Sacred ceremonies address our need to feel connected to ourselves, to others and to the universe. Oftentimes the word “ritual” is associated with religion. It comes from a word that means “to bind together.” Ritual and ceremony therefore are about binding us to all creation, because it is in this bond that we encounter the numinous, becoming deeply aware of all that is sacred.
Every ceremony and ritual has two essential aspects, intention and action, heart and hand. Intention is the purpose, the action is… well that seems obvious, the outward activity of the inward intention. The hand is the activity of the heart. These 2 aspects work together to focus our minds on the significance of what we are doing. By acting out our intentions we feel them more completely in our body, mind and soul.
By acting out our intentions we are required to pay attention to what we are doing and why, thereby keeping us more fully in the present moment. Being fully present allows us to find that place within ourselves where we encounter the divine. In the words of William Blake, “see a world in a grain of sand and eternity in an hour.”
Be soft in your practice. Think of the method as a fine silvery stream, not a raging waterfall. Follow the stream, have faith in its course. It will go its own way, meandering here, trickling there. It will find the grooves, the cracks, the crevices. Just follow it. Never let it out of your sight. It will take you.” Buddhist Master Sheng-yen
Ceremony is typically magical, creative, and healing. It’s a felt demonstration of how the power of the universe works, and it provides an excellent way to honor all those events in our lives that we want to sanctify. Participating in sacred ceremony helps us bring our being into alignment with the natural flow and rhythm of life. Through the creation of ceremony, we allow the free movement of our soul into the mundane and of our consciousness in the realm of soul.
When we pay tribute to important life events through ceremony, it reminds us of how intimately connected we are with God and nature, and helps us be at peace with the inevitable changes that life brings. Often, all it takes is a simple ceremony performed with intention and sincerity to appreciate the awesome wonder of being alive.
In the hectic and driven pace that has become a part of our modern, technologically dominated lives, it’s even more critical that we access the spiritual realm consistently. Ceremonies that convey the substance of spirit into our minds and hearts can and should be a part of everyone’s daily menu, no matter what religious creed you follow or spiritual beliefs you hold. Although sacred ceremonies are often clothed in the language and customs of a particular religion, race, or culture, they need not be restricted by convention and tradition. Instead, with open heart and clear intention, you can develop ceremonies for yourself, your family, and your community.
Ceremony vs. Ritual
Rituals tend to feature a repetitious sequence of activity, such as a church service, in our case. The predictability conveys a sense of security for both the person performing the ritual and the participants. Rituals are consistent, whether sacred or mundane.
Sacred ceremonies however, require some structure and follow some guidelines, but make allowances within the execution for the intuitive process. In ceremony we creatively align our hearts with Spirit.
When we create ceremony with our hearts open, our faith in place and with clear intention, we are honoring, acknowledging and affirming our oneness of ourselves, with each other and with the universe.