Ritual and Ceremony: Innate Longing for a Revival of Tribal Intimacy

We are tribal. It doesn’t look this way today but only 100 years ago most of us were living close to relatives and in small communities were we knew many of the people. Because there was no television, Internet, video games and PDD’s (personal digital devices) we all actually talked to each other. We organized events that brought us together in many ways. In Westernized nations most of this has been lost today.

All kinds of things can unite us and bring us together with ‘tribe’. The music festival season has just passed here in Northern California. The offerings are infinite and, yes, it’s about music but it’s more than just the music; it’s about seeing and being with tribe. Your tribe, even if you actually don’t know anyone at the event!

Music unites us. It is proven in brain science that two different brains sync and move together in every detail when they listen to or play music together. Our brain waves actually fall into sync and create a similar pattern. This is why drumming during ritual ceremonies, both ancient and modern, is used. It unifies the brain, body and soul of the individuals participating in the ritual.

We go to places where we will find our ‘tribe’ because we want to be surrounded by the same values, actions and activities that stimulate us. This is a process of activation of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons help us to assimilate with the others of our family, culture, society and tribe. The same areas of our brain that fire when we see someone else doing an action, fire when we do the action ourselves. This is part of what makes us social human beings.

I’ll be dancing at a festival and see another person, usually a woman, do some great dance move and then I will effortlessly and simple do the move, too. There is usually very little problem in copying the move. Why would that be? It is because we have the innate ability to copycat everything. This makes us a part of our tribe, our culture, our family of biological kin and friends.

We are copycats. This is how babies learn and how we all are life-long learners. This is also why we need other people in our presence. We are learning all the time, even when being passive about it. That’s one of the reasons we go to where our tribe will be. We go to festivals, school events, soccer games, the hairdressers (you know, the gossip tribe is there), church, the skateboard park, bingo and on and on. We are hungry for our tribe. Being with like-minded people is a necessity of life.

But all of these modern things are sometimes poor substitutes for the real thing. Deep, ceremonial tribal experiences fulfill our longing for belonging and entrain our brains and souls with an infusion of intimacy. Rituals and celebrations are needed in life and it’s time we brought them back into our lives. Creating a ceremony or ritual is easy. It requires a bit of imagination and an intuitive freedom to begin. Here are some examples of simple ceremonies and rituals you can create:
- A prayer of gratitude at every meal
- A conscious recall when you feel thankful that is acknowledged with a…
- Sitting in morning meditation each day
- Picking flowers for your home out of the garden each week
- Creating a bathing ritual with your lover
- Sharing massages every Friday night with your partner
- Reading a book to your toddler each night before bed
- Creating a coming-of-age ceremony for your daughter or son
- Holding a blessing way for your new born grandchild
- Creating a community dining experience in your neighborhood on a regular, weekly basis
- Manifesting a community garden where everyone meets on Saturday morning to grow flowers and vegetables
- Joining or creating a woman’s group or a man’s group in your area so that you have a resource by which to go deeply into life’s issues
- Making love more often, with conscious intention

Ceremony creates lasting memories by increasing the neural chemicals that result from emotional involvement in the ritual. Social well-being is far more than the Facebook lives we lead today. We need to be in each others presence so that our mirror neurons can work and our music sense can sync us and we can look into each others eyes and flood ourselves with the bonding neurohormone oxytocin. We need tribe to survive. Create a ceremony or ritual for yourself that involves the people in one of your ‘tribes’. Everyone will be happy and more connected if you do!


Helena Fox said...

Thank you so much for this piece about tribal intimacy and the importance of ritual and ceremony. You have made words like "ritual" and "tribal" more accessible and useful for those who are new on the path.

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