Why Ritual?

The last few days (half a week, really) have been tough.  Not because anything in particular has happened, but because inspiration and motivation have been hard to come by.  I felt like I was in a rut with my ritual challenge–for some reason not wanting to put a lot of thought into planning rituals, and letting days go by where I would do nothing more than say a brief prayer or blessing, or take a moment to acknowledge the sacred space around me.  There is nothing wrong with those kinds of rituals (and I think they’re ideal for days when you’re running around nonstop and don’t have time for any more), but I felt I deliberately wasn’t challenging myself.  I’ve got plans and dreams and visions and needs, and I believe all of them could benefit from ritual.

There’s something scary about going for your dreams.

As I write this tonight, I feel like I am in a brief breathing space, a brief time to reflect.  I am asking myself now: why ritual?  Why do I think this is so important that I am willing to bring it into my life on a daily basis?  Why should I keep up with my challenge?

Ritual cultivates mindfulness.  I can still turn a blind eye to aspects of my life that require attention, but it is harder to do so when I’ve planned a ritual around them.  A few days ago, my chiropractor suggested that I make a list of ten things I want for my work and lifestyle.  (My chiropractor is awesome.)  I did this in ritual space, by lighting a candle and sitting in my temple room, and focusing.  At the end of my time, I had a list, and then I set it down with the intention of releasing it to the universe.  Is this the end of working with that list?  No.  I’ve learned that ritual that is ungrounded in action in the world and with energetic follow-through tends to lead not to results but to disappointment.  I will bring that list into ritual space with me again and I will work on feeding it so that it becomes a live thing that takes up space in my head and heart, rather than a dead, forgotten piece of paper.  (I’ll let you know how it goes.)  But, had I not done this initial ritual, of mindfully writing down what I want for myself, I might already have forgotten what it is I want.  I did not forget, and the sooner and more frequently I follow up, the stronger my intention will grow, until I can almost feel, taste, and smell it just behind the veil that separates form from formlessness.

Ritual reminds me that it’s good to be alive.  If life were not good, how could the tangible things of this world remind us of beauty?  I was a philosophy major in college, and somewhere in the course of my life I learned (probably before college) to live in my head.  The ideas were the important things.  The body hardly mattered.  I still think of Jean-Paul Sartre becoming nauseous when he looked at a tree, because the tree had no purpose in and of itself, and it reminded him of how, to his way of thinking, humans have no inborn purpose and must take on the burden of creating one for themselves.  I am repulsed by this and yet there are times I identify with it.  I believe in the inherent intelligence and goodness of things.  I believe that tree that Sartre looked at was oozing with purpose but was expressing that purpose in a “language” that Sartre couldn’t understand because he was stuck in his own mind.  Creating ritual using physical objects, honoring them for their own inherent goodness and for the “language” they speak to us in, affirms the goodness of the entire world of being.  The goodness outside reflects what I feel to be goodness inside, and vice versa.

Enough for tonight.  This is good.


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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