The Power of Ritual

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2000-02-01
  • Publisher: Dell

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Simple ways to bring ritual and meaning into your life How to create sacred spaces in your own home Step-by-step guidance on creating rituals for births, rites of passage, weddings, and other celebrations--both religious and secular The Omega Institute, the nation's largest holistic education and retreat center, has helped tens of thousands of people in their search for well-being, personal growth, and spiritual development through its world-renowned workshops and retreats. Now the experts at the Omega Institute share their wisdom with you in a unique series of books that provide the guidance, the inspiration, and the skills you need to bring increased meaning and vitality into your life. . . . We all seek spiritual wholeness, a sense of belonging, of individual identity as well as connection to something greater than ourselves. In this remarkable book, one of the Omega Institute's foremost experts explores the power of ritual to transform our lives, offering simple, creative ways to strengthen family, friendship, community--as well as sense of self. Here is inspiring evidence of the role of ritual in secular as well as religious life, and easy, do-it-yourself techniques to help you find inner peace, meaning, and well-being. Whether you find inspiration in religious tradition or wish to create meaningful new rituals of your own, you'll learn: How to explore the sacred through ritual How to tap into new sources of healing and energy Ancient rituals celebrating the seasons, the senses, time and space How to use ritual to strengthen marriage and family bonds

Author Biography

Rachel Pollack has taught an annual weeklong course on tarot at Omega for twelve years.  She is a poet and award-winning author of twenty-two books of both fiction and nonfiction on the theme of spirituality in modern life.  Her classic study of symbolism in tarot cards, <b>78 Degrees of Wisdom</b>, has long been considered the bible of tarot readers, and her most recent book, <b>Godmother Night</b>, won the 1997 World Fantasy Award.


The Many Sides of Ritual

You stand in a circle with your friends and family at the end of the longest day of the year. From today until December 21, half a year away, the days will get shorter and shorter. You and the others have joined to celebrate this peak moment of light. A wreath of flowers adorns your head; your daughter made it for you. Woven strands of flowers and ribbons of all colors drape the trees, a sight that thrills you with its vibrant beauty. To one side stand picnic tables filled with food and wildflowers. On another side men and women, dressed all in white, hold torches, ready to light the huge bonfire.

What a wonderful day, you think, filled with joy and love, with play and moments of intense emotion, with the closeness and love that come when people join together to celebrate their lives and their union with nature.

As the Sun reaches the horizon line, a song begins, written by the woman who invited you to the ritual. Very simple, it thanks the light as it begins its long journey to the darkness of Winter. The song rises in intensity until, as the last arc of the Sun dips out of sight, everyone lifts their arms and shouts. At that same instant, the bonfire leaps to life. You and your daughter hold hands and begin to dance, laughing, your hearts full of love.

Ritual is about connections and openings. It connects us to each other, to nature, to the cycles and rhythms of life. It opens our hearts to love and to intense emotion-sadness and longing as well as joy. And it opens a space for what we call the sacred, or spirituality, to enter our lives.

Before we explore all the details of ritual, the how-to and the great ritual traditions, let's take a moment to discover how ritual already appears in our lives, even when we do not identify it.

Special Moments

Are there special times and moments in your life, or special actions that touch a place deep inside you? Maybe you put your child to bed each night in a particular way. The two of you say a blessing together, or you ask your child what happened that day, or the two of you describe something that makes you feel grateful. Then you give the child his teddy bear, tuck him in with a kiss on the forehead, or maybe say a little poem that brings a smile. You do it the same way every night, partly because if you forget something your child will tell you to do it "right," and partly because you remember the things your own mother or father did, and how those nightly repetitions made you feel secure and loved as you fell asleep.

The things we do with our families often feature a repetition that gives them more meaning each time we do them. They do not need to be nightly. You wake up each year on your birthday to the smell of pancakes on the grill. As you lie in bed you know that in a minute your children will walk in with the tray holding the apple pancakes and maple syrup, the cut-up grapefruit, the two chocolate truffles on their little silver dish, and the single rose in a champagne glass (because that first time he did it, your husband couldn't find a vase the right size).

Every Valentine's Day you and your partner go to that bed-and-breakfast you discovered when you were first dating. You make sure to get the same room and go to the same restaurant overlooking the lake. When you return to your room you put on the portable CD player so you can dance to the same song you heard on the radio that first Valentine's Day you came here. The room, the restaurant, the song-they all help you rediscover the wonder of first love, and realize how much that love has deepened year after year.

Ritual helps us acknowledge the important moments in our lives. By doing things the same way, we recognize the patterns and continuity of our lives, while at the same time we place those moments outside of the ordinary flow of events.

When repetition occurs in everyday activities without thought or feeling, it may become boring. Jobs that require you to do the same task over and over can numb your senses and make life itself seem dreary. But when we find some meaningful activity and repeat it in a context of emotion, the repetition can lift us out of that same dreariness.

Such activities are rituals, not just because we always do them the same way, or even because they remind us of love and what really matters in life. They are rituals because they create moments outside the ordinary flow of events. We can call such moments time out of time. The break from our ordinary lives heightens our senses and reminds us of who we are. When such time out of time goes beyond the simple pleasures of quiet moments or annual celebrations to open us to spiritual awareness, then we move to the larger world of sacred ritual.

Secular Rituals

In American life today, most of us know the pleasures and renewal of ritual primarily in secular settings. For example, Monday Night Football. Fans increase their enjoyment by always doing it the same way--the same seat on the couch, the same beer and chips. The raw physicality and strong emotion of the game provide an expression of victory and defeat usually uncommon in a society where most of our battles are won and lost in the office. These weekly rituals culminate in the national celebration of Super Bowl Sunday. The parties for this television event have long eclipsed the football game itself. People begin planning as early as November. Already there are ritual foods, such as giant sandwiches.

Excerpted from The Power of Ritual by Rachel Pollack
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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