Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ceremony, Structure, and Mindfulness

On pages 211-212 of Circle of Life: Traditional Teachings of Native American Elders, James David Audlin talks about the importance of ceremony:

"Among traditional peoples worldwide, the philosophy is, as one Grandmother put it to me: 'Let everything you do be a ceremony.  Let just the making of your bed in the morning be a ceremony, in this way to mark an ending and a beginning, giving meaning to the day.'  Among observant Muslims and Orthodox Jews there are traditional prayers for just about every act each day----beginning with getting out of bed.  The teaching is that everything we do is, or should be, a little ceremony.  Even such things as urinating and deficating, for instance, are sacred acts if done respectfully, participating in the cycle of life.  Within all the ordinary, washte events of daily life, the wakan is there----as Kabalistic Jews and Sufis know----and it is good for us to remember and respect this presence."

In my opinion, it's good to give days structure.  Granted, there may be some days when you want to sleep in or otherwise let things be----a Sabbath, if you will----but it helps if one, on most days, has a reason to wake up.  There are alcoholics I know or have heard about who let each day become a blur, and it's recommended that, once they sober up, they attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on a regular basis----even each day or multiple times each day.  Why?  So they can have structure.  For a number of people, their jobs provide them with structure and purpose.  And yet, it is possible for one to feel that one's job does not provide him or her with purpose.  Karl Marx touches on this when he talks about alienation from one's work.

Presently, for me, there are a number of things that provide my days with structure.  There is my weekly church attendance and my attendance at my church's Bible study (when my church is holding a Bible study, of course).  There is my reading and my blogging.  And there is my academic work.  There are plenty of times when I wonder if what I am doing is bearing any fruit, in terms of helping people or helping myself to make contacts.  Yet, my tasks do give each day meaning and structure.

But I don't think that Audlin is just talking about providing each day with structure, for he's also discussing seeing significance in the tasks of everyday life.  This, in my opinion, includes being mindful and grateful for people, places, and things that we often take for granted.


  1. I reckon you are doing a great deal of good, James, and acquiring knowledge and skills that will enable you to do a lot more!

    I'm all for structure to get routine and 'housekeeping' tasks done, but then I reckon it's time not for repeated ceremonies but for creativity, which can't be scheduled! But, fair enough, repeating ceremonies can be good to keep things moving where one's creativity is flagging or resting.


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