LETTING GO ISN'T THE LAST STEP: Why Rituals & Disciplines Still Matter

| Anne Williamson |

Few of us can swallow the religion of our childhood whole and believe it. We change, the world changes, and so we need our faith to change too. Old beliefs and patterns now feel untrue. So, we let go. Some of us rip the bandaid off; sure, the skin is red and irritated, the sticky remnants annoying, but we're happy for a "clean" break. Others of us take our time, maybe because the process is painful, or maybe because we never had any intention of letting go completely - some beliefs, rituals, disciplines still feel true to us.

Either way, we were right to let go of what we did. Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel said, "Things, when magnified, are forgeries of happiness." For those of us who let go, this is what those things of the church or synagogue or mosque or secular-but-no-less-ritualized-home or... had become: just things, forgeries. This is okay. It's our truth.

It is also truth, though, that the things in and of themselves were never the problem...

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I love to garden. No, that's not broad enough: I love all yard work. I do. I love being outside, digging in the dirt and listening to nature. I love the physicality; sawing off a dead limb on a tree makes me feel strong and capable. And, I love its tangible results; spend a few minutes and that bush takes shape; spend a few hours and that garden bed is alive with new colors. It's satisfying. Me + it = something I can see, a project done. 

I love spirituality too, but hardly because it behaves similar to gardening. The nature thing is there, but often it's incredibly frustrating how head and heart and intangible the whole thing feels. Whether your chosen path to connect is meditation or chanting or "accepting Jesus" or whatever, you + it doesn't always = peace, enlightenment, you name it. Changing the shape of our hearts and minds, our lives, the world, is slow work, satisfying often only in time.   

This is why I'm starting to think it takes real practice and discipline. Why "they," whoever they are, were wise folks when they named the methods we use to connect and grow in love exactly that: spiritual practices, spiritual disciplines. I'm presently smack dab in the middle of a 21-day meditation challenge, and I can hear my spirit saying, "This is what is required, if you want peace." Not necessarily meditation, but a commitment to train my "spiritual muscles," a commitment to practice until and through new habits or ways of being take shape. What do you think? LISTEN on, LEARN, LOVE...

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