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Nov 23
Opinion Pieces
Life is a Ceremony

Contemplating the power and meaning of our everyday rituals

by Susan Firer

“Life is a ceremony” says Chogyam Trungpa.  Sakyong Mipham discusses this in the eighth chapter of his book “The Shambhala Principle.” According to the Sakyong:

“Through our view, contemplation, and activity, every day we are transforming commonly held internal principles into an external social reality.  The power of ceremony is that through the rituals of our day, we understand who we are.  In details such as what food we eat or how we use our time, we are creating self-identity and establishing value systems. … However, the root principles of any particular social ceremony may not necessarily be conscious, or even understood, by the members of society.  Therefore it is important to examine the underlying assumptions that guide our social ceremonies-and to explore whether these principles are natural, genuine, and good.  What are our ceremonies celebrating? We may discover that the status quo that we believe to be reality was in fact created by somebody else’s game plan.”

The chapter goes on to look at our current social ceremony and how it plays out (I would love to just write the entire chapter out here ….. so much easier than trying to come up with my own words). 😉  There is so much wisdom in his observations of the social ceremonies we are all a part of in one way or other.  I highly recommend this book if any of the above quotes intrigue you.  One more teaser from the chapter: “Desire leads to more desire, it does not lead to satisfaction” and “What leads to satisfaction is appreciation.”

We can contemplate how we choose to participate in our societal and cultural ceremonies.  There would be common themes as well as unique individual insights based on the individual circumstance of our upbringing.

How often do we question why we do what we do? Why do we buy certain things? Why am I living here? Where do I want to be next year at this time? Why? And on and on. I just recently I started doing this myself after years of paying scant attention.  It’s been eye opening for me; exciting as well as somewhat painful in the sense that I spent such little time looking at the root causes of who I am, why I do what I do and think what I think.  Exciting times folks!!!

I’ll end with a suggested contemplation:  “Through our view, contemplation, and activity, every day we are transforming commonly held internal principles into an external social reality.” See what insights come up for you; you might even want to come to Windhorse Retreat Center for the Winter Retreat, to contemplate ceremony in the silent beauty of this land!

Editor’s note: A version of this article was previously published on the website blog of the Windhorse Retreat Center: https://windhorse.shambhala.org/2017/11/15/life-is-a-ceremony/?preview=true

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