Ritual: A Dance in Two Parts

“We are all too interconnected, both with each other and with our environment—life is too wonderfully complex—for a simple statement like ‘you create your own reality’ to be simply true.  A belief that I control or create my own reality actually attempts to rip me out of the rich, complex, mysterious, and supportive context of my life.  It attempts, in the name of control, to deny the web of relationships which nurtures me and each of us daily.”

–Treya Killam Wilber

I have been recently rereading a book called Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber, written by Ken Wilber.  This book is many things, but one of those for me is a strong connection to the woman Treya.  She is a sister of mine of sorts: we both attended the same women’s college (Mount Holyoke) though many years apart.  I relate to many things she writes and reflects on, including her spiritual journey to find her own true work in the world, springing from the unique mystery at the heart of her life.

I was happy to find this quote from her; it stood out to me because I have personally encountered the kind of thinking she unmasks.  What better way to hurt people than to play on their hopes and dreams and needs, to promise them that if only they will give you their money, you will give them a secret that will make them rich without effort, allow them to have whatever they want, whatever they can name and claim?  Words are cheap.  What do you really mean when you write or say that you want a thing?  Would you want it if it meant others would be trampled on to get you what you want?  Would you want it if you knew that the only reason you could get it is that you are privileged and therefore can have luxuries in your life which those who through no fault of their own must spend their entire lives working for survival could not possibly have?

I don’t think these cautions can be ignored, despite anyone who will say that the fact that I raise them is proof that I have the wrong view, that my words are proof that I don’t really have enough faith in my ability to create and manifest.  What does it mean to create?  To bring into being that which was not there before.  But always in relationship.  Always with deepest respect of what is.  Always with humility, with knowing that my view must always be shortsighted because I (at least my ego) does not have and never will have all of the information and all of the perspective there is.  There are always others.

This doesn’t mean I can’t want, and this doesn’t mean I can’t intend, and it doesn’t mean I can’t put out a call to the universe for my needs and desires.  It doesn’t mean I can’t ask and it doesn’t mean I can’t put energy towards my goals.  In fact, this is where for me ritual comes in.  Ritual, as I see it, is always embedded within community and within context.  Any sacred space that I create is within a particular environment.  I need to be aware of this.

The dance of participating in and creating ritual is for me a dance of two parts.  There is the part where I speak, embody my intention, make it clear and sharp and alive and real.  This part is where my longing goes out into the universe.  I know that I, within the universe as a whole and within my particular environment, am not a foreign or separate piece.  I am not the master at the controls of the machine.  I do not insert myself into this space, realize that I have a need, and manipulate the space to produce my need.  Instead I am a part of an organic community, a living system that is far more like a forest than like a machine.  This means that I must be aware of and respect the other parts of the system, seen and unseen, but it also means that I myself am an integral part just by virtue of my being here.

My abilities and my longings became enfolded into the system the moment I joined, whether that moment was at my birth or when I moved into a neighborhood or when I stepped into a room.  This is why I can ask and why I can trust my own movement, my intention.  The system is in me as I am in the system.  Just as the needs of the system may be expressed through another part (such as another person, or the natural environment), they may also be expressed through me.

Knowing this, I know that my very ability to ask is based on my need to listen.  If I trust my intentions and my needs because (provided I am speaking and acting from my deepest self and not my fearful or greedy ego) I am part of the system and the system expresses itself through me, then my call is integral, not alien.  Now I need to listen and wait for the answering call of the rest of the system.  This is the second part of the ritual dance.  After I have embodied my intention to the utmost, I release it.  I create the pause in the conversation that makes this a dialogue and not a monologue.  I allow the universe to respond.

At my best, I am not attached to the form the response takes.  If I become too attached to a particular appearance, I may completely miss the response when it comes.  I may believe I am not heard, may mentally take myself out of the system because I believe it has betrayed me.  How could it, when its best interest is also mine?  I am part of it, and if I were not here, it would be a different system, with different needs and different movements.

I am part, and so is everything else.


About Jayleigh

Drawing on experiences within women’s spirituality groups for the past ten years, as well as experiences of creating group ritual within these spaces, I am passionate about bringing the healing and enlivening power of ritual to individuals and communities. I believe that the roots of ceremony lie deep within all of us. Our bodies and hearts know these ancient ways of connecting with each other, with our deepest selves, and with our earth. My work centers around helping people remember ceremony and incorporate it into their lives. My business, Incorporating Ritual (www.incorporatingritual.com), is a vehicle through which I offer consultation services for creating self-designed ceremony as well as facilitation of ceremonies for life events personal and communal, large and small.
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