Nature & Health, June - July 2012

It's 8 a.m. Monday morning, and my favourite cafe is heaving with activity. In one corner, Michelle is attempting to stop her three year old son from emptying sugar sachets onto the table, while Karen is sitting by the window blowing on her steaming cup of peppermint tea. At the counter, Leigh Roy, greets me with a hug and adds my regular order - a latte - to the barista's list. Being a writer means spending a lot of time alone, so this human interaction is vital. Without it, it's easy to feel isolated. Even if I don't chat to anyone, just seeing familiar faces is a deeply satisfying and reassuring. 

Rituals like my morning cafe stop connect us to what is truly important in life. Consider births, deaths and marriages for starters, followed by the whole raft of cultural, family and community traditions - all are founded on rituals, and all create context and meaning. While the word 'ritual' smacks of religion, in fact rituals extend far beyond any one spiritual approach. Stephanie Doric, author, interfaith minister and spiritual activist, explains: "It helps to think of rituals as vessels or containers - their power and efficacy are determined by what we pour into them in the way of sincerity, integrity and freshness."

I struggle with practices that have a strong religious flavour - there's nothing wrong with them, they are just not my thing - yet I do need to feel connected to something greater, deeper, higher or within on a daily basis. This has led me to seek out practices that are meaningful to me, which sometimes involves just making them up as I go along. Dowrick puts it most succinctly: "Creating rather than following ritual is powerful, and can equally affirm how utterly life matters."

What rituals do you engage in you life? In addition to my cafe catch up, my list includes regularly smudging my home with sage to clear any negative energy, lighting candles, filling my home with flowers, putting my feet in the ocean, blessing the food I cook, waking early to catching the sunrise, and greeting - and thanking - my car when I turn it on every morning. No matter what it is, rituals give me a deep sense of peace, a way of refilling my cup so there's always more to give.