Posts Tagged ‘rituals’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 68                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 69

Today’s Mileage: 10                                            Total Trip Mileage: 599

“We should get a tree,” stated my partner as we drove down the road.

“Sounds good to me!”

“No, we can use the money for other things,” she adds.

“Sounds good to me!”

“But I really do want a tree, just a small one.”

“Sounds good to me!”

“No!  I’ve got too many ornaments and I wouldn’t know which ones to hang.”

 As I ride the bike I think about this earlier interaction.  One of the challenges of a new relationship is when you approach your first holiday together. Do you undertake rituals cherished by one, the other, or both?  It is easier if there are similar rituals and traditions that you celebrated prior to the relationship.  But Susan and I had no such luck!  It had been years since I had last possessed a tree.  If I had any ornaments, they were lost in unpacked boxes.

 Rituals and traditions are an important aspect of many of the world religions.  They serve numerous important functions for individuals and religious communities.  They are reminders of sacred stories that highlight our connection with the divine. They connect us with our individual past and the histories of our family These rituals become  important cultural and family relics which we pass on to our children. Not having common rituals and traditions has its drawbacks, but it also carries the possibility of new rituals and traditions, ones that have meaning embedded in a new time, place and relationship.

Possum Hollow Trailer with a dusting of snow.

Years ago I lived in a trailer in the woods.  I moved into it in the summer and  it came with holiday lights included!  Strands of abandoned lights dangled from the eaves.  It came without wheels,  if you’re wondering, and it was elevated on concrete blocks.  The space below it was a homestead for possums, coons, and feral cats.  In the fall of my first year in the trailer, I was hiking in the surrounding hills with my two sons, looking for walking sticks and Indian arrowheads. My youngest son, not yet five, picked up a nondescript branch from the roadside and exclaimed: “Dad, look what I found!”  I received the branch and cradled it like some special cargo.  My older son, four years more advanced, exclaimed: “That’s just a branch!” “It’s special,” I exclaimed.  My young son beamed as I placed it in the van.  I wasn’t sure what to do with it as it was not walking stick material, but it was a gift.

Youthful Joy Personified!

A short time later my sons inquired whether we were going to get a tree for the holidays.  I knew they would have one with their mother, covered with two decades worth of ornaments.  “I don’t think we can have a tree,” I exclaimed.  “We don’t have room in the trailer, I don’t have any ornaments, and the cats would turn it into a plaything!” They nodded their heads in agreement.  “I promise you we will have something!”

Oldest with our Cow Cats!

Several weeks later as we pulled up to the front of the trailer I exclaimed: “We have a Christmas tree of sort!”  Then ran ahead on their youthful legs and waited anxiously for me to open the door. We stepped inside and there on the wall it hung: “Our Christmas branch,” I announced.  “My branch!” exclaimed the youngest.  The oldest stood silent for a long moment then turned toward me: “Nice job Dad!”

That branch hung on the wall year round for the next three years.  Each holiday we added ornaments, each night they stayed with me it served as a night light and a reminder of a family’s shared love. On numerous occasions they both exclaimed their appreciation for the branch’s presence.

Deck the Walls with Christmas Branches!

My suggestion for this season is to embrace a ritual or tradition.  If you don’t have one, create one!  If you don’t like yours, change it!  If you cherish and embrace one, then share it with others.  For traditions and rituals only have meaning when they are embraced, shared and passed on to those who will follow us into their own cycles of life.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 40                                 Consecutive Days Blogging: 41

 Today’s Mileage: 9                                                 Total Trip Mileage: 344

In yesterday’s blog I raised a question: how do we make a virtuous choice when the allure of vices may have a biological component? It seems to me we have several choices. First, we can appeal to a higher power, turn the struggle with the apparently irresistible urge over to God. We can petition our deity to take away the urge and then wait for divine intervention. While it is understandable that such an approach is appealing, most ministers I have talked with note that while God might show us the way and offer support, we have to make the trip ourselves. I once heard a family therapist state it this way: A marriage may be made in heaven, but you have to do your own maintenance! Ultimately we are the ones, whether with or without God’s assistance who have to turn and walk away from the vice’s allure. We could wait for science to find a medication that will rid us of the urge toward addiction, but it may lead to a dulled and passionless existence.

Take a nature walk.

According to several prominent psychology theories, the answer has to do with the nature of habits. If you want to take a more spiritual/religious perspective you might say it all has to do with rituals! Religious rituals have different functions. One of the intrapersonal functions is to help a person maintain some beneficial behavior, like prayer or meditation, and thought processes, like a daily contemplation of sacred teaching.

William Glasser in his formulation of Reality Therapy hypothesized that one aspect of human nature was our propensity toward addiction. He argued that the most important question was: What are you addicted too? He speaks to the presence of Negative Addictions, like drugs, obsessive shopping, or anger and wrath. These addictions produce an array of negative consequences with respect to our health, our relationships and ultimately to our level of happiness. Positive addictions such as creativity, prayer, meditation, exercise, produce positive impacts on our health, our relationships and our ultimate happiness. These positive addictions, just like negative addictions, can be experienced as a profound deep need to perform the activity. Missing the appointed or regular time for the activity, exercise, meditation, prayer can lead to increased anxiety and discomfort and a strong almost irresistible “need” to perform the ritual act.

Light a candle as a prayer offering.

 While we may spend time asking ourselves why we are drawn to the negative addiction, Reality Therapy would argue that the more practical and pragmatic things to ask is: What do we need to substitute for the vice? What new habit or ritual do we need to develop and promote? If you want to start your morning with a prayer, or a visit to an intriguing daily Blog, or exercise: create a habit or ritual that brings about the desired change.

A meditation ritual.

My minister, Pat Jobe, in a recent sermon on addiction noted that it is almost impossible to just walk away from something that bring us pleasure, even if it is a “short term” fix, or leads to negative consequences. However, it is not so hard to walk away, if we are walking towards something that offers equal or greater satisfaction and happiness.

But how do you do this? How is it done? There is no simple answer or template that fits all vices for all individuals. Each situation is different! However, within psychology the fields of Behavior Therapy and Learning Theory outline numerous procedures for creating new habits, and extinguishing old ones! Now, that is the topic for another posting!

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