create a radiant ritual Most Liked

When I lost my first husband, I learned the significant power of creating ceremonies and rituals. I’m not talking about the kind of rituals used in organized religions, but about structured activities with an intention, be they for celebrating, grieving, commemorating, even shopping. For the first year after Bruce’s death, I would carry a picture of him on every trip I took, for business or pleasure and, holding the photo, I would set aside 10 minutes to sit and talk with him about my experience. It was a healing ceremony that helped me get through my personal grief process.

Mom's Tubarose Lei

My mom, Marianne, passed away in 2010. This year on the third of May, Mom would have turned 90.  Not long before Mom died, we talked about what she wanted to do for her 90th birthday if she were lucky enough to live that long. She said she wanted to go to her favorite resort on earth, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii. So on May 3rd, my husband, Gary, and I traveled there to celebrate Mom’s birthday with a special ritual we created together in her honor.

Mom loved the beach at Mauna Kea. On our first day at the hotel, we let Mom’s spirit guide us to a tranquil spot under a tree overlooking the pristine white sand and gentle waves lapping the shore. Gary decided that Mom should have a special flower every day because she cherished tropical blossoms. The first day’s flower was plumeria. In the evenings, we would walk to Mom’s beach spot at sunset or just afterwards, order a Mai Tai and then sit and talk with her and about her. We sang, “All Day, All Night Marianne.” For the second night’s ritual, with Hawaiian music playing in the background, I placed a fragrant tubarose lei in the tree and it remained there for the duration of our stay. In addition to plumeria and tubarose, each day Mom led us to choose flowers for the rest of her bouquet – white and torch red ginger, hibiscus and a stunning bird of paradise.

On the last day of the trip, while sitting under Mom’s tree, I mentioned to Gary that I was surprised we had not seen a single rainbow or a gecko. Within seconds, a gecko chirped in the tree and when I looked up to see if I could spot it, I noticed a huge, glorious rainbow over the golf course.  It was as if my sweet, funny mom had made both of these things happen. The natural beauty of the beach and the divine serendipity made it a rare moment of pure bliss.

Gary and I started an end-of-day ritual 12 years ago. When we were both home from work, we would spend an hour just sitting in a special place like the front porch or the beach down the street or even in the man cave, and talking about the day. It was our “Ward and June Cleaver” time together before dinner. And then one day we didn’t make the time. That one day turned into a year. Our relationship suffered, no doubt in part because we had ceased our weekday ritual.  Thankfully, we started it up again last year and we brought it with us to Hawaii to celebrate Mom. Our relationship is stronger now.

Never underestimate the power of ritual to improve your life, to help you connect with friends, cultivate stronger family relationships and build high-functioning work groups. You may find yourself creating a vibrant new tradition that might just define your life’s legacy.


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Posted in family & relationships, Shannon Ingram's Place, spirituality.

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9 Responses

  1. Hawk Lady Hawk Lady says

    I sat here quite awhile thinking about rituals. I realized that all I could think about or remember were religious ones and some I had read about in books. That is sad. Are rituals sacred habits for you? How would you define them?

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    • Shannon Ingram Shannon Ingram says

      Some rituals are sacred habits to me, such as making the time to visit with my husband every weeknight (even if it’s by phone when one of us is traveling). For me, they tend to be somewhat spiritual but not necessarily religious.  I think I would define some as family traditions, such as the one night during the holiday season that our extended multi-generational family gets together for dinner at an old-fashioned restaurant on Balboa Island and then walks to the bay to watch the famous boat parade of lights. Interestingly, most of the rituals I can think of that we keep are the ones that connect friends and family. When I worked for Disneyland years ago, I started a ritual of taking my staff on a “wish hunt” as a holiday celebration. I would treat them to lunch at a wonderful restaurant, we’d go around the table and share one big challenge we confronted during the year and one great joy on the job.  And then I’d give them each the same amount of money or a gift certificate and they had to go buy something for themselves that meant something special. Then we’d all meet at a different place for a cocktail and they would preview their gifts as a sort of goofy debrief. A couple of times, they would use the money to buy something for someone else, which was great because there were no hard rules. The ritual wasn’t touchy-feely, just really fun and it always brought people closer.  The “wish hunt” has evolved into a different kind of thing at each place I have worked, but always brought my teams together in a unique and fun way every year. I will keep doing it as long as I can, even with different people working with me.
      Thanks for a great question, Hawk Lady!

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  2. Haralee Haralee says

    Lovely post and interesting perspective on rituals.
    It sounds corny but my husband and I kiss each other and say we love each other every night. It is a ritual and when we are not together we call.

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  3. Amy Ruhlin Amy Ruhlin says

    Thanks for the beautiful reminder  Sharon..rituals are so important and it is so easy to forget or to not make the time for them…  I’m curious as to what your job was at Disneyland?  We went to Disneyworld every Tgiving for years(I guess that counts as a ritual? :) We loved it, have such wonderful family memories..we used to say that would be the ideal work at Disney. Did you enjoy it?

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  4. Shannon Ingram Shannon Ingram says

    @Amy—I was marketing manager for Disneyland Hotel, reporting up through Disneyland Marketing. Best part of that job was being able to go to the park at lunch on a stressful day, take off my name tag and ride Space Mountain, screaming my guts out. Always a great stress relief tool! Plus I got to be Pluto for a day. Went to Orlando dozens of times to work big events. Loved it! Thanks for asking!

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  5. Amy Ruhlin Amy Ruhlin says

    How fun!!

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  6. joyful53 joyful53 says

    We have a ritual at the end of every vacation.  We were inspired by the movie Three Coins in A Fountain (The legend is if you throw a coin into Rome’s Trevi Fountain you are sure to return to Rome). We toss three pennies – one for returning, one for dreams fulfilled and one for future adventures.  Preferably we find a body of water, but in Bisbee Arizona we simply had to toss our pennies into the desert. Now we’ve expanded our threes – three birthday candles, three flowers, etc.

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  7. Generic Image PHYLLIS JOY says

    My husband & I have a morning ritual: sipping coffee while sitting on our glider on the front porch feeling the sun on our faces. I usually curl up under his arm & we talk about what we would like to do for the day. In cold weather, we do the same right inside, on our big leather couch while the sun streams in the window. We also like to do this in the evening for a bit, on the back porch looking at the stars, etc.  When he travels, he calls when I am in those same spots & we pretend we are together there in that moment! (We are newlyweds, so hope we don’t sound annoyingly in love!!)

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  8. Shannon Ingram Shannon Ingram says

    @Phyllis – I love this!  And frankly, I don’t thing there is anything annoying about being in love.  It’s one of the greatest gifts in life!  Sweet…Thanks for your comment.

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