• Ricka Robb Kohnstamm

Why create space for meaningful ritual?

Every August when I was a child, my parents packed up the VW van and drove my sisters and me north, along the Mississippi River, to the Minnesota State Fair, followed by school shoe shopping.

The Fair was something I tolerated - I appreciated, (with some trepidation) the "all you can drink milk" booth, the sound of the midway, and the hot mini-donuts in the wax paper bag. It was loud and there were millions of people.

But that was simply the precursor to what was REALLY important to me - shopping for school shoes. We went to the one big department store in Minneapolis and chose from what was available. I loved the smell of leather and the distinction between tie-up or buckle, brown or blue, tiny heel or flat. The shoe man fit the shoes, squeezed the toes to make sure there was room, gave his nod of approval. And then I walked, carefully, on the carpet in the store to make sure the shoes were right enough to imagine wearing them on the first day of school.

These activities were rituals that communicated - "time is shifting, an exciting time of year is starting, it matters to us, take it seriously."

It would be so easy, with such a full schedule, to skip the big rituals that matter, let alone the smaller ones.

Why does it matter, even with a full call schedule, even with new home construction, even with a brand new baby, even with three kids back to school, even with new sports teams starting, even with a new job? Why bother even with new retirement, when the day is so open, nothing feels solid, all the moments flow one into the next in a never ending ticking of time?


Why create space for meaningful ritual?

Consider these three things...


Rituals bring our attention to this moment. Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time problem solving, planning for future issues, keeping the lid on life. Taking the time to sip a cup of tea each morning to welcome the day, to set the table with flowers for a holiday meal, to have an end-of-the-summer bonfire, allows us to come back to the now. To feel the cool metal of the silverware, to smell the smoke of the fire, to appreciate the subtle flavor of the tea. Here. Now.


Rituals create markers in time to mark seasons in time and life. New life is important, and we can recognize that and show appreciation through a brit milah or a baptism or through celebrating with cake and champagne. A life newly ended is as important and we can memorialize that through shiva, a funeral, or a quiet walk in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Holidays, starting school, going back to school, starting Fellowship, retiring, making a decision to stop the chaos and start making decisions that serve us better, starting the day, ending the day.... all opportunities to mark the seasons of our lives.


Rituals communicate what is important to us. When we celebrate birthdays, we are communicating "I am so glad you were born! You matter to me." When we drink tea as the sun comes up, we might be communicating "I am so thankful to have a body that functions, to be able to taste the tea and feel the heat of the cup, to be alive to see the sun rise." Consider what you are communicating through your rituals and also what no longer communicates anything - consider what you are communicating by continuing a ritual that no longer communicates anything to you at all.


Consider ritual, who what when how. What role can it play in your life and why does it matter? I would love to hear about rituals that matter to you. Write me. ricka@alignwholehealth.com.


Actions, aligned with values, support optimal health.

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Hello, I'm Ricka.

Ricka Kohnstamm Executive & Physician Coach Profile Photo

I'm a Nationally Board Certified (NBC-HWC) Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coach. I specialize in working with physician leaders, corporate leaders, non-profit executives and their families to navigate complex work and personal issues so they can strengthen their relationships, heal, and feel hopeful about the future again. 

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