Sacred Rituals

Photograph by Michelle Engberg With a friend at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, Arizona, sharing one of my favorite sacred rituals-- laughing with the ones I love

Photograph by Michelle Engberg

With a friend at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, Arizona, sharing one of my favorite sacred rituals-- laughing with the ones I love

One of my favorite yoga lessons, Stepping into Tadasana, teaches balance amidst life’s constant change. Shannon Paige, its instructor, guides students through postures which embody the shakiness, the imbalance, that pervade us as we live in transition. Moving with limbs akimbo, body undulating from toes and fingertips to palms and soles, breath and core always steady—she teaches how to dance, in spite of change, with our own equilibrium, confidence, and grace. 

Along with yoga and writing, a stable home and career have, until recently, served as the fulcrum on which my life has poised. But currently, I’m straddling  between the loft I share with my boyfriend, the family home now split into “Mum’s” and “Dad’s,” and the house I will officially call my home. I also spend most of my waking hours with one foot in my cubicle at work, and another foot in the abundant space of my words. I’m realizing that my home and my career—their vision, their rhythm, their fulfillment—develop as my desires and choices ebb and flow over time. In turn, I’m discovering that balance isn't defined by stasis.

What truly centers us, is our constant ability to choose what and who we become at any, inherently fluid, moment.

To cultivate the above sense of contentedness, sacred rituals are crucial. Sacred rituals are habits or routines that we devote ourselves to with our whole beings, in choosing what and whom to become. 

As we define and commit to these rituals, we sense humankind’s endurance through centuries of disembodiment from nature in general, and our own physical natures in particular. Leading to this disembodiment is the fact that industry, technology, and economics have grown to dominate and distort our lives. So, in my experience, our most important sacred rituals allow us to celebrate, to love, and to explore our integration with our spiritual and bodily nature. Such routines can range from mindfully preparing our fruit and vegetables each day, to our decades-long devotion to yoga or other sacred practices.

What may create resistance to practicing these routines is the threat of them removing or inhibiting us from daily life. To integrate the sacred rituals we choose into our ordinary lives, most wisdom/spiritual traditions embed them into daily and seasonal cycles, such as mealtimes and mythological milestones occurring on certain dates each year—i.e., Christmas. Whether or not we follow one or more wisdom/spiritual traditions, it helps to define important cycles in our lives with which to marry these habits.

What are essential are the purpose, concentration, and consistency with which we forge our routines—more than the form of these routines. I've felt, for instance, comparable benefits genuflecting before holy statues at churches in London or Lago Maggiore through the years, as I have exchanging a few deep breaths with each morning at my Tempe apartment.

Nonetheless, silence and stillness are vital. Consecrating regular times for silence and stillness heals the rift with nature and our bodies that we've suffered through the centuries, by helping to ground us in our physical awareness. Beyond the chaos of the stimulation and the demands of our modern lives, we can settle with the cadence of our breathing and ourselves, and we can cultivate balance.

As we navigate our lives through our sacred rituals, we discover ourselves between our profound reflection on how we've evolved, our visions of what and who we intend to become, and our commitment to acting in honor of both. While we will tremble as we center between these aspects, our habits will aid us in the process.  

Who are the ones who've influenced you to practice your sacred rituals, and how have you adapted their teachings to suit you, your lifestyle, and the culture in which you live?

What about these routines has remained constant for you, if anything, as you and your life have evolved?

How has learning, creating, practicing, and/or returning to these habits benefited you?

 

To explore a number of yoga practices, including Stepping into Tadasana, in addition to other consciousness-raising rituals, philosophies, and leaders, I recommend Gaiam TV. You can sign up for free for ten days, and then pay just $9.95 per month at www.gaiamtv.com.

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