We are two weeks into 2021. Many may have gotten into the groove of the new year. Some of us may have already planned (or planning) to take up new practices or drop old ones to navigate through another year of our finitude.
As we reflected on our practices, we also pondered about rituals, hence the topic for this issue. We invite you to join us in our explorations of what is a ritual to us, and through it, we hope you get to explore yours as well.
Food for Thought
Article // The Archimedean Point // by Daryl
Article // Toward a fuller life // by Rosslyn
To our friends in the US, it’s a big week with Biden’s inauguration coming up. Stay safe and well, remember to care for yourself physically and emotionally.
Rosslyn & Daryl
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
In every exposition, we break ideas apart and lay our explorations before us to make sense of it in its entirety before extracting its essence again into a seemingly simple point. It’s an endless process of learning and, in each, we gain a deeper knowledge of what we study.
This issue covers two explorations on Rituals: one from a theoretical angle, and, the other, an experiential angle. What is common to both is the sacredness of rituals and the meanings we imbue in them. A ritual, performed alone or in groups, holds personal significance. It is an act of volition done for the sake of something that’s bigger than our egoic Selves.
Your turn, dear reader, what makes a ritual a ritual for you?
What are some rituals you have? What are the parts/aspects of each?
What’s your relationship to rituals and what role do they play in your life?
How might you approach a current habit and transform that into a ritual?
ARTICLE // by Daryl
The Archimedean Point
Like the unwavering North Star that hangs in the infinite vastness above, a ritual is what we take our bearings from in a world largely characterized by chaos. It’s easy to lose our way because when we are endlessly buffeted by minutiae threatening to overwhelm us, our inner world inadvertently begins to mirror the external world in all its manifold complexity and flux. Engaging in a ritual, then, is our personal act of carving out a clearing within to resist the tempest without. This is because a ritual helps us to return home to ourselves to regroup and gain clarity about where we are in this current moment so we can chart the next step forward on our own terms.
Then how is a ritual different from a routine? Good question. A ritual, unlike a routine, is pregnant with significance. Or, put another way, once a routine gains significance for us, it can become a ritual. A routine, at best, is something we perform out of habit; at worst, it’s a yoke that was imposed on us, and we have somehow gotten used to it like the proverbial pebble in our shoe. But this simply means we remain alienated from a routine whereas a ritual is something we own. It is for us instead of merely being on us. This is precisely why a ritual is the path back to ourselves when we’re about to be overwhelmed by external conditions. Through its significance, we become empowered to face come what may. I’ll use myself as an example. I come from a country that leans towards the authoritarian end of the political spectrum, and over the course of the last couple of decades, my heart has grown weary. But every time I read the immortal opening of the Declaration of Independence—“We the People”—my spirits are lifted and I recall why this has been my constant preoccupation. It is to the spirit of democracy itself that I’m dedicated to. And in the wake of last week’s insurrection at Capitol Hill, I found myself looking to those three words once again. Not merely for solace, but also for hope, that the last bastion of democracy should stand strong. The ritualization of these three words makes them sacred and weighty for me. This is my ritual because the democratic spirit is so very dear to me. As I read those words once again, the weariness from watching democracy come under siege time and again is eased.
A ritual, therefore, is also ultimately a representation of our freedom. Even when everything is beyond our control, a ritual is the Archimedean point through which we impose order on this chaotic world. As I write this, I’m reminded of a quote: “When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the world, ‘No, YOU move.’” Having a ritual empowers us to do just that, to stake our place and assert ourselves before assuredly replying to the world, “Not today.”
Till next time, may you enjoy the renewed sense of self through your rituals.
ARTICLE // by Rosslyn
Toward a fuller life
I had thought I’d be writing about Writing since it’s the ritual I undertake daily, more consistently than meditation, and more constant than the sky showing up in cerulean today. Yet, the vast vista before me invites me to breathe and write about meditation instead. Having experienced different phases and changing attitudes toward meditation, exploring its evolution may help me better inquire into the topic of Rituals I know little about.
The following list charts the evolution of the different motivations that have been driving me toward this practice.
I’m told to do it
I want to graduate from my coaching training school
I want to develop the body of a coach
I want to hold myself and the wounded parts of me.
I want to develop the capacity to support others
I want to connect with myself (the source of life within me)
Mostly, I now enter my meditative space with #6 in mind, and occasionally #5, when I am preparing for a coaching or facilitation session.
Four aspects emerged when I reflected on how meditation was and has become for me.
Listen to the desire that comes from within.
Feel the gentle pull, not the forceful push.
Three years ago, I began excitedly, blocking out half-hours on my calendar daily, filling them with blue labels of “MEDITATION.” Two weeks in, and I experienced a mini burn-out. Frustration grew as my critic pounded on me each day to get me to sit. A burn-out from a spiritual practice, what a joke, it was hard to believe. It wasn’t long before meditation became a chore that drained the joy out of me.
My intention was unclear, or rather, I didn’t have any. It felt like a practice imposed on me. We sit to develop presence, they said, but what presence is, they told me not. Now I understand why—presence has to be experienced to be known—even if I was given an explanation, I might not have appreciated it without experiencing it myself.
One of my dear teachers loves to pose this question, “For the sake of what…?” in service of us inquiring into our motivations and making clear our intentions. My earlier motivations for meditating came as a push from my inner critic, I had no real desire to do it. But as time passed, there came a day when I felt its tender pull. Its resonance drew me to sit on the meditation cushion and breathe. Gratitude filled my lungs when I heeded my desire to go inward and allowed myself to. Ever since I sit to connect with myself.
Meaning transcends the purpose of our actions; appreciating the manifold layers of meaning in a practice enriches our experience of it.
If you’ve tried meditating before, you might be aware of the many types of meditation practices. The one I engage in, the Kath meditation, focuses on the Kath point in the belly. Most beginners cannot feel their Kath point in their early forays into meditation and worry if they are doing it correctly. I, too, went through that phase till one magical day, I felt its vivifying pulse. I was in awe. Everything connected: the belly point as the nexus of my life force; experiencing its unwavering support; connecting my existence with its corporeal wisdom and the larger source of life beyond; developing my capacity to allow and hold more. All these infused meaning into my practice. A single practice with multiple dimensions, and suddenly, each is unveiling itself to me.
A whole new world unfurled before me. The act of sitting was no longer a passive deed. It’s an active being.
Presence elevates all it touches.
Essentially, when we truly understand our presence as the precious moments of our finitude, we begin to appreciate how the act of gifting our presence honors its recipient. In honoring, we distinguish and, thus, elevate what we honor.
A ritual, even when repeated, is treated as a singular event. Without carrying past and future instances, I face the current moment, my practice before me, in its entirety. It feels as though I’ve planted my feet in deep waters, ready to face my edge head-on.
Dedication of the Self
What’s sacred is worthy of respect and dedication.
As I continued to integrate intention, meaning, and presence with my practice, it transformed further. Sometimes, I gain new experiences, with each experience deepening my appreciation of the practice. It started to evolve into something sacred to me.
A ritual is a sacred practice bridging our natural and spiritual worlds; a dedication of the self to something larger, be it another being, a community, the universe or God (if you believe in one), or the source of life within. It bears awe, even reverence, of what it serves, becoming a vessel for our willingness and commitment to partake in life.
From a chore to a practice to a ritual; what was once tedious is now a fulfillment of an inner desire and a commitment to myself. The same act of sitting with a transformed relationship now gives rise to a more profound experience bringing more freedom, ease, and contentment.
When we know why and what we practice; when we can be present with ourselves as we practice and dedicate it to something larger than our Selves, we have ritualized our acts.
A ritual is an act of self-remembering, of honoring, of connecting, of living. My rituals enable me to experience the lengthening of time alongside the emergence of spaciousness. In short, a fuller life.
May you develop a new sense of appreciation for your practices.
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