I’ve been thinking a lot about ritual lately. Whether routines, traditions, religious behaviors or familiar habits. These are things that give meaning to our lives. As I have slowly stripped away many belief systems that formed my identity and my worldview, I have also embraced the beauty of ritual.
I’m not referring to superstition or fear-based myth, but rather the concept of acting out the spiritual through the physical realm. Most of these things engage the mind and the body in a healthy expression of emotion to bring connection through gratitude and joy and peace.
If what we believe to be true becomes true, and if beliefs are simply a way of explaining the unknowable, then myth plays a role in our lives to bring meaning and value to existence. To beautify the mundane.
The becoming of who we are is really only setting aside who we are not. Often it requires years of stripping away and trial and error before we become comfortable with the many faces that we are. Myths have a way of using stories to convey a message, a meaning, that might otherwise transcend language. A way we can relate to one another and to ourselves without the barrier of culture and dogma. It has been suggested that without the story, society suffers greatly, and I am beginning to understand this concept in a new way.
Without ritual, or tradition, humanity is out of touch with the past, and disconnected from the present. Without stories to enlighten just a corner of the unknowable prism of truths, we have no rhythm to dance to. Now I’m not suggesting that a fear based religion or cult is a good option for anyone, however, taken symbolically as nourishment for the soul, every culture has a story for revealing the truth they stumbled upon and then passed on to generations that followed. Many are fear based superstitions and some are only understood when the voice of the myth is also understood. Some are to explain the unknown while others are to illuminate a pocket of the mind that might come alive with a new understanding of humanity or the earth or the universe in general.
As I left behind the confusion and anger of recognizing the identity I had formed for myself was not real, or rather a story I did not want to own, I was able to stand naked before myself. In doing so, I have so much more appreciation for everything and everyone. Empathy and compassion come easily and fascination with people and their stories are becoming a part of my inner life much more than before. Judgement left behind allows for growth and invites a new kind of interaction with humanity and the earth.
Establishing ritual or tradition can be anything small or big, tapping into roots of our ancestors or forging new paths into the future. As simple as taking coffee a certain way each morning, a prayer or meditation, a habitual beach walk or a nightly bubble bath; as complex as ceremonial traditions ranging from shamanistic practices to religious study. When it comes down to it, we each create our own myths and our own rituals once we identify who we are and who we would like to be. And although, quite possibly, these rituals change from time to time as we mature and grow, the rituals enable us to experience ourselves during that expansion. Expressing our love and energy while creating our story.
When I left the idea of religion behind, I dropped many of the traditions and rituals, but have begun to see the value in cultivating my own rituals, and have watched many show up on their own as I continue to discover more of myself and more of what draws me, what intrigues me, what excites my spirit and feeds my soul. What connects me to the divine in myself and others, and what illuminates the beauty of each moment is so wonderfully experienced through rituals. It’s part of what makes us feel alive.
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” ~Joseph Campbell