A step is taken, an altar approached. An arm is extended, and a candle lit. Words perhaps are spoken, and a prayer offered. Cleansing begins. We call this ritual. In this context we view these actions as religious ritual. Experiencing religious ritual can resonate within a person, the very essence of being – and of being connected to that which might be greater than us.
The propagation of ritual through the ages might be the capillaries of mankind; channels through which awareness has flowed between generations of people, as well as people and time. To practice religious ritual is to connect with yesterday, today, and tomorrow simultaneously, and offer them a warm mental hug. Ritual has kept faith in tact through the millennia. Those who do not practice ritual risk faith losing its form, not just for themselves, but for the masses as well. Increased ritual of faith might help save us as a species – might and help.
I first wrote the paragraphs above in an attempt to compare the act of ritual in exercise to the ritual of religion. Big mistake. There can be no comparison. Even in the modern age, ritual of faith is much more important. That said, as modern eating, modern working, and modern living evolve, our need does increase for the ritual of kinesis. I suggest that we would not be talking so much about government run or subsidized health care, if every TV set or video game in America were powered by a treadmill or stationary bike.
The lacing of the shoes; taut, firm, and complete. The meal before the run. The stretching of the legs, the back, and torso. The placement of the heart-rate monitor. The planning of the course; the ritual of the run.
The way the racquet is removed from the bag and then from its sheath. The way the balls are bounced and tested before they are served. The banter between opponents in-between the points. The adjustment of the sweat bands on the wrist. The placement of the feet. The choice of the stance; the ritual of tennis.
Slipping each hand methodically into the gloves and wrapping the velcro bands around the wrists. The plan of attack in the battle against gravity with the weights. The clapping of hands in advance of the lift. The rhythm of the sets and reps; the ritual of the gym.
These are just examples of rituals in daily movement. It could be yoga, Pilates, a rock-wall, or a water-aerobics class, whatever. There can be as much ritual in the preparation as in the action, and the ritual of preparation often primes the action for greater success.
Such rituals offer us access outside of ourselves, and deep within ourselves – simultaneously. To practice the ritual of physicality is not only to connect with the responsibility of owning a human body, but such rituals can provide a means to live with lesser need for help from the outside. Increased ritual with regard to activity might help save us as a species – might and help.
Drifting through life without the anchor of ritual would be, to me, like living life floating through the beauty of the cosmos for eternity, without ever having the chance to touch or stand upon a star. If humanity is to continue, and dare I say prosper, I believe we need to practice more ritual in faith and physicality individually; that we benefit collectively. Whether the soul is located within the body, or the body within the soul, it is ritual which fosters continuance and growth, and I am down with both. If you don’t pray, you may pay, and if you’re sitting still, you are definitely simulating death. Be well. rc