Every traditional culture uses some form of ceremony and ritual to mark milestone moments in the life of the individual and the community, and their relationship both to ultimate value and often, to nature and the cycle of the seasons. Such events, when sensitively planned and artfully enacted, help connect us to our roots, and clarify our intentions and possibilities. They also have the power to create, strengthen and transform community — whether that community is a family, a neighborhood or any other affiliate group or organic fellowship, no matter the size.
For example, in my Manhattan community, I have been conducting public ceremonies that isolate and enhance the spiritual principle implicit in secular holidays. “Before the Turkey,” for instance, explored the theme of gratitude for Thanksgiving; “Broken Open” celebrated love and the heart from many perspectives — romantic, cardiological, cosmic and “other” for Valentine’s Day; a recent Mother’s Day Ceremony examined the maternal archetype within families, in nature, and in some of its hidden, even dark dimensions. A Labor Day ceremony that explore the many faces of work in human life is being planned.
In each case, the themes are not approached cerebrally, or as academic questions to be solved, but rather as numinous enigmas that can be approached but never exhausted through music, poetry, short talks and meditations from wise teachers from various traditions. So far, each ceremony so far has climaxed in the creation of a “community altar,” where participants express their feelings and intentions relative to the theme, followed by a song, and the closing of the circle. Bacchanal optional.