Newsletter by Barbara Mintzer

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April 2006
The Importance of Ritual in our Lives

My last few Newsletters have focused on dealing with change and transition, and once again, I thank you for your e-mails and feedback. It seems that life is one change after another. Just because we are all dealing with change, this Newsletter will focus on the importance of ritual in our lives as a way to hold on to what is important to us, especially when everything else is changing around us. Rituals are observances we take part in, whether they are observances that bind us to our history and our past, or observances we create to commemorate special occasions or lift up the mundane aspects of our lives to make them special. 

April, of course, is a month rich in beautiful ritual. For Christians it is the observance of Easter and the victory of the resurrection of faith over hate, fear and even death. For Jews, it is the observance of Passover, when we rejoice once again at our delivery from slavery and our exodus from Egypt into Sinai. And, on a much smaller scale, I humbly share, is my birthday. What these three events have in common is that they are observed and anticipated each year. Rituals give continuity to life. Rituals observed each year give us occasions to reflect and look forward to. Religious rituals are important because they remind us of our heritage, the people we came from, and the undeniable fact that life goes on, regardless of what happened before us.

As a young Jewish child, I  had a lot of conflict around my birthday, as it usually fell during the eight days of Passover, and I could never have a "normal" birthday celebration like all my other friends. Symbolic of Passover is that you do not eat anything made with flour, so I never had the birthday cake I wanted and I always felt my birthday took a back seat to Passover. However, my mother made the compromise. If I would get out of "victim" and fully participate in the religious observance, she would make me my own special cake once the holiday was over. I could invite friends over and we could celebrate then. We could not, however, forget about Passover and just concentrate on my birthday, which was my suggestion (sounded good to me at the time). And I do that to this day. I enjoy the beauty of my religious holiday, then I celebrate my birthday. How ironic, then, that this year my birthday, April 16th, falls out on Easter Sunday right in the middle of Passover. So...I will celebrate them all.

How do you observe ritual in your life? Do you take the time to make your birthday a special day? As I am getting older, I find I do more reflecting than anticipating on my birthday. First of all, I wonder where the years have gone, and why it seems like only two months since my last birthday. I am also feeling a "nudge" from within to do those things that have meaning for me, without worrying who will approve or agree with me. Interestingly, after 23 years of being the instructor, I am finding myself wanting to be a student again. I am carving out some time in my schedule to take some classes and attend some lectures on subjects I find of interest. I love to read, but I find myself always having to read books, articles, etc., that have to do with the talks I give or these Newsletters I write. Two years ago I decided to give myself a birthday present. I bought The DaVinci Code and sat curled up on the couch and could not put the book down. I read late into the night and early the next morning until I finished it. It was pure joy. I did the same thing with another book last year, and will do it again this year. My gift to me, to read a book for the pure enjoyment of reading; it is a ritual I have created that I look forward to every year.

What are some ways you can make ritual an integral part of your life?

Look for the sacred and specialness in everyday events. My assistant knows how I "labor" over these Newsletters, and whenever I finish one for the month, she takes me out to dinner. It gives me something to look forward to, and it also acknowledges that I have accomplished something that deserves recognition. It is a monthly ritual that we both look forward to; a chance to relax and catch up with each other, because we do not do much of it in the office.

A working mom shared a ritual with me that she has devised to set aside special time for each of her two young sons. She does laundry on Monday and Thursday nights. On Monday night, her older son joins her for "folding time" when she and her son fold the clothes and discuss whatever her son wants to discuss. It is his special time with his mom. Her time with him is non-negotiable, not to be interrupted unless there is an emergency. She lets him know that this is HIS time, she is there for him and only him, and it is a special night of bonding. On Thursday night the same ritual takes place, with the same ground rules, for her younger son. She said she looks forward to those two nights more than any other in the week.

A very successful businessman I know has a monthly ritual with his staff. On the last Friday of each month he has lunch ordered in from a different restaurant (each month a different employee chooses the restaurant) and he and his staff have a late lunch and spend that afternoon going over the month. What questions did employees have that were not answered during the month? What were the employees proud of this month, collectively and individually, and what complaints do they have that were not addressed during the month. Also, what are the employees' goals and objectives for the following month. This ritual lets the employees know this one afternoon a month is for them; they are important and what they have to say is important. This businessman tells me he looks forward to this afternoon as much as his employees. He experiences his employees in a more relaxed atmosphere, and he has found over the months that their trust in him has increased and, he believes, their loyalty to him and his business is greater.

Find some ways you can put ritual into your life. Find an occasion to celebrate, and then celebrate it, be it once a week, once a month, or once a year. Create your own ritual to make someone feel special, personally or professionally. We live in such an impersonal world today, with technology getting all the attention, we need to create those rituals that bring people together again. If you have created a ritual that has worked for you either personally or professionally, I would be delighted if you would share it with me and, with your permission, the rest of our readers. My wish for all my readers is for a joyous holiday, whichever one you celebrate.

If you wish to pass this Newsletter along to a colleague or friend who may find it of value, feel free to do so. If that person would like to receive the Newsletter, e-mail me with the address, and I will put it on my database. If you know of an organization, association or corporation that would benefit from my message, please let me know. My updated website has all of my past Newsletters archived by subject and date.

About the Author

Barbara Mintzer is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant with over 30 years in business and health care. She speaks from experience! Her how-to programs provide participants with immediately applicable skills and strategies for staying on top of their professions in today's competitive and constantly changing workplace. Barbara presents keynote talks and breakout sessions for international, national, regional and state Conferences. She also conducts management retreats and in-house seminars. She facilitates panel discussions and roundtables...a good investment for your meeting budget. For more information, please contact her office.

Phone: (805) 964-7546
FAX: (805) 964-9636

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