Sara K. Schneider's Skin in the Game

Reflections on body, culture, and spiritual practice

A Practice in Engaging the Ritual Dimension

Consider a ritual in which you are a central character–not the kind you have to wait a lifetime for, but one in which you participate virtually every day–saying goodbye. The act has both a ceremonial (a more outward) dimension and a ritual function.

To illustrate, I once went to a lecture by an Indian professor, who opened his session with a prayer: May our time together be filled with learning; may no enmity divide us from each other.

I had never considered that any kind of personal distaste, hatred, or conflict could divide one from another in the context of a lecture. After all, isn’t a lecture an intellectual exercise or, at most, an intellectual exchange? We come and leave as attendees to a lecture.

Yet this visiting professor showed all of us the potential of the lecture format to be replete with ritual content. Bracketing the event as one in which common learning ought to be central, he altered the more typical view that I held. One could see it as something more than an event in which one comes to and leaves as an individual mind (carried around by the body as a tripod for the brain).

Instead, perhaps even a lecture is an experience through which we might recognize our shared purpose in coming to understand the text at hand and be in relationship with a respected teacher and a social body.
Goodbyes are similarly relational.

Consider:

What can a goodbye accomplish?

Two possibilities:

  • cleansing the relationship of any unspoken “enmity” or anything else that might divide, and
  • generating authentic expectations for the continuation of contact on another occasion.

What do your goodbyes not merely look and sound like, but accomplish?

Try this:

For a day, make a complete goodbye with each person you meet.

Consider a ritual in which you are a central character–not the kind you have to wait a lifetime for, but one in which you participate virtually every day–saying goodbye. The act has both a ceremonial (a more outward) dimension and a ritual function.
To illustrate, I once went to a lecture by an Indian professor, who opened his session with a prayer: May our time together be filled with learning; may no enmity divide us from each other.

I had never considered that any kind of personal distaste, hatred, or conflict could divide one from another in the context of a lecture. After all, isn’t a lecture an intellectual exercise or, at most, an intellectual exchange? We come and leave as attendees to a lecture.

Yet this visiting professor showed all of us the potential of the lecture format to be replete with ritual content. Bracketing the event as one in which common learning ought to be central, he altered the more typical view that I held. One could see it as something more than an event in which one comes to and leaves as an individual mind (carried around by the body as a tripod for the brain). Instead, perhaps even a lecture is an experience through which we might recognize our shared purpose in coming to understand the text at hand and be in relationship with a respected teacher and a social body.

Goodbyes are similarly relational.

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October 15, 2010 - Posted by | Insight Practices

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