Jan 14, 2009

Every winter for the past six years I have felt the dark burden of the unexplainable sadness known as depression. This year, a kind friend gave me a little light with the hope that I would find relief – or at least not be so moody with my friends! I was immediately offended. Giving a depressed man a full spectrum light is kind of like buying “depends” for an old man who left a stain on your couch . . .

So, after the little light sat in my garage for a couple of weeks, my pride finally deflated and I opened the box and recognized the love and graciousness of the gift.

What I discovered is that west coast winters seem to really mess with my circadian rhythm (google it!). The little blue light seeks to reset that rhythm by imitating natural sunlight.

Now, almost every morning, I grab my porridge and coffee and sit down in a hue of blue for fifteen minutes and read the news headlines. This small ritual has not cured me. But it has helped to reset my rhythm and given me a renewed strength to bear the burden.

For some people, ritual is synonymous with ritualistic which is equated with going through the motions – a form of hypocrisy. But small rituals are the stuff of culture, of life, of community. They add flavour and connectedness and identity and rootedness to a society that longs to belong.

“Rituals can aid in creating a firm sense of group identity. Humans have used rituals to create social bonds and even to nourish interpersonal relationships.” Wikipedia

Ernest Shackleton kept his men alive without mutiny or a single fight for 20 months on Antarctic ice flows after their ship sank in 1915. He eventually orchestrated a full rescue – he did not lose a single soul. Two of the things credited with this amazing survival story were music and daily rituals. Each day, Shackleton had set meal times, chores, prayers and games and when they had to save only that which was necessary for survival he made sure they saved the banjo.

“Rituals offer space in which people can mold and morph themselves into each other and thereby reset their relationships and more harmonious interactions with the group.” (Leonard Sweet, Summoned to Lead)

What small rituals sustain you?

2 Comments. Leave new

Hey there! I love these thoughts about rituals. I have an idea…why don’t we name our coffee house with something to do with rituals? Like…Ritual Sips, Ritual but we poor, Little Rituals(too much like Little Richard), Tiny Rituals, or what about Small Rituals? That’s not too bad, Small Rituals. Let me know what you think!!

Mike, you’re just a big turkey.


(and you made us all laugh)

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