Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Importance of Ritual

If the title of this post gives you visions of cauldrons and pentagrams surrounded by mysterious robed figures conjuring entities from beyond, don't misread it. Of course, for people ascribing to the Magic/Purple MEME level of thinking, that could be exactly what ritual is. However, in the perspective I'm talking about here, ritual is simply a set of actions that you tend to do at the same period of time, in mostly the same way every time.

For tribal organizations in Africa, that could mean a rain dance. For you, it could mean brushing your teeth at precisely 9:30pm at night.

So why is it important? Like anything, there is good news and bad news about ritual. The bad news is that you can use it to "check out", "zone out", or otherwise just not be here now. If the ultimate purpose of Life is to simply be cognizant of your union with all that is while integrating that with everything you do, then rituals can cut off that connection between you and knowing/being. In effect, they sever the connection between your mind and body by letting your body do one thing, and your mind another.

Let's say you go to the gym every day at noon and you get on the treadmill. In front of the treadmill are television sets that you can watch while you tread away. Your body is working out. Your mind is melting from watching The Price is Right. In that state, you might feel ok, but you are not being cognizant of your true self. Hence, the bad news of ritual.

However, there is good news. The good news is that ritual can provide momentum for you to overcome your ego at the earlier stages. If you do not want to go to the gym today, but you've been going every day for the last two years without fail, you are going to feel pretty miserable for not going. So you go. In a case like that, ritual has provided you the discipline you need to move.

Now, again, watch out. If you make it to the gym that day and then check out while you are on the tread mill, you have in effect negated the good news. Instead, you want to be on that treadmill feeling every single motion and breath you take. Be INSIDE your own body. Put your mind in what you are doing right here, right now. If ritual gave you the opportunity to do that, so much the better.