Under the Sun “Ceremonial Awareness”
Disclaimer: These are my personal observations and perspectives and do not necessarily represent the community to which I belong.
“Prayer is a way of life.”
I have participated in ceremonies for 20 years. For the purpose of this article, knowing which tradition is not essential. I recall my first experience like it was yesterday; being in a room with a group of people I had not met, the specifics of the ceremony I attended and singing along with songs I had never heard. The facilitator of the ceremony asked me where I had learned the songs. I told him I didn’t know them, and he immediately invited me to another ceremony. In all my traditional experiences, I could have never imagined how these last 20 years would transpire, in all their extraordinary ways.
A Way to Pray
I have been told ceremony is all about prayer. This is truer than can be “known.” In my experience, the intention within the prayer is not expressed for what we may receive, yet in how we may give. Contemporary prayer has become something often motivated by our external wants rather than empowered by our internal needs. When we are honest, our prayers are often self-centered. Perhaps this is why our practice of prayer can be ineffective, given our fixation on ourselves and our desires. However, when we are empowered from within to pray, it is a universal calling. An intention expressed for health, healing and support, for all who are in need.
We spend much of our lives constructing artificial securities, defense mechanisms, financial wealth, professional positions, selective realities and social vanities with little to no regard for those beyond our individual peripheral of existence. We tell ourselves we will be, give, listen and understand others more, as soon as we have established our private comfort zones. All the while, we allow our egos to diminish and eventually destroy our spirituality, distorting our perceptions of the very people in need of prayer. This malaise we enable, with our personal oblivion, disrupts and severs the flow of empowerment, energy and epiphany we receive from the universe as we pray.
The Nature of Prayer
We have a tendency to habituate our prayer as a selfish endeavor. The conditioned egocentricity of our social environment influences us to demean, manipulate and harm others in community. This is done in compensation for our veiled inadequacies, insecurities and tribulation. We either intentionally or obliviously bring the vanity and violence of society into ceremony. This inhibits and ultimately destroys our prayer. We may even be so bold as to wield our prayer in condemnation of others. We all have the potential for creation or destruction. The nature of our prayer, be it shared with conscious empowerment or deliberate demoralization, manifests the nature of our experience.
“For some, it is a way to pray. For others, it is a way to prey.”
In many communities, there are some who observe others receiving admiration, distinction and leadership. Their egos are attracted to this, which causes their exodus from prayer. With entitlement and expectation, they desire this acknowledgement, and strive to control and manipulate others to gain a similar role for themselves. When this strategy fails, they attempt to sabotage and/or destroy the existing community so they may influence events in a way to present themselves as the savior of the very destruction they caused. When others observe and address their behavior, they project narcissism to deflect and avoid responsibility for their thoughts, words and actions. In retaliation, they defend their toxicity by pointing fingers of blame and shame upon those who stand to hold them accountable.
All who truly need to read these words will likely succumb to their cognitive dissonance, ego, pride and vanity. They will claim it is not “them,” as they accuse, discredit and vilify the authenticity of others. They cannot observe let alone understand their toxic patterns, driven by their fears, insecurities, trauma and woundedness. Their personal rackets are steeped in mirroring the experiences, prayers, practices and visions of others, in a vain attempt to gain power. They separate themselves from the source and mimic the genuine prayers spoken by those who have earnestly served the community. They “ghost” prayer with agendas of arrogance, domination, influence and manipulation. They know who they are. Most importantly, so do we!
The Personal Encounter
We exist in an egocentric society. Our personal survival, success, health and wealth supersedes that of community. Many carry this social conditioning into ceremony and prayer. They desire to acquire their individual wants, often at the expense of the community’s experience. Their ego blinds them to the influence and impacts their personal agendas have upon themselves and others. While engaged in vain strategies, they will never fulfill an authentic prayer. They are preoccupied with what is favorable for them, and oblivious to the needs of the community. Therefore, they cannot observe, understand or transform the behavior inhibiting their experience.
The Community Experience
In this tradition, many of the ceremonies are a community prayer experienced in a circle. One person(s) is no more or less important than another. There is a listening and regard from the community empowering, encouraging and sustaining the prayer. Personal experiences occur within the circle. However, the focus is on the health, vitality and wellbeing of all. In the community experience, acceptance, belonging and healing thrives, manifesting in empathy, kindness, love, purpose, transformation and understanding. This creates a sacred space of relativity and safety for the community to express the essential vulnerability to empower and support their prayer.
It is inevitable that people who participate in spirituality will desire leadership. This is pure ego. Some attempt to push their way ahead of others and promote themselves in pursuit of this role. Some will even compromise or threaten the existence, health and wellbeing of the community to achieve this personal agenda. Traditionally, one does not pursue leadership for themselves, it is a role one accepts when one is called into it by the community they serve. Spiritual leadership is not a dictatorial endeavor. It is holding the space for others to make and experience their prayer in ceremony. True leaders are those who would not choose it, when given the opportunity.
Consciousness, Empowerment and Transformation
Our eyes see only an infinitesimal range of the visible light spectrum. Relative to this, when our ego influences and impacts our prayer, we experience only a fraction of the ceremony. Shifting our experience requires us to express our prayer with conscious purpose. Our prayer is a call to the universe; not for what we want, yet all we need. The force that responds to our call is universal empowerment. Within the sacred space of our prayer, we can observe and shift our behavior, thus transforming our experience. Every prayer is an intention to experience the natural progression of the ceremony.
Prayer creates a space of community, empathy, humility, service and understanding. It is not a spiritual event to attend, it is a way of life. Prayer frees us from the egocentricity of society, so we may be present to and fulfill the purpose of the ceremony. If one makes their prayer and returns as the same person to the same life, it may be best if they had never participated. Our commitment to pray must transcend our desire for personal convenience. Our prayer is a covenant we make with the universe. This empowers us with the ceremonial awareness to transform our experience and hold a space for others to do the same.
“You cannot bring ceremony to your life. You must bring your life to ceremony.”
– A Wise Woman