It may be a cliché to compare spirituality to a garden, but there really is no better analogy because our lives come into blossom and grow lush when we cultivate spirit. With springtime unfolding, this is the perfect time to pay attention to our spirituality, and a good way to do this is through ritual.
Author Elizabeth Fisher noted that "to be in ritual is to be in the river of life."1 Ritual is separate from everyday life, and yet it nourishes every facet of life. It allows us to pause and step out of our everyday existence. When we do this, we move beyond the familiar into mystery, where we can seek answers to age-old questions about life. We are continually drawn by mystery because we are seekers. We want to find who we are, what we are, and where we belong. There is a deep part of us that needs to search for answers, that needs to find connection with something greater than what is presented to us in daily life.
Through ritual we seek connection with the Divine as well as connection with inner self. Eckhart Tolle noted that when we reach a certain state of being, it is "a state of connectedness with something immeasurable" that is "essentially you and yet is much greater than you. It is finding your true nature beyond name and form."2
All too often the inner self cannot be heard because of all the noise with which we surround ourselves, as well as the chatter of our minds. Tolle said that "this incessant mental noise prevents you from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from being."3 Although ritual can be noisy at times, it is sounds such as chanting, singing, and drumming that gives us focus. As we maintain focus, we move deeper into self and find our connection with divinity.
This is why ritual is never a passive event. We engage our intention and energy in an exploration of sacred relationship with self and the Divine which enables us to find that state of connectedness. Once found, we can begin to balance our inner and outer worlds. We begin to bring true self into daily life as well as find something sacred in each day. We start to live with intent. This is when life begins to blossom and we find our purpose.
Through ritual we are able to create the physical and mental space we need to define and follow our inner path to the outer world where we eventually see that many of the trappings of modern life are meaningless. I don't believe that we were put on this earth to worry about what is happening on Wall Street or next door at the proverbial Jones household. Dr. Wayne Dyer said that "connecting to intention means listening to your heart and conducting yourself based on what your inner voice tells you is your purpose here."4
When we develop a rich inner path, we can live in wonder and appreciation of each day. The sacred and the secular parts of our lives become intertwined. John O'Donohue noted that "each day is a secret story woven around the radiant heart of wonder."5 To feel deep within our souls the beauty of a sunset or a seagull winging low over the water, to feel the pull of the moon and the sway of the tides is to find our place in the greater cosmos. Through ritual we are able to slow down and reflect on the things that are important on a soul level.
In ritual we create a time and place that is sacred and safe. Because we move into different levels of self that we may not frequent on a regular basis, we may encounter deep-seated emotions. These can be expressed in ways that are not scary or overwhelming. In group ritual others are present to provide comfort and support. Whether or not deep emotions are expressed, ritual serves to strengthen community. When we open ourselves for ritual, we open our hearts for sharing.
In addition, as we stand in the circle of community we connect with the spiral of past and future. We engage in traditions that reach back to our ancestors and we add nuances that may stretch forward for the many generations who follow. We find purpose in holding our strands in the web of life that connects us to every one and every thing.
Entering into ritual awakens us to what is eternal within ourselves as well as the world around us. We find that the wheel of the year does more than mark cyclic occasions; it brings our souls into the rhythms of the natural world. In this cyclical process we find the presence of the Divine in nature and as part of our true nature, which leads us back into self and the inner path we tread. We affirm what we believe and confirm who we are and weave a rich tapestry with strands that connect our inner and outer worlds.
If we set our intent, the energy that we build in ritual remains with us as we move from sacred back to secular. When we return to the multi-tasking, rush-rush world we can keep that spark of divinity kindled in our hearts and carry on with our everyday endeavors with a mindfulness that brings fulfillment.
However, in order for ritual to have such a profound effect it must hold meaning. It is vital to develop a personal understanding of the purpose of each ritual. Yes, Imbolg/Candlemas celebrates the growing light and Ostara, renewal and growth; but what does that mean on a personal level? Figuring this out for ourselves is an essential ingredient that we intertwine with the tradition behind each ritual which allows us to integrate it with our inner path. Without this level of individual engagement, ritual is mere performance. It may be fun, but so is going to the movies. Ritual requires personal perspective and depth.
If we want to find a true connection with self, community and the Divine, we must invest time and effort to dig deep. It doesn't automatically happen just because we go through the motions. Preparation for ritual needs to include self-exploration and intent. We must prepare the inner garden of our souls if we want it to blossom and come to fruition.
May this season of renewal that is ready to burst forth help you cultivate the garden of your soul.
1Elizabeth Fisher, Rise Up and Call Her Name, p. 9.
Sandra Kynes (Portland, ME) is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids and the author of seventeen books, including Star Magic, Llewellyn's Complete Book of Correspondences, Mixing Essential Oils for Magic, ...