon signifies completion and is an ideal time for letting go of things that you no longer need. View a Full Moon Calendar here.
- New Moon Creation – the new moon is said to represent a time of rebirth and growth, and an ideal time to create something new. Find more information on a New Moon Manifestation Ceremony.
- Dancing / Chanting – dancing, singing and chanting are prevalent in many cultures. Shamans often use these tools to move the spirit and universal energies in a positive direction.
- Smudging – Burning sage is often done in a ritual known a smudging. This act is said to drive away negative spirits and energies. Find information on how to conduct a Native American Smudging Ceremony here. Learn how I smudge with palo santo in this Smudging Video.
Healing Ritual Resources:
How to Set up a Healing Space – my personal guide of how I have created a healing space in my home.
Pagan and Spiritual Rituals – http://healing.about.com/od/earthways/tp/rituals.htm – information on About.com regarding a variety of different rituals. *Note: the site is supported by numerous advertisements.
Shamanic Healing Rituals – http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/changing/journey/healing.html – information from the Illinois State Museum
Healing Rituals: Powerful and Empowering – Chapter Link – a chapter from “Living With Grief: Who We Are How We Grieve” edited by Kenneth J. Doka, Joyce D. Davidson.
Sierpina, M. & Sierpina, V. (2004). Spirituality and Health. Chapter 14 in Integrative Medicine (p.301-310). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Sierpina, M. & Sierpina, V. (2004). Chapter 14: Spirituality and Health in Integrative Medicine. McGraw Hill Companies.
Deana E. Paqua, MA, LMT Lecture at The Graduate Institute (April 15-16, 2011). Shamanic Healing.
[Last Updated: 1/12/23]
Michelle Gibeault Traub is a health writer, compassionate coach, and the author of Online Dating for Sensitive Women. Her mission is to help women be their best in body, mind & spirit.
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3 thoughts on “Healing Rituals”
I left my religion many years ago thinking it was greatly flawed. Over time I’ve learned there is spiritual power in prayer and many old traditions. I see them manifest in every religion. I’m not as critical now and am very curious about how it all works. I used to be at a loss because I thought I needed a being to put my faith in. Now i have faith in the rituals themselves and that they work even without the understanding or belief in a certain dogma. Thank you for taking time to put this site together. It’s very helpful.
Thank you Larry! I appreciate your taking the time to comment. I agree that it is less about dogma, and more about one’s willingness to surrender to something outside of themselves. Rituals, prayer, meditation, yoga – all work to draw ourselves away from the mind and more into the trinity of mind/body/spirit.
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