ritual as a journey

woodland path

I started talking about ritual yesterday. Why do we perform rituals? One theory is that rituals take us on a guided journey to an encounter with divine or collective energy. The steps of the ritual lead us in a programmed way, deeper and deeper until we meet Source. And then we are guided back to “normal,” waking, conscious life again. If the ritual is an effective one, we are transformed and changed by our experience.

The journey is most obvious in religious rituals. Typically there is some kind of invocation or initial statement of intention, along with a calming of the mind, either through prayer or contemplation. Often there is some kind of cleansing segment, or the leaving behind of negative or unnecessary thoughts or behaviors. Then there is often an induction into a trance state, where the boundaries of the self are loosened or dropped, and we allow ourselves to blend with the collective energy. There may also be a teaching component at this point (like a sermon or homily), when our minds are most receptive to new learning and thinking patterns. There may also be a healing ceremony, or other sacraments such as the eucharist in the Christian church (literally, “communion” with God). Finally, there’s the coming out of the trance, the returning to the waking world and the drawing up of the boundaries of the self again, before the ritual is complete. Often there is a commissioning or benediction – sending the worshippers out into the world with a blessing, and instructions for living their everyday lives in a new way.

Do you participate in an organized religion? If you do, have you experienced how the rituals of your religious services connect you with God?

If you don’t participate in organized religion, can you see parallel rituals in your own life that connect you with something deeper – either your true self, or the collective energy? What does that feel like? Do your secular rituals nourish your life?