Routines and Rituals

As I write this, I’m on the second day of my Lenten journey. The fast part of it is a drag. It’s been two days since I’ve eaten dairy, sugar, meat, yeast, or fried food of any kind. With all the difficulties and annoyances that brings, it’s not really been my focal point. Continuing with the fast is just a matter of being aware of the choices you’re confronted with, and then making the proper choice. I know I have enough willpower to do that.

The meditation part, though… That’s been eating up a lot of my attention. Like any new skill or activity, it seems there’s a learning curve. Much of the reading I’ve done suggests finding someone experienced to learn from. The most well known meditation centers charge in excess of $300 for these meetings. I spoke with a local teacher that was willing to teach me for $60 an hour, which is still hilariously out of our budget.

Being the nerd that I am, I decided to take it upon myself to do the research. It turns out that there are several types of meditation, and the internet has a lot to say about all of them. Unfortunately, because it’s the internet, you have to assume the majority of what you’re reading is specious. As such, I’ve been running the things I’ve been reading through filters in my head and in my heart to find the nuggets of truth that are buried under all the pixels.

I think… I’ve been moderately successful. Through research and prayer I’ve pieced together a daily regiment that feels right, although I’m aware it might be a little strange. I’ve managed to put together an awesome life. My wife and I are ruled by no man. We have the luxury of living day to day, following our appetites and doing whatever we like. There’s a lot of freedom and joy in that; so much so, I think I may have taken it for granted.

When considering how I actually wanted to meditate and hunt for God, I felt a strong tug toward creating a routine. I decided that I wanted my meditation efforts to be something acute and deliberate; I wanted it to be a time and space that was wholly set aside for God, with no distraction or worries. As I’m writing this, thinking about my routine, I’ve just now realized that parts of it begin to veer into the realm of ritual.

Ritual isn’t anything I’m terribly familiar with, either. I think some modern Christians have snubbed the idea of holy rituals because it feels like you’re making God staid and stagnant. Rituals? Those belong in dusty books and old paintings. Surely, there’s no place for a living and vibrant God within the confines of that aged box!

And yet… There’s something to it, isn’t there? Human actions imbued with Holy significance? Holy representations in mundane media? I think rituals are tools that teach us about God. They’re at their best when their meanings are known and understood. I think the trap we fall into is that we start mistaking the ritual for God. Instead of being a tool to help us think and elucidate about God, we start making the assumption that the ritual itself is a Holy thing. Over time, the meaning fades and before you know it you’re just doing something esoteric and no one really knows why.

I think I could count myself among the group of people doing things without knowing why. I started meditating last week during my lunch break at work as “practice” for yesterday when I would start doing it for “real”. My meditation has been hit and miss… If we’re being honest, mostly miss.

But tonight was different. In my last post I said that blanking out your mind was the goal of meditation… It turns out, that’s not the case. See, it’s been bothering me. For the past few days I’ve been sitting in a room by myself trying not to think about anything for 20 minutes. Even when I felt like I had been quasi-successful, I still felt a little let down. Why was I doing this? What good can come out of an empty mind? As it turns out, I had missed the point…

 

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