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4.2: Read and Understand- Rituals

  • Page ID
    203807
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    Learning Objectives

    This chapter introduces students to the reading, “Why Rituals Are Good For You,” through a vocabulary preview activity, reading process activity, and a summary and response activity. It may be helpful to print a copy of Why Rituals Are Good for Your Health to make notes about vocabulary and to annotate as you preview and read the article.


    Vocabulary Preview for “Why Rituals Are Good For You”

    Purpose

    The purpose of this activity is to build knowledge of vocabulary before reading a text in order to improve fluency and efficiency. You may also wish to practice using the new vocabulary in your writing. The preview is divided into three groups: (1) Academic Vocabulary, (2) Vocabulary with Other Common Meanings, and (3) Collocations and Informal Language.

    Academic Vocabulary

    Academic vocabulary are bold in the article “Why Rituals Are Good for You” and also listed below. Prior to reading the article, familiarize yourself with the words using a dictionary. Several pieces of information are provided for each word and phrase:

    • The part of speech for the word according to how it is used in the article “Why Rituals Are Good for You”
      • Many words can take multiple parts of speech and have numerous definitions. Knowing a word’s part of speech in the sentence can help you to narrow down to the correct dictionary definition.
    • The sentence where the word is used in the article “Why Rituals Are Good for You”
      • The sentence provides context, which also helps to narrow down to the appropriate definition from the dictionary. The context is the situation in which the word is used.
    • The paragraph number where the word can be found in the reading
      • If you need additional context beyond the sentence, you can refer to the paragraph in the article for more information.

    Using the information provided for each word, identify a relevant definition. You may also wish to note definitions and synonyms next to the words in the article to help you while you are reading. A synonym is a word which has a similar meaning to another word.

    1. amid (prep.): We live amid a loneliness epidemic where the lack of belonging and community has been linked to high suicide rates and an increased sense of despair. (Paragraph 7)
    2. anxiety (n.): While it’s not clear exactly how they help, rituals reduce anxiety, improve performance and confidence, and even work on people who don’t believe in them, research shows.the ritual. (Paragraph 5)
    3. banned (v.): At dinners we banned books and devices, lit candles, and discussed set topics of conversation. (Paragraph 13)
    4. celestial (adj.): We gathered family and friends, reciting the ancient story of the poor abused girl who had run away from home and had a vision of being visited by three celestial bibis (matrons). (Paragraph 8)
    5. ceremony (n.): It helped that in Persian culture we had ceremonies to turn to. (Paragraph 2)
    6. chanting (v.): “Whether we’re chanting in Sanskrit or singing the national anthem, “our brains tend to resonate with those around us, so if everyone is doing the same dance, hymn, or prayer, all of those brains are working in the same way,” Newberg explains. (Paragraph 9)
    7. deactivate (v.): According to one study, chanting the Sanskrit syllable “om” deactivates the limbic system, softening the edge of fear, anxiety, and depression. (Paragraph 9)
    8. demographic (n.): The United States has one of the worst work-life balance scores in the world, while more Americans have become disillusioned with organized religion, as a broad and rapidly rising demographic consider themselves spiritual but not religious. (Paragraph 7)
    9. demoted (adj.): Rituals, on the other hand, are “goal demoted,” which means that their actions have no instrumental connection to the outcome. (Paragraph 3)
    10. enforce (v.); We held weekly family meetings with opening and closing ceremonies and used a talking stick to enforce respectful communication. (Paragraph 13)
    11. engender (v.): This can engender a powerful feeling of connectedness. It also reduces stress and depression through a combination of effects on the autonomic nervous system, which is ultimately connected to the emotional areas of the brain—the limbic system. (Paragraph 9)
    12. evolved (v.): And as strange as rituals might be from a logical perspective, they have evolved as distinct features of human culture. (Paragraph 4)
    13. hosted (v.): First, we hosted a multigenerational Sunday potluck with friends and family. (Paragraph 15)
    14. inherent (adj.): According to research psychologist Nick Hobson, a habit’s inherent goal is different from a ritual’s. (Paragraph 3)
    15. intensely (adv.): “We are an intensely social and ritualistic species,” he says. (Paragraph 10)
    16. isolation (n.): In this age of isolation, we need nourishing and uplifting means of creating community by bringing together members of different generations as our ancestors did. (Paragraph 17)
    17. malady (n.): Besides a thorough spring cleaning, we jump over a bonfire to cleanse our inner landscape and give our maladies to fire and gain vitality from it. (Paragraph 2)
    18. multigenerational (adj.): First, we hosted a multigenerational Sunday potluck with friends and family. (Paragraph 15)
    19. mythical (adj.): But where was that mythical village and the rituals that made it sane? (Paragraph 11)
    20. narrative: (n.): “Take this piece out of our modern human narrative and you lose a piece of our history and our humanity.” (Paragraph 10)
    21. promoting (n.): They have been instrumental in building community, promoting cooperation, and marking transition points in a community member’s life. (Paragraph 4)
    22. reciting (adj.): We gathered family and friends, reciting the ancient story of the poor abused girl who had run away from home and had a vision of being visited by three celestial bibis (matrons). (Paragraph 8)
    23. recounted (v.): Each week, five to 10 of us gathered, shared food, and recounted what made us grateful. (Paragraph 15)
    24. ritual (n.): I don’t know if I could have survived seven years of my childhood without the soul-saving rituals of my Persian culture. (Paragraph 1) (ritualized in paragraph 9 and ritualistic in paragraph 10)
    25. sane (adj.): But where was that mythical village and the rituals that made it sane? (Paragraph 11)
    26. unbearable (adj.): Life seemed unbearable at times… (Paragraph 1)
    27. uplifting (adj.): In this age of isolation, we need nourishing and uplifting means of creating community by bringing together members of different generations as our ancestors did. (Paragraph 17)

    Vocabulary with Other Common Meanings

    Words can have many different meanings in English. Some words that have common, everyday meanings also have specific meanings that are not used as often.

    Consider the word factor as an example. In everyday use, factor refers to some element that influences an outcome, as in the following sentence: Students’ time management skills are factors in their academic success. In a mathematics class, however, factor has a less common meaning that relates to multiplication.

    The words in this section have less common and often more abstract meanings in the article compared to their meanings in everyday situations.

    As with the Academic Vocabulary list above, the vocabulary in this section includes the part of speech, the sentence from the article, and the paragraph number where the word can be found in the article. Using the information provided for each word, identify a relevant definition that fits with the context of how the word is used in the sentence. You may also wish to print a copy of the article and note definitions and synonyms next to the words in the article to help you while you are reading. A synonym is a word which has a similar meaning to another word.

    1. anchored (v.): Each ritual, no matter how small, anchored me in something bigger and provided a sense of belonging. (Paragraph 14)
    2. ditch (v.): …we were forced to ditch our previous lifestyle and observe a strict Islamic attire, which covered our bodies and hair. (Paragraph 1)
    3. exhibited (v.): In a University of Toronto study, participants who performed a ritual before completing a task exhibited less anxiety and sensitivity to personal failure than when they completed the task without first performing. (Paragraph 5)
    4. grounding (adj.): Life seemed unbearable at times, but we learned to bring meaning into uncertainty and chaos by maintaining grounding practices and developing new ones. (Paragraph 1)
    5. huddling (n.): Huddling together at the end of each family meeting provided me with a sense of accomplishment. (Paragraph 14)
    6. instrumental (adj.): Rituals, on the other hand, are “goal demoted,” which means that their actions have no instrumental connection to the outcome. (Paragraph 3)
    7. nourishing (adj.): In this age of isolation, we need nourishing and uplifting means of creating community by bringing together members of different generations as our ancestors did. (Paragraph 17)
    8. observe (v.): …we were forced to ditch our previous lifestyle and observe a strict Islamic attire, which covered our bodies and hair. (Paragraph 1)

    Collocations and Informal Language

    This section of vocabulary includes collocations and informal language. A collocation is the frequent use of two more words together, such as save time, which is a common phrase in English. Informal language may include conversational language that is less likely to be used in academic writing, as well as idioms. An idiom is an expression that cannot be defined based on the meanings of the separate words; instead, the combination of words has a different meaning altogether. For example, the idiom to open a can of worms has nothing to do with cans or worms; it means to create an especially challenging problem.

    The collocations and informal language in this section include the sentence from the article and the paragraph number where the words can be found in the article. Prior to reading the article, familiarize yourself with the concepts using a dictionary or by searching online if you cannot find one in the dictionary. Identify a relevant definition for each. You may also wish to note definitions and synonyms next to the words in the article to help you while you are reading. A synonym is a word which has a similar meaning to another word.

    1. bore (bear) the brunt of: Besides the horrors of the war, freedom of thought and expression were severely restricted in Iran after the Islamic revolution. Women bore the brunt of this…(Paragraph 1)
    2. clung to: We clung to 3,500-year-old Zoroastrian ceremonies that correspond to the seasons. (Paragraph 2)
    3. confronted with: After living here for two decades, I became a mother and was confronted with the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” (Paragraph 11)
    4. disillusioned with: The United States has one of the worst work-life balance scores in the world, while more Americans have become disillusioned with organized religion, as a broad and rapidly rising demographic consider themselves spiritual but not religious. (Paragraph 7)
    5. fend for herself (or himself or themselves): A new mother was surrounded by people who took turns assisting with daily tasks. But in the U.S., she was expected to fend for herself and her baby immediately after childbirth. (Paragraph 11)
    6. food rations: In Iran during the war, we found uses for rituals when we were faced with food rations. (Paragraph 8)
    7. life span: Rituals signify transition points in the individual life span and provide psychologically meaningful ways to participate in the beliefs and practices of the community. (Paragraph 4)
    8. organized religion: The United States has one of the worst work-life balance scores in the world, while more Americans have become disillusioned with organized religion, as a broad and rapidly rising demographic consider themselves spiritual but not religious. (Paragraph 7)
    9. resonate with: “Whether we’re chanting in Sanskrit or singing the national anthem, “our brains tend to resonate with those around us, so if everyone is doing the same dance, hymn, or prayer, all of those brains are working in the same way,” Newberg explains. (Paragraph 9)
    10. sense of belonging: Each ritual, no matter how small, anchored me in something bigger and provided a sense of belonging. (Paragraph 14)
    11. sense of despair: We live amid a loneliness epidemic where the lack of belonging and community has been linked to high suicide rates and an increased sense of despair.
    12. sensitivity to: In a University of Toronto study, participants who performed a ritual before completing a task exhibited less anxiety and sensitivity to personal failure than when they completed the task without first performing. (Paragraph 5)
    13. talking stick: We held weekly family meetings with opening and closing ceremonies and used a talking stick to enforce respectful communication. (Paragraph 13)
    14. transition point: They have been instrumental in building community, promoting cooperation, and marking transition points in a community member’s life. (Paragraph 4)
    15. work-life balance: The United States has one of the worst work-life balance scores in the world, while more Americans have become disillusioned with organized religion, as a broad and rapidly rising demographic consider themselves spiritual but not religious. (Paragraph 7)

    Reading Process Activity for “Why Rituals Are Good For You”

    Purpose

    The purpose of this activity is to activate your background knowledge and build your interest before reading an article so that you have a more engaging and efficient reading experience; to actively read the article; and to reflect on your reading process and understanding of the text.

    Preview the Article

    Follow the steps below to preview the article “Why Rituals Are Good for Your Health.” As you complete this activity, do not read the entire article. You will read the entire article later — after you have previewed it.

    1. What is a ritual? If you have heard this word before, consider your prior knowledge. Also, research this term in a dictionary and online. Write down your understanding of the meaning of this word. Paraphrase and write in complete sentences.
    2. Now that you have a basic understanding of the term ritual, consider your prior experiences with rituals. Are there rituals that you used to practice or that you practice in the present? List them below. (They can be serious, such as a religious or family ritual, or less serious, such as listening to the same song before watching your favorite sports team play.)
    3. The title of the article “Rituals Are Good for Your Health” indicates that rituals have positive health benefits. Before reading, brainstorm about why rituals might be healthy. List your thoughts below. Use your brain – not other sources. Don’t worry about whether your ideas are “right or wrong.” This is a brainstorming activity, where there is no “right or wrong.”
    4. Now, preview the text of the article. Reading the introduction, the first sentences of paragraphs, and the conclusion can often help to activate and assess your background knowledge and to predict what the reading is about. Read paragraph 1, the first sentence only in paragraphs 2-16, and paragraph 17 of the article. Based on this preview, what do you predict the author, Ari Honarvar, will identify as the health benefits of rituals? Make a list. Paraphrase and write in complete sentences. Compare this list to the ideas you listed above in question 3.

    Actively Read and Annotate the Article

    You are finished previewing “Why Rituals Are Good for Your Health.” Now, actively read the article. As you read the article, do the following:

    • Pause as you read the article to consider whether or not your predictions were correct.
    • Paraphrase main points of the article briefly in the margins.
    • Mark unfamiliar vocabulary.

    Why Rituals Are Good For You

    Author Ari Honarvar is an award-winning writer, speaker, and performer. In her work, she explores poetry, parenting, rituals, and the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. Her website is rumiwithaview.com. This work was previously published in Yes! Magazine.

    As you read, take notes related to the questions you wrote and the predictions you made when you previewed the article. Additionally, consider the ways that rituals can benefit individuals and communities.

    1 I don’t know if I could have survived seven years of my childhood without the soul-saving rituals of my Persian culture. I grew up amid the Iran-Iraq War, which killed a million people. Besides the horrors of the war, freedom of thought and expression were severely restricted in Iran after the Islamic revolution. Women bore the brunt of this as, in a matter of months, we were forced to ditch our previous lifestyle and observe a strict Islamic attire, which covered our bodies and hair. We lost the right to jog, ride a bicycle, or sing in public. Life seemed unbearable at times, but we learned to bring meaning into uncertainty and chaos by maintaining grounding practices and developing new ones.

    2 It helped that in Persian culture we had ceremonies to turn to. We clung to 3,500-year-old Zoroastrian ceremonies that correspond to the seasons. Several of these rituals take place during the spring because the equinox marks the Persian New Year. Besides a thorough spring cleaning, we jump over a bonfire to cleanse our inner landscape and give our maladies to fire and gain vitality from it. On the longest night of the year, winter solstice, we stay up all night eating fruits and nuts, reciting poetry, playing music, and dancing. This is to symbolize survival and celebration during dark times.

    3 Rituals, which are a series of actions performed in a specific way, have been part of human existence for thousands of years. They are not habits. According to research psychologist Nick Hobson, a habit’s inherent goal is different from a ritual’s. With habit, the actions and behaviors are causally tied to the desired outcome; for example, brushing our teeth to prevent cavities and gum disease and exercising to keep healthy. Rituals, on the other hand, are “goal demoted,” which means that their actions have no instrumental connection to the outcome. For example, we sing “Happy Birthday” to the same melody even though it isn’t tied to a specific external result.

    4 Cristine Legare, a researcher and psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, says, “Rituals signify transition points in the individual life span and provide psychologically meaningful ways to participate in the beliefs and practices of the community.” They have been instrumental in building community, promoting cooperation, and marking transition points in a community member’s life. And as strange as rituals might be from a logical perspective, they have evolved as distinct features of human culture.

    5 While it’s not clear exactly how they help, rituals reduce anxiety, improve performance and confidence, and even work on people who don’t believe in them, research shows. In a University of Toronto study, participants who performed a ritual before completing a task exhibited less anxiety and sensitivity to personal failure than when they completed the task without first performing the ritual.

    6 Additionally, rituals benefit our physical well-being and immune system. According to Andrew Newberg, the associate director of research at the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health, rituals lower cortisol, which in turn lowers heart rate and blood pressure and increases immune system function.

    7 We live amid a loneliness epidemic where the lack of belonging and community has been linked to high suicide rates and an increased sense of despair. The United States has one of the worst work-life balance scores in the world, while more Americans have become disillusioned with organized religion, as a broad and rapidly rising demographic consider themselves spiritual but not religious. Perhaps with fewer opportunities for people to be in community, many shared cultural rituals are falling away and with them a grounding source for connection and mental health.

    8 In Iran during the war, we found uses for rituals when we were faced with food rations. We gathered family and friends, reciting the ancient story of the poor abused girl who had run away from home and had a vision of being visited by three celestial bibis (matrons). The bibis instructed her to make a sweet halva and donate it to the poor. The girl said she didn’t have any money, and the bibis told her to borrow or work for the ingredients. This worked well with food rations as each guest brought a few ingredients to make the halva. Like the girl in the story, each participant made a wish and took a bite of the halva. I walked away feeling calmer and more supported.

    9 Stories, such as those told during the Jewish ceremony of Passover Seder, have become ritualized because they are recited in the same way each time. Rhythm and music play a similar role in ritual. Whether we’re chanting in Sanskrit or singing the national anthem, “our brains tend to resonate with those around us, so if everyone is doing the same dance, hymn, or prayer, all of those brains are working in the same way,” Newberg explains. “This can engender a powerful feeling of connectedness. It also reduces stress and depression through a combination of effects on the autonomic nervous system, which is ultimately connected to the emotional areas of the brain—the limbic system.” According to one study, chanting the Sanskrit syllable “om” deactivates the limbic system, softening the edge of fear, anxiety, and depression.

    10 Psychologist Hobson confirms that rituals aren’t just a benefit to our mental health—they’re actually essential. “We are an intensely social and ritualistic species,” he says. “Take this piece out of our modern human narrative and you lose a piece of our history and our humanity.”

    11 I moved to the U.S. when I was 14. After living here for two decades, I became a mother and was confronted with the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But where was that mythical village and the rituals that made it sane? For example, a pregnant woman in Iran had a rotating menu of dishes made for her by friends and family. A new mother was surrounded by people who took turns assisting with daily tasks. But in the U.S., she was expected to fend for herself and her baby immediately after childbirth. I observed that besides standard holiday traditions, community-building practices were lacking.

    12 So after 20 years of living in the U.S., I decided to create my own community rituals.

    13 I started with my family. At dinners we banned books and devices, lit candles, and discussed set topics of conversation. We held weekly family meetings with opening and closing ceremonies and used a talking stick to enforce respectful communication. At birthday dinners, we took turns saying, “I love you because …”

    14 Candlelit dinners were no longer saved for a special occasion. Using a talking stick helped me listen more attentively and choose my words more carefully. Huddling together at the end of each family meeting provided me with a sense of accomplishment. Each ritual, no matter how small, anchored me in something bigger and provided a sense of belonging.

    15 Then we began to build rituals within the larger community. First, we hosted a multigenerational Sunday potluck with friends and family. Each week, five to 10 of us gathered, shared food, and recounted what made us grateful. During each meal, I noticed I was lighter, more engaged with others, and laughed more.

    16 Later, we built more community rituals into the week. I posted on Nextdoor, asking our neighbors to join us on Monday evening walks to the neighborhood park and back.

    17 In this age of isolation, we need nourishing and uplifting means of creating community by bringing together members of different generations as our ancestors did. From my experience in Iran, rituals can be particularly valuable during hard times. In the U.S., we don’t have to worry about bombs and food rations, but we still have challenges to our security that affect our mental and physical health. Rituals can help us, though, by offering our communities opportunities for healing and support.


    Reflect after Reading the Article

    Record your response to the questions below in complete sentences.

    1. Now that you have read the article, what is Ari Honarvar’s main point? Write it in your own words.
    2. Why do you think Honarvar wrote the article? (In other words, what was the author’s purpose?)
    3. How did your understanding of rituals and their benefits change after previewing and then reading the article?
    4. What questions do you still have after reading the article? What else do you want to know about the article or topic of the reading?
    5. How did brainstorming about your background knowledge of rituals and previewing the article help with your understanding of the text?

    Reading & Response

    Instructions

    1. Read the article, “Why Rituals Are Good for Your Health” by Ari Honarvar. As you read, annotate the article. Take notes about the main idea, your reactions, and questions that you may have.
    2. After reading, complete a one-paragraph summary of the article. The summary should include the author’s name, article title, and the overall main idea. Additionally, it is helpful to focus on the who, what, where, why, when, and how of the article to develop your summary. The ideas should be paraphrased and written in your own words.
    3. Write a developed, one-paragraph response to the article. Develop a clear statement of your position or point of view on the ideas expressed in the article. Be sure clearly explain and support your response. You may also consider using a particular quote from the article to use in your response. If using a quote, work to incorporate the quote smoothly into the response. Be sure to cite the quote using in-text citations.

    As an example:

    Honarvar’s statement, “While it’s not clear exactly how they help, rituals reduce anxiety, improve performance and confidence, and even work on people who don’t believe in them, research shows,” resonates with me.

    From there, expand on your ideas to explain and support why you agree with this statement.

    Suggestions for Writing

    1. Plan your summary and response before writing them. Review the notes that you have made regarding the article. Then, use a writing process that you are comfortable with that can include brainstorming, free writing, listing, outlining, mapping, pre-thinking, pre-writing, etc.
    2. Aim to use conventional grammar and sentence structure and to make the tone of your essay professional, not casual.
    3. Edit your work before submitting it.

    4.2: Read and Understand- Rituals is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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