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Tips For Creating Rituals and Traditions with Mindfulness
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, May 2012

Mindfully creating rituals and traditions can be a beautiful way to honor people who mean something to us. Most of us continue rituals or practice traditions because it is the way things are done or have been done by "our people" for generations. There is great value in that practice. One such value is that families pass important lessons and legacies to younger generations.

By participating in rituals, we have opportunities to feel connected to others as well as to our ancestral roots or larger community. Also, their predictability and continuity can help us through challenging times. We can also create our own rituals and traditions that are personally meaningful to us. These address where we are in life, grow out of a particular experience, and we can meaningfully share them with others. Not only can we address where we are at a moment in time, we can also honor friends by adopting or adapting their rituals or traditions in our own lives. We can include others who may not be related to us, expanding the concept of continuity, legacy, and "community as family."

Consider what may be appropriate rituals for you at this time of your life as you reflect on some of the ideas and examples below.

Sharing a Blessing. - Rooted in his religion, a father, now a grandfather, "blesses" his children (who are adults living all over the country) every Sabbath by phone. Whether traveling or in their homes, they look forward to and expect this special connection with their father.

Reflecting on a High Point with Friends. - A single woman discovered and adapted the ritual of sharing when she dined with family friends. To find a moment of connection in overly busy and scheduled lives, "highlight of the week" was central to this family's weekly dinner. Each person focuses on the week gone by, sharing one highlight (or low point). This opening of communication, keeping one another informed about what's happening in their lives focuses on appreciating the value of reflection and sharing without judgment. She included it in dinners she hosted and when she married, it became an integral part of her own life as a way to connect with family and friends.

Honoring A Loved One. - As a tribute to her best friend's teenage daughter who underwent chemotherapy, a woman and her daughter grow their hair. Once a year they cut 10 inches of hair styled in a ponytail and donate it to Locks of Love so a hairpiece can be made for another child undergoing chemotherapy.

Volunteering Together. - After divorcing his children's mother, a father arranges for himself and his children, all of whom love animals, to volunteer at a horse ranch for a weekend. Every year for 15 years, they have returned to that ranch.

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