Wednesday, September 20, 2017

On Writing Tending the Soul with Healing Ritual

“People need Rituals. In today’s modern Western culture of progress and perpetual striving, the reflective qualities of religion, meditation, and ritual reside in the margins of our daily living. Yet many Western psyches yearn for a deeper experience with life and its mysteries. Despite the dominance of a material and scientific world-view, on a personal level, people still crave something more beautiful and meaningful than what materiality and the analytics of logic can offer.”

These opening words of my book, Tending the Soul with Healing Ritual explain exactly why I wrote the book. I grew up in a conservative Christian family, and even though I was devout, I also found a lot of what was being taught from the pulpit lacking a broader perspective and relevance to my life and my own philosophical observations. In college, I gained exposure to a wide range of perspectives, especially those argumentative against the belief-based traditions of my heritage. The more I learned, the more confused I became.

This triggered a search, a quest, if you will for my own sort of “Middle Way.” I began looking for deeper & broader wisdom that could help me cultivate a life-design balanced between extremes: one that benefitted from both reasonable rationality and empowering spirituality. My love of literature and writing led me into old stories, and in the study of myths I discovered that I was making a study of myself, as well as all humanity.

My studies have taken many turns and exposed me to many viewpoints, some of those ideas, like those of the shamanic culture in Peru and certain other Native American cultures, especially spoke to me. I would never suggest a return to the old days and the old ways, such that we forfeit the benefits we’ve gained from today’s panoramic view of cultures and philosophies. Yet, by rediscovering the jewels of perennial traditions, we can enlighten and enrich our existential dilemma with beauty, wisdom, and reason for being.

One of these jewels is the practice of Ritual. When I say ritual, I suspect you’re imagining something totally benign like tailgating parties or Thanksgiving dinner, or else something horror movie sinister with black robes and virgins on a central stone. It’s true that some traditional rituals, even ones practiced today are extremely harsh by modern standards. However, the jewel of healing Rituals (which I capitalize to distinguish as a high form) is more than some scripted act or idea. It is a vehicle for change. When we perform Ritual, we soften our mental and physical patterns so that inner and outer shifts can occur. Emotional and physical healing can be found when we relax our bodies and minds such that the very patterns of our being are influenced. Mystics have understood this metaphysically for millennia. Science is now making headway in identifying what the sages of the ages have tried to hand down.

This book is mostly a how-to book for creating personal rituals for your needs. Part One of the book provides some introductory theory about the whys and hows of Ritual. Especially important is how to create effective and safe rituals. Part Two offers a set of rituals that can be practiced in your home and yard or in other natural settings. For me, Ritual is a way of stepping into my prayers, animating them so that my whole self—body, mind, and soul—are aligned in one effort for healing and divine support. 

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