Sunday Sharing -- I'm connecting
The past few weeks in quarantine have been spiritually alienating for me. I’ve lost focus during morning altar time. My attention has even wandered during daily walks to the mailbox--despite committing myself to practice mindfulness while doing so. It has been disconcerting, particularly as I believe that connection is central to my process and belief system, and I have felt disconnected. However I also know that these events are related to something deeper within myself. I like to be an active problem-solver and what I’ve been experiencing does not call for being actively solved or understood. Going back to roots, to quiet meditation is what I needed to do--returning to basics, to origins, has aided and inspired my practice.
Connection with what is, what has come before, and what will be, is different for each of us. Our experiences of family and relationships, with health, livelihood, and culture are as individual as there are people upon this earth. They are part of our personally unique origin story. The origin stories of our early ancestors informed their descendents and, for many today, they continue to reach us across the centuries, affecting us in ways that, sometimes, we may be privy to understanding. These little glimpses of insight may come upon us, perhaps unawares, causing us to reflect on where a certain idea or thought may have come from. For myself, I have experienced these glimmers of knowing most profoundly in ritual settings.
I believe that my earliest ancestors used ritual as a way to connect with and find understanding about the world around them; to build relationships with members of their local family and the broader community; for economic purposes; or simply as a means of survival and finding comfort in traditional ways of being and doing. Victor Turner linked ritual to social processes as a means to create and transform social relationships. At the core, I believe ritual arose from a need or want for connection with the land and with each other due to, as Barbara Tedlock wrote, belief in an interconnected and interdependent web of life. My own awareness grew through this connected relationship, somewhat akin to Martin Buber’s description of the I-Thou relationship based upon mutuality and reciprocity, and the idea that we constantly oscillate between encounter and experience.
For me, thinking about spiritual encounters and religious experiences is more than just the physical act of going to church or attending ritual. Connections between ideas and theologies, or connections between peoples and cultures, or connections between time and place, and connections between you and I ultimately bring us into a place of relationship that is inescapable. We are, down to our DNA, a part of the human origin story--a story that is our personal story, too.
It is important to affirm that my beliefs about community and the importance of community in providing connections and stability, care and healing, a place of belonging, and a sense of identity are essential to me. In the broadest sense, community as a physical setting and, indeed, those liminal spaces of community--the “betwixt and between” that Turner mentions--that ritual can provide, are essential elements of practice and life that I hold dear. So for now to help facilitate this, I participate in online group chats and spiritual gatherings, book discussions and concerts of all kinds and, most assuredly, as Beltane approaches, I will be joining with others in an online ritual to mark the season.
So even as we socially distance ourselves, we need not socially isolate ourselves. Please join with others and connect.
(Barbara Tedlock, “The Woman in the Shaman’s Body" and Victor Turner, “The Forest of Symbols”)