Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of April 5, 2021


Rituals

(Long-Form Living: 1)

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Though there are many types of rituals, they all serve as powerful bulwarks against time. There are public rituals, for example elections, sporting events, and graduations. There are private rituals, for example birthday celebrations and family dinners. Such rituals create stable foundations for our life. Here we shall focus on individual and group rituals in the domain of spiritual practices.

Spiritual practices that are repeated regularly and enough times become deeply ingrained in us and, among their other benefits, serve as rituals for us. If every morning we sit down to meditate, that becomes a ritual. The regular repetition itself gradually imbues the act with more and more meaning. That does not happen with everything we repeat; we may brush our teeth every morning, but its level of meaningfulness remains about the same. Meditation is inherently meaningful and its meaning grows as our engagement with it continues. The regularity of a morning meditation trains our body and our being to improve at it and to be ready to bring our best to it. The meditation becomes a ritual of feeding our soul, just as mealtimes are rituals for feeding our body.

The repetition of a spiritual ritual, such as regular formal prayer or meditation, whether individual or in a group, transforms that event's relationship to time. It is not just that it recurs. The repetition creates a thread that burrows through time. Each repetition strengthens that thread. And because that thread ties each event together, it gives the event a broad foundation that transcends time. Each subsequent session of prayer or meditation then stands on that increasingly timeless foundation, enabling us to be touched by the eternal. Each subsequent session makes all the prior ones that much more meaningful.

To see a little more deeply into this, consider that sensing our whole body gives us a broad awareness, a broad base, a place to stand, in space. This puts us in a position to open to consciousness, to the conscious energy, which fills and transcends space. In the same way, rituals give us a broad base in time, spanning years or even decades. The thread that connects all those instances goes through the conscious energy, which transcends both space and time. Each renewal of a ritual puts us in contact with that broad base in time, positioning us to open to the conscious energy. In that way, we are brought closer to the spiritual realms beyond the conscious energy. This opening toward transcendence underpins the deep wisdom behind the universal religious and spiritual methodology of ritualizing and cyclically repeating specific approaches to the Sacred.

Group rituals have the added benefit of connecting us with the other participants, and through the group nature of the events, help raise us above our usual individual concerns to more objective and universal aspirations. This clearly holds true for group worship and meditation. It also holds in other, singular rituals, such as the religious ceremony of a wedding, which adds spiritual weight to the commitment of marriage, as well as light to the joy of the event.

Two major mechanisms give group rituals their power. One is the shared will of the group, the members of which largely have the same aim within the confines of the ritual. This shared will strengthens and helps focus the will of each participant. Secondly, group consciousness can come into play, whereby the focused will of each participant concentrates the conscious energy broadly, making the field of that energy stronger for all involved. The conscious energy has no boundaries and embraces the entire group. This is the great blessing of communal worship and meditation. The more each participant brings to the event, the more all participants benefit.

For this week, please notice the rituals in your life and how they affect you.


     

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