What Is Ritual? by Amy Christensen

candles-pray-holy public domain image Christensen Ritual PantheonAmy Christensen leads “Come Play With Me! Ritual Art & Creative Drama Meet The Child Spirit” Wednesday June 1, 2016 at Life Force Arts Center.

What is it exactly, that comes to mind with the use of the word “ritual?”  Is a ritual a daily habit? Are the words “ritual” and “habit” interchangeable?  Ritual seems to me, to be a more eloquent word than habit. To have a habit, is to have something so ingrained that I no longer have to think about the habit while I’m doing it.  My attention can be elsewhere because my actions are automatic.  Ritual, however, is focused attention.  Not only am I focused on myself, I am focused on the present moment and how that moment affects what is beyond myself.  Ritual attends to more than the individual.  Ritual speaks to the soul or to the spirit.

The word I use for spirit, is “Asha.”  There is neither an article for Asha, nor is there any possession – it doesn’t belong to anyone individually.  Asha simply is.  It is all-encompassing.  I am a part of Asha, and Asha is beyond myself.  Unlike the word spirit, Asha is far less limiting.  It describes all that has ever been, all that might ever be, and all that currently is – in and beyond everything.  Ritual is to me, the celebration of Asha.

In ritual, so many elements of myself are moved.  I am moved literally in a physical way, and also in a figurative sense because even my consciousness, my understanding of something has been picked up and transported to somewhere new.  I move physically, my emotions are in motion, and spiritually I am moved because that all-compassing Asha is in motion.  I am moved to see the perspective that I am a piece in the greater workings of all that is.  And not only am I a piece, but I, myself, am an important part of that working.  I have usefulness.  For me, to find use is to find meaning.  I could almost use the words “usefulness” and “meaningfulness” interchangeably.  If I know where I am useful then I have found a purpose for that moment, and that is incredibly meaningful and fulfilling.

There is a profound feeling of respect that is invoked when I use the word ritual.  A ritual captures me in the present moment and shows me my place in context to everything around me.  Ritual shows me my possibilities and demands that I take responsibility for those possibilities.  I am a part of Asha and I have my place.  I can make a difference if I make the choice to do so.  Even the smallest of choices that I make have an effect, because everything is connected.  Everything is Asha.

Habits have their place in Asha, but a ritual is special.  It is a time to pause and focus on all that is in motion in and around me and show respect for all of the possibilities.

 

Amy Christensen, LFAC Artist in Residence, graduated magna cum laude from the University of Arizona with a Bachelors in Fine Arts. She performs regularly in Illinois and Wisconsin.

 

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