Monday, January 13, 2014

Taking a Chance on the Elements

Planning to assemble for a group ritual under a tree in January in a New York City park is either a spiritual discipline in itself, or else it's just nuts.

The predictable options are: (a) bitter cold (b) freezing rain (c) rain and mud underfoot (d) temperatures above freezing with a chill wind off the Hudson (e) blizzard conditions (f) some conbination of the above or (g) a minimally comfortable afternoon that allows for forty-five minutes of standing and slow movement, before everyone starts edging toward hypothermia.
So if you attend, you witness the men with you in the circle starting to shiver as you progress through the ritual together. Fingers get numb as you tie threads around each other's wrists. The camphor flame in a small brass burner keeps blowing out in the wind, until you all huddle in closer to protect it, while you remember those absent and name them into the circle.
It's not exactly surprising that men who've expressed an initial interest in joining the practice might decide to take a pass till more temperate months.
But the weather is also a teacher. You learn that we don't stand apart from Nature but abide within her. You learn that we're not in control. You learn that not being in control is a gift, because you can't experience wonder when all you're getting is the outcome you planned. You learn to practice humility, in its original sense, of staying low to the ground, close to the humus.
When the focus of the ritual is a meditation on sacred sexuality, we're reminded that what we've gathered to honor is part and parcel of a Cosmos that includes sun and moon, heat and cold, stars and sky, wind and rain, thunder and lightning, birds overhead, squirrels scrabbling among last year's leaves, now fallen and sere, seedpods dropping from the branches of a sycamore, soil underfoot, and the slow, dark life of sleeping roots.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014