Creating Meaning

+ three candles in front of rocks 25035826_sMost mornings, after rising out of bed, I do two routines before meditating. The first is some body work to limber myself up – I stretch, reach, swing my arms and legs, rotate my neck and torso. This routine gets the blood flowing into my muscles and bones and helps me wake up and reconnect with my body.

In the second routine, I reconnect with Spirit. I face each of the seven sacred directions: North, South, East and West, Above, Below and Within. With my hands at my heart, I acknowledge my animal spirit guides who reside in each direction. These animals symbolize various qualities that guide, direct, comfort and inspire me. This routine grounds me in the “coordinate points” that orient me both on the planet and in the Universe. By doing this routine every day, I am reminded that “I am here, Spirit is here, surrounding and supporting me.”

Both of these routines are important to me, but only the second one feels like a ritual. Honoring the directions has an element of Spirit and is therefore more meaningful to me than the routine to limber up my body. It is the dimension of Spirit and meaning that separates a ritual from a routine. By bringing in Spirit, a routine is transformed into an event of significance.

Rituals and ceremonies have been with us since the beginning of time and serve to give us pause, remind us of and bring consciousness to the moments and events that are important to us. We sing “Happy Birthday” to celebrate a life, shoot off firecrackers on the Fourth of July, and make speeches to honor those who lost their lives in wars and tragedies. Rituals and ceremonies come in many forms and can be as simple as sitting in a circle around a fire or as complicated as a prescribed liturgy or a Native American ceremony that lasts for days.

I am intrigued by rituals and am drawn to having them in my life. When something comes along that has meaning for me, like an achievement, an anniversary of an event (joyful or sad), or a new beginning, I’m moved to create a ceremony to honor it.

My rituals are not complicated. I set aside some time, gather some things to help me in the process: a candle, a drum, a singing bowl, my journal, my animal spirit cards or runes. I set up an altar, do some meditation, formulate some intentions. It doesn’t take a lot, but even these simple actions surround the event with meaning and call in the Divine.

In June, I led a Summer Solstice Ceremony honoring the longest day of the year. Inspired by the Native cultures in Chaco Canyon, I transformed the Meditation Hall at the Theosophical Society into a sort of a kiva, a spiritual ceremonial space. We burned sage to clear our energy, resonated with the beating of the buffalo drum, lit a circle of candles placed around a bouquet of field flowers. The long, generous days of sunlight were acknowledged, the power of the growing season honored. We asked ourselves what we wanted to grow in our lives over the summer, and set intentions to manifest them. Sitting in a circle added a sense of group support to each person’s hopes and wishes. We called in the abundance of the growing season to help the planet grow and heal. The symbolism of Solstice was honored and integrated into our lives.

Last evening, as I worked at my computer, I looked up through my basement window and saw the western sky bathed in pink clouds. I dashed upstairs to my yard to stand under the canopy of color. Putting my hands to my heart, I silently acknowledged Nature’s beauty and the gloriousness of the sunset, the day’s end. It was a brief, informal, ceremonial moment that reminded me how simple a ritual can be – a combination of noticing, appreciating and honoring what is going on.

Finding meaning in and acknowledging every moment and situation that calls to us brings in consciousness and the dimension of the Divine. The fabric of life becomes richer with each conscious gesture. What holds meaning for you? What are your rituals? What are you honoring in your life?

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