(By Paolo Propato, LAc) A few weeks ago I attended a wedding in the Hudson Valley. The groom was of Jewish descent and the bride was of Iranian descent. The couple stood under the chuppah (a Jewish wedding canopy) as the officiant spoke about the union that was taking place. The couple then walked over to the sofreh (Iranian altar) as a few women grinded sticks of sugar over the couple. Each of the culturally diverse rituals had the same elements: respect and acknowledgment of their ancestors, the union of the present, and sending energy of love and abundance for their future.
Everyone watched the rituals quietly until the couple kissed and was pronounced husband and wife. At that point, conversation and laughter began, which turned into dancing, smiles and more laughter. The sun and earth went through their own ritual as the light began to fade. The color that was created from the leaves pulled me away from the party to an empty spot under a tree. The sound of fun and artificial lights became the background. I began to think of the faces of excitement on the bride and groom as they were pronounced a married couple for the first time. It made me question: are the rituals I engage in effective, or have they just become habits?
The energy of rituals can change in time. Every year my family has the ritual of making sausage. Once upon a time it was done out of necessity and survival, but now it is done out of the love of being together and remembering our family’s past through the actions that were done year after year. Same actions, different intentions.
It is the same with a meditative practice of sitting daily. It previously was about taming my jumping mind; now it is about just being. Again, it looks the same but its essence is totally different.
As I sat with this I realized it was a sense of love that drove all of the rituals. Love of family--to survive--has become a ritual of love of family--as just being. I can see that in a similar way, as an acupuncturist, the love of wanting to be of help to my patients has turned into seeing them as already whole, a form of love engaging with their state of pure being.
As a teen I was moved by Rumi's poems. The ecstatic Sufis words can open my heart with just a few lines. Carrying a poem in my pocket made me feel I had a friend close by, because it was the closest that I could find to someone that understood the inner workings of my heart. Now in my forties, Rumi and other Sufi poets are still a big part of my life, from books, stories and songs that are shared by my Iranian wife Leyla and her family. Many times I will listen to a song and the feeling elevates my heart, letting it take its rightful place as king in the body. The ecstasy drives me to tears.
On more than one occasion someone in her family would look at me and say, “If only you could understand what is being said in Farsi-- it's even more beautiful.” Immediately, I'd Google the lines in English to see what beauty I was missing. The ecstasy stops and the mind takes over again. How foolish of me to look up the lyrics--the song already did its job by bringing me into the heart!
It reminds me of the story of the man that discovered fire, and went around tribe to tribe teaching the people how to make fire. He was humble in his nature and wasn’t looking for accolades, so he would show them fire and move on. One day the heads of a tribe became jealous and killed the man in secret. The people complained and wanted to know what happened to the “man that makes fire.” The killers, fearful of being discovered and losing influence over the tribe, drew a depiction of the man with an altar that contained the instruments needed to make fire, but without his knowledge on how to use them. Over time rituals were created and veneration for the “man that makes fire,” but there was no fire.
We must bring the fire into our daily rituals, and if there is no fire perhaps create new ones or create new intentions into your existing rituals. We must be the bride marrying with our own life, daily, with a kiss and a celebration.
Enjoy this beautiful Rumi poem... it has subtitles but you can always close your eyes. https://youtu.be/NQQIEUDe6Qo
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