Rituals, it turns out, can play an important role in changing our habits, attitudes and thoughts. In fact, that might be what they're designed for.
At least according to Michael Puett, Professor of Chinese History at Harvard, and co-author of Ritual and Its Consequences: An Essay on the Limits of Sincerity.
Ritual, Puett points out, gives us an opportunity for a moment to be a different person. We enter a ritual space, connect with someone, then break the space and move on. But that ritual space interrupts our default thinking or behavior, and calls us out to be different.
Oftentimes we think of rituals - big and small - as lacking in authenticity: we're playing a role, acting artificially, faking it for others. And sometimes we are - maybe all the time. But maybe that's the point.
Rituals give us a chance to stop being our mundane selves and step for a moment into a different mode of being: more positive perhaps, or more significant, at peace or more noble or generous. It turns out that rituals might be just the thing we need more of, in order to be the best versions of ourselves, the versions we actively choose to be. Even if, after the ritual is concluded, we go back to being just our old selves, we are reminded that we are capable of so much more.