Reflections around Ceremony

Reflections around CeremonyWe each have our little ceremonies. Some are for luck, others for protection (touch wood!). We can have a ceremony before we enter a place, we have ceremonies for births, deaths and weddings. Some have rituals for when they wake up, others have rituals before bedtime. We live in a world where ceremonies seem to be fading away. Here, we read of some reflections around ceremonies.

Bringing some part of life into ceremony does not cast the rest into the category of the mundane or unceremonious. In performing the ceremony, we intend that it radiate through our day or week. It is a touchstone amidst life’s sturm und drang. So also, we are not to merely preserve a few wild places, sanctuaries, or national parks, or restore a few places to pristine condition; rather, these places are lodestars: examples and reminders of what is possible. As people steward such places, we are called to bring a bit of them, and then more and more of them, to all places. As we establish a tiny moment of ceremony in our lives, we are called to bring a bit of it, and then more and more of it, to all moments.

How do we reintroduce ceremony in a society from which it is nearly absent? It is not to imitate or import the ceremonies of other cultures. Nor is it necessarily to resuscitate the ceremonies of one’s own bloodline, an endeavour that, while avoiding the appearance of cultural appropriation, risks the appropriation of one’s own culture. Ceremonies are alive though; attempts to imitate or preserve them bring us just their effigy.

What option is left then? Is it to create our own ceremonies? Strictly speaking, no. Ceremonies are not created, they are discovered.

Here is how it might work. You start with a rudimentary ceremony, perhaps lighting a candle each morning and taking a moment to meditate on who you want to be today. But how do you light the candle perfectly? Maybe you pick it up and tilt it over the match. Then where do you put the match? On a little plate perhaps, kept off to the side. And you put the candle back down just right. Then maybe you ring a chime three times. How long between rings’? Are you in a hurry’? No, you wait until each tone fades into silence? Yes, that is how to do it….

I’m not saying that these rules and procedures should govern your ceremony. To discover a ceremony, follow the thread of “Yes, that is how to do it,” that mindfulness reveals. Watching, listening, concentrating the attention, we discover what to do, what to say, and how to participate. It is no different than how people learn right relationship with the land.


Reflections around ceremony


The candle may grow into a small altar and its lighting into a longer ceremony of caring for that altar. Then it radiates outward. Maybe soon you organise your desk with the same care. And your home. And then you put that same care and intentionality into your workplace, your relationship, and the food you put into your body. Over time, the ceremony becomes an anchor point for a shift in the reality that you inhabit. You may find that life organises itself around the intention behind the ceremony. You might experience synchronicity that seems to confirm that indeed, a larger intelligence is at work here.

As that happens, the feeling swells that numberless beings accompany us here. The ceremony, which only makes sense if holy beings are watching, draws us into an experiential reality in which holy beings are indeed present. The more present they are, the deeper the invitation to make more acts, indeed every act, a ceremony done with full attention and integrity. What would life be then? What would the world be then?

Full attention and integrity takes different forms in different circumstances. ln a ritual it means something quite different than it does in a game, a conversation, or cooking dinner. In one situation it might demand precision and order; in another, spontaneity, daring or improvisation. Ceremony sets the tone for each act and word being aligned with what one truly is, what one wants to be, and the world in which one wants to live.


Reflections around ceremony




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