Photo credit: Gerhard Lipold
Ritual is necessary for us to know anything.
-- Ken Kesey
Imagine waking up every morning feeling motivated, eager to begin your day. You are filled with energy and determination. You know what you want to achieve and aren’t limited by the voices of fear and doubt. You spend your day interacting with people who inspire or support you. You make successful decisions based on what feels right for you and there is never any second-guessing or self-doubt. You have plenty of time because you know how to manage your time. At the end of each day you retire with satisfaction because you know you lived your day with purpose.
This sounds too good to be true, but it is not an impossible dream. It is a very possible dream once you learn how to listen to, trust and follow your intuition. And the simplest and most effective way to uncover, trust and harness your intuition is through the scientifically proven, life-changing power of ritual.
What Is Ritual?
Rituals are important.
-- John Lennon
The clearest way to understand what a ritual is to do one right now. Grab your smartphone and switch the camera function on, but don’t film. If you haven’t got a phone handy, find a small mirror. Now look into the camera or mirror and smile broadly at yourself. As you smile, think of something that makes you feel happy and continue to imagine how that happiness feels, or imagine you've been given a beautiful bunch of flowers or a gorgeous box of chocolates, or a gift that means a lot to you.
Notice how an action as simple as smiling can be energizing. Notice how it lights up your face.
That's really what a ritual is in its simplest form. It is an action performed with intention and feeling that boosts your motivation, understanding and wellbeing.
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Our daily actions shape our lives. Repeat an action long enough and it becomes a habit, but habits lack meaning. To ensure meaningful change, our actions need to be filled with personal feeling and meaning. They need to be ritualized.
When I asked you to think of something personal in the exercise above, you didn't know it at the time but you transformed the everyday action of smiling for the camera into a ritual. Creating personal ritual in this way brings the presence of the sacred into your daily life and personal ritual that has meaning for you is a potent tool for both spiritual and personal growth.
Why Rituals Have Power
You are what you repeatedly do.
Before I introduce you to the science of ritual, I want to first explain the power of ritual from a spiritual or quantum perspective. I’ll do that by asking you a few questions:
* Have you ever met someone who is all talk and no action?
* Has it ever driven you nuts when someone has said they will call, text or email, or complete a project or task by a certain date and they don’t?
* Does it confuse you when someone makes promises to you faithfully but doesn’t deliver?
If these disappointing scenarios keep happening to you, then sooner or later you need to learn the profound wisdom of this life hack: trust a person’s actions not their words. Or to put this another way, judge a person by what they do and not what they say.
What’s all this got to do with rituals you may wonder?
If you are a student of personal transformation (and I’m guessing you are, because you are reading this), you will be very familiar with the positive-thinking movement. You have most likely read the million-selling, positive-thinking bible: The Secret. This mind-opening book inspired millions of people to visualize their dreams and think positive all the time. It explained that thoughts are energy.
We need to be very careful what thoughts or energy we send out to the universe because negative thoughts create blockages in the quantum energy field of infinite potential that interconnects all living things. Positive thinking, on the other hand, attracts positive things and people into your life.
While positive thinking appeals – there are instances when the positive energy of willpower can move mountains – how many times have you tried positive thinking and it’s simply not worked? How many times have you done your affirmations and visualized success and it simply hasn’t happened?
I’m intuitively guessing that positive thinking hasn’t been the holy grail of personal transformation you hoped it would be. I’m guessing, too, that you blamed yourself and thought that you weren’t thinking positively enough or meditating, visualizing or repeating your affirmations correctly. You think you were doing something wrong!
There was nothing wrong with your thinking and you weren’t doing anything wrong. It’s impossible always to be positive. Negative thoughts and confusions will inevitably creep in because negative thinking is entirely normal and, in some cases, a helpful reality check. I’m also going to say something that may shock you as it has become so ingrained in the New Age movement, and that is: positive thinking doesn’t work!
The Never-ending Story
Rituals are the formulas by which harmony is restored.
-- Terry Tempest Williams
The reason positive thinking doesn’t work is that positive thinking is only half the story. The other half of the story is positive doing and that is where rituals play their part in the drama of our lives.
We’ve all been so intoxicated by the thoughts-creating-our-reality mantra we’ve forgotten something very obvious: thoughts, words, meditations, affirmations, visualizations, prayers and dreams mean absolutely nothing if you don’t take action. Your daily actions need to be as life-affirming as your thoughts.
Your actions need to attract what you want into your life in the same way you hope positive thinking will. To give an example, if you want to lose weight, there’s no point just visualizing your weight loss. To lose weight you need to move beyond the thinking stage and take action by making healthy food choices and exercising more.
With daily rituals you combine the potential power of positive thinking with the real power of positive action. You become someone who does what they say or lives what they believe or dream about.
From Thoughts to Action
The universe has been waiting for you to move from the realm of thoughts, intentions, imagination, hopes, prayers, dreams, affirmations, mantras and words to the world of action. The universe has been waiting for you to do even if what you do is a very small action. It is what you do that counts. The universe responds to your actions.
Rituals are positive actions, things you do, and as far as the universe is concerned, when you combine the power of positive thought with the power of positive action you are viable, someone truly worth noticing and investing in.
Integrating ritual into your life is signaling to the universe that you mean business. You are now a woman or a man who keeps their word and does what they think, feel or say. You are someone the universe is finally able to believe in, trust and work with.
In short, from a spiritual perspective, ritual is the life-affirming power of ‘I do’ rather than the illusion of ‘I think’. Contrary to what you may have been led to believe, and to risk repeating myself, you are what you do, not what you think. The universe is only interested in supporting people whose actions match their intentions.
The Science Of Ritual
Rituals, anthropologists will tell us, are about transformation.
-- Abraham Verghese
In addition to the spiritual perspective, there’s a whole lot of hardcore science to back up the life-changing power of ritual. For starters, scientists from the University of California have shown that your brain is led more by your actions than your thoughts. This suggests that your daily routines should be the place to begin rather than your thoughts, because if your daily actions are positive your thoughts will follow.
Change, according to science, starts with what you do, the actions you take, rather than what you think! This is demonstrated by the glow many of us feel after a bout of exercise. You go for a brisk walk or jog or play sports and the physical activity, regardless of what you are thinking about when you exercise, will make you feel better both physically and emotionally. Your actions – getting some exercise – boost your mood.
Performing Rituals with Intent
Performing rituals with the intention of producing a desired result has also been extensively researched and the conclusions drawn suggest that within reason (knocking on wood won’t stop it raining) rituals really do work. They can calm the brain and improve performance. For example, one study showed that personal pre-performance rituals decreased anxiety. Other studies show that personal rituals during times of grief and loss can help you feel better.
In addition, research strongly indicates that it is not so much the actual ritual you perform that matters. Simply having rituals in your life is key and also key is that those rituals are personal to you in some way.
One explanation for why personal rituals are so beneficial is that they are actions that focus your intention on the present moment and therefore encourage you to value the moment or experience more. This links in with the benefits of the mindfulness movement you may have heard a lot about.
Most interesting of all, though – as it stresses once again the power of action over the power of thought – is that research has also shown that firm belief in the power of the ritual you perform is helpful but not even necessary. So, if you aren’t convinced about rituals changing your life for the better, it doesn’t matter, they can still work.
What matters is that you understand their meaning and, most important of all, that you actually do them. If this book teaches you anything it will be that you are what you do, not what you think.
©2019 by Theresa Cheung. All Rights Reserved.
Excerpted with permission. Publisher: Watkins,
an imprint of Watkins Media Limited.
21 Rituals to Ignite Your Intuition
by Theresa Cheung
Like optimism, intuition can be cultivated. Research has shown that contrary to popular opinion intuition isn't something we are born with and it doesn't come naturally to everyone. Intuition is a skill that we can learn and we can get better at it the more we practise. Drawing on science, psychology and Theresa's techniques this book offers 21 simple and proven daily rituals to help you tune in to your inner wisdom and start making better decisions in your life today. (Also available as an Audiobook and in Kindle format)
About the Author
Theresa Cheung has a Masters from King's College Cambridge and has spent the last twenty years writing bestselling books and encyclopaedias about the psychic world. Two of her paranormal titles reached The Sunday Times top ten and her international bestseller, The Dream Dictionary, regularly bounces to number 1 on the Amazon dreams bestsellers chart. Visit her website at www.theresacheung.com
21 Rituals to Change Your Life (book published in 2017):