Suggestions for non-faith ritual/practice?


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Suggestions for non-faith ritual/practice?


So a bit of background: I've been on a long and winding spiritual journey. From cultural non practicing Christian, atheist, to studying myth and religion, to trying really, really, really hard to be Christian, to paganism, dipping the toe into witchcraft and wicca, to hardcore atheist-scientific-rationalist.

I had a shift in understanding when I recognized that myth wasn't a made-up story we applied to reality, but rather story that emerges from our shared human experience of the world. This is why so many myths have so much in common. And I've somehow come to this place where I find that my understanding of science and myth actually coexist quite comfortably. If you've listened to Alan Watts at all, I align most with his ideas. Let's not talk about Deepak Chopra - he appropriates scientific ideas into his imagery but doesn't understand them. I know many like his work, but it's not for me. Watts actually understands. Similarly Joseph Campbell.

So a lot of my impression of *practice* from Watts' thought and from my own is that it's very much
before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water
after enlightenment: chop wood, carry water
But at the same time I feel there's some value in ritual and I think ideas like grounding and cleansing are about pushing all that mental clutter out of your life and just getting back to just being, as well as recognizing the space around you and the need for that to let you just be, and world around you and your connection.

I wonder if there are others who might share my worldview somewhat, or if you've perhaps found your way into your practice from a similar worldview, and have suggestions about practice in terms of meditation, maybe use of herbs and smudging (I find this idea quite interesting as it's so widely practiced) or other things that might be ways of solidifying these ideas, from thought into action, as it were.

Dear moderator: is it possible to rename this thread? It's more of a request for thoughts. Maybe 'Suggestions for ritual/practice?' would be better?
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I understand this quest for meaning, and I suspect that I have a similar worldview, although I've come to it from a very different angle.

However, I would suggest maybe not smudging as I know that in North America, anyway, so many white people have taken it up that it's difficult for folks with indigenous backgrounds to access the herbs that they need to practice their traditional healings and rituals. It's either become prohibitively expensive, or simply unavailable.

I think that ritual can be found anywhere; chop wood and carry water is ritualistic, if you do them daily. Making yourself breakfast every morning can be a form of ritual. You could ascribe breakfast meaning by acknowledging it and honouring it, which is why so many people give thanks before meals, however that might look like for them.
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After trawling through various religions, Golden Dawn and ceremonial magic, paganism, witchcraft, atheism, pantheism, Tantra and Kriya etc, the key things they all have in common are...
*Focusing and control of the mind
*Creating something on an imaginary and 'real' world level
*Repetition of acts until something is mastered
*Breath control
*Energy/Sexual energy control (creation or suppression thereof, depending on who is talking)
*Someone in the group wrote a really inspiring book putting these ideas together in a new and relevant way.

The key is creativity- mould the things you like and work for you into your own personal practise... or just learn to sing/play an instrument
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I'm kind of where you are... my grandparents were staunchly roman catholic, my mom flits in and out of Christianity and Buddhist practice but raised us largely secular. I myself had an angsty teen bout with wicca (it didn't stick, as I wasn't allowed to explore it in my parent's home), then pretty much dived headlong into atheism. I am just now exploring a spiritual practice.

I love "smudging." It is almost like drawing a line in the sand with the negative energy from your day, and since I am somewhat sensitive to sage smoke (it can be a migraine trigger, especially if everyone was wearing perfume that day), I either use palo santo or cinnamon sticks. Sometimes I grind or chop dried culinary spices and use those. I'll be drying some herbs, greens, and flowers from my garden and yard this year to try as well.

I suggest you read the book Clearing Spaces, which explores a few different types of ritual cleansings. It's a quick easy read.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnemoneRosie View Post
However, I would suggest maybe not smudging as I know that in North America, anyway, so many white people have taken it up that it's difficult for folks with indigenous backgrounds to access the herbs that they need to practice their traditional healings and rituals. It's either become prohibitively expensive, or simply unavailable.
Thanks for this advice - it's important to me to support indigenous people. Here in Australia it might be a little different, but I'll find out about it before I make any purchases. I can always plant my own herbs. The question of appropriating indigenous ritual has been raised on one page I looked at, but I feel that smoking and incense are part of pretty much every culture I can find, including traditional forms of Christianity.

Quote:
Making yourself breakfast every morning can be a form of ritual.
My morning cup of tea certainly has some ritualistic properties. I guess as well as repetitive action, it's recognizing the sacred in the everyday.

Quote:
Originally Posted by earthair View Post
After trawling through various religions,....., the key things they all have in common are...

The key is creativity- mould the things you like and work for you into your own personal practise... or just learn to sing/play an instrument
That's a thought-provoking list, particularly the final 'someone in the group wrote a book'!! I've been reading some Greek and Roman authors - it's funny, so much wisdom in those books that could just as easily be in the Bible except that they don't mention the God of Abraham or Jesus. I recommend Epicurus, and the stoic Seneca.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogs&Coffee View Post
I love "smudging." It is almost like drawing a line in the sand with the negative energy from your day, and since I am somewhat sensitive to sage smoke (it can be a migraine trigger, especially if everyone was wearing perfume that day), I either use palo santo or cinnamon sticks. Sometimes I grind or chop dried culinary spices and use those. I'll be drying some herbs, greens, and flowers from my garden and yard this year to try as well.

I suggest you read the book Clearing Spaces, which explores a few different types of ritual cleansings. It's a quick easy read.
It's frustrating how families and even your wider social context can really dampen your ability to explore ideas. Even if they aren't outright banning it, unspoken disapproval can be powerful.

I like that 'drawing a line in the sand' idea.

I do tend to be sensitive to scents, though mainly artificial perfumes.
I have an empty garden bed - I got too busy and didn't plant anything over summer - so I will have to see if there's any winter or perennial herbs I can plant. Cinnamon is readily available.

Thanks for the book suggestion! I'll check it out.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by euripides View Post
It's frustrating how families and even your wider social context can really dampen your ability to explore ideas. Even if they aren't outright banning it, unspoken disapproval can be powerful.
Tell me about it!
Though after a long time - and chats on the subject (some heated, some within the walls of a couples counselling room) - resistant family are much less so.
I'm lucky my "wider social arena" tends to lean my way...



"before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water - after enlightenment: chop wood, carry water...
My preferred 'coin' is "After the ecstacy - the laundry" (there's a book - I've not read it).


I use aromatherapy scents - mostly just because I like them. (I don't really like sage).
To clear space - I use sound. I like sound.
I use a bell, tingshas, or tibetan bowl...
or clap or sing (overtone - I learnt once in a workshop long ago. It can get
creative as I add a little dance to it ).
If it needs to be quieter... I have a soft-sounding rattle or small tuning fork.

I will chop up favourite herbs and put them in a pocket container...
and on my walks in the woods, or elsewhere - take out a pinch and let it blow in the wind
whilst I say a little thank you to the Universe, the forest, or a Deity that comes to mind.

In the woods, I'll lean against a tree and just BE in the sensation of feeling the tree (meditation), or on my terrace in my chair, close my eyes and LISTEN to all the sounds around me.

I may lie on the carpet staring at the ceiling - and observe my breathing...
Eat a favourite food, really slowly and mindfully, or feel my every footstep as I walk down the stairs to the toilet...

I may bring back a bird feather or pinecone from my walk - and place it on my altar...
Admire. Look up the bird or tree species... contemplate and appreciate.

I am an eclectic Wiccan.



To rephrase - there is huge value in ritual, grounding and cleansing are about pushing the mental clutter out of ones mind and getting back to the simple (and Divine) experience of just BEING - and being connected to the surrounding world.
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This thread is right on time for me; I was just about to post a thread called "What's in your spiritual toolbox?"

Like you, I went on a twenty year search for a spirituality I could live with. I've finally discovered the secular side of things (literally meaning 'this generation'); I don't worry about rebirth, reincarnation, or resurrection of any form. I'm just concerned with becoming a kind and compassionate person who makes a difference in the world in small ways. If pressed, I would label myself a secular Buddhist. But I concentrate on spiritual principles and the practices that help me develop and live by these principles.

My greatest teacher has been Nature itself. I spent two years taking a daily, local walk and keeping a journal. I would look for something different or new each day, drawing a sketch in my journal and writing about it (often learning something new). Overall, the experience reinforced the natural cycle of change and impermanence. When things got unstable or chaotic in my life, it was hard to feel like life was personally taking things out on me; all around me was evidence that this was the natural course of things. My walks led to other practices; I created a sacred wheel that focused on the moons, elements, minerals, animals and plants specific to my locale and seasons/climate. The symbolism of each item was personal; each solstice or equinox I lay it out and use it as a contemplative tool to see what areas I had grown in and what areas needed work.

My toolbox holds other practices that have help me navigate life: a twelve-step framework from an agnostic viewpoint, lojong slogans, journaling, looking at tarot and oracle cards from a 'now' rather than future perspective, chant/kirtan, meditation (basic sitting as well as tonglen and metta), contemplative reading (mystics of all religions), yoga and having friends who are also spiritual explorers (especially those who think outside my box and from whom I can learn).
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tanga View Post
I use aromatherapy scents - mostly just because I like them. (I don't really like sage).
To clear space - I use sound. I like sound.
...
I will chop up favourite herbs and put them in a pocket container...
and on my walks in the woods, or elsewhere - take out a pinch and let it blow in the wind
whilst I say a little thank you to the Universe, the forest, or a Deity that comes to mind.

To rephrase - there is huge value in ritual, grounding and cleansing are about pushing the mental clutter out of ones mind and getting back to the simple (and Divine) experience of just BEING - and being connected to the surrounding world.
I love the idea of using sound. I've heard of Tibetan singing bowls... it's funny actually, on a related tangent, I used to play CDs quite a lot, but I don't so much nowadays. Listening to music used to give me that 'in the moment' experience. I play an instrument, and part of that is letting go of the other stuff and just focusing on the music, but it's also very physical.

Sometimes I sit on the back porch with the cat and listen with him. I often listen to the birds, but with the cat, I can watch his ears - it's amazing, the tiny distant sounds he'll pick up. His ears are like little radars. So we listen to the noises of the world together.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BodhiSeed View Post
This thread is right on time for me; I was just about to post a thread called "What's in your spiritual toolbox?"

Like you, I went on a twenty year search for a spirituality I could live with. I've finally discovered the secular side of things (literally meaning 'this generation'); I don't worry about rebirth, reincarnation, or resurrection of any form. I'm just concerned with becoming a kind and compassionate person who makes a difference in the world in small ways. If pressed, I would label myself a secular Buddhist. But I concentrate on spiritual principles and the practices that help me develop and live by these principles.
That's a great thread title. Perhaps it might invite some interesting responses! I feel quite similar, in fact Buddhism is the closest I've come to fully aligning with an established faith, I think. Compassion, and doing my best with what I've been given.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BodhiSeed View Post
. My walks led to other practices; I created a sacred wheel that focused on the moons, elements, minerals, animals and plants specific to my locale and seasons/climate. The symbolism of each item was personal; each solstice or equinox I lay it out and use it as a contemplative tool to see what areas I had grown in and what areas needed work.
I love this. This is really meaningful and about the place and time you're connected to, rather than trying to make something else fit. I've never been comfortable with Christmas and Easter here in Australia. The seasonal mismatch is so acute.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BodhiSeed View Post
My toolbox holds other practices that have help me navigate life: a twelve-step framework from an agnostic viewpoint, lojong slogans, journaling, looking at tarot and oracle cards from a 'now' rather than future perspective, chant/kirtan, meditation (basic sitting as well as tonglen and metta), contemplative reading (mystics of all religions), yoga and having friends who are also spiritual explorers (especially those who think outside my box and from whom I can learn).
A thought-provoking list. I wonder if it would make a good focused thread:less discursive than this one, with annotated lists: objects & altars, meditation/prayer/vocalisation, physical movement, reading, community. A mention of one's worldview (eternal/created universe, one life or many, deity/s) might also be included.
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