I used to love to fly. Not so much anymore.
I spent my formative years living in Britain, so I have many friends and “family” in the UK. But, being from Boston I also have a lot of family and many friends in the USA. So, depending where I am/was living it was necessary to travel to one set of people in one country or the other set in the other.
With all this frequent travel back and forth across the Atlantic, I developed rituals to help mark the transition. If I were traveling say from Boston to Edinburgh, when arriving in Edinburgh I would make certain that on my first morning I would eat my favorite breakfast; on the first day I would make certain to walk past my old school; I never finished the first day without a pint in my favorite pub. If travel was in the other direction and I were heading to Boston from the UK I would follow a similar routine or ritual.
I never saw these acts as being a ritual, and yet I have come to appreciate over the years that this is exactly what I had created. The cast of characters around me might be different – that is, the gathered community may not always be the same – but Chris Chase engaged in a familiar ritual whenever he landed at a place he would consider to be home.
I know I am not alone in this behavior. For many people landing in a place that one considers “home” is often accompanied by a ritual. I have been to SFO on several occasions to pick up our son returning to California from Boston. It doesn’t matter what time he lands: we always have to travel to In-N-Out so that he can ritualize his transition from Massachusetts to California. And, as many of you Californians can attest, we are not alone in this particular ritual, for every time we play out this ritual at In-N-Out we find the place packed with other college students and other families who also need to have a ritual marking a transition back to California.
Obviously, rituals help us as humans move geographically, transition from one place to another, or even move from one state of being to another.
Rituals can take any number of shapes or forms. They can be very structured and institutional such as religious ceremonies that mark life transitions such a marriage or death. They can be In-N-Out double-doubles or sitting in a favorite place after travel. Rituals that mark large events are perhaps the ones we observe more easily.
But, it is worth noting that we are likely to engage in a ritual in our day to day life when we “travel” through a transition in the day. It could be our wake up routine, our entry into work routine, our weekend routine. We may not necessarily consider them as rituals as much as routines because rituals are reserved for either large transitions or they are “spiritual” in nature.
But, I believe it is worth taking the time to observe our routines and consider how they function as ritual, in helping us transition from one place to another, move from one state of being to another, move from one geography into another. In a sort of sacred cycle. These rituals mark a transition and help us feel safe in that transition. They help us enter into something new. A new day. A new encounter. A new frame of mind.
Every week Braid mentors enter into the life of a child, which for many of us has begun to feel like a routine, which is great because it means it is beginning to feel stable, tested, and trusted.
These are feelings that are just as important for us as they are for the youth. I am wondering, what are the routine behaviors our mentors have developed, created, engage in as an individual or as a team that is beginning to take the shape of ritual. It would be a very natural phenomenon. Not uncommon at all. Even very necessary.
Do you greet in a certain way? Share food? Sing a song? Use a certain word? To say, we are entering into a new place, a new day, a new encounter and we are all safe.