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Reply To: The Sacredness of Rituals,” by Kristina Dryža”



I love the way you employ breathing as a metaphor, with the inhale “in service of self and the exhale as giving back to the community.”

Normally, my heart beats on its own — “I” don’t exert direct conscious control over the frequency or intensity. All other bodily processes — circulation, perspiration, metabolism, etc. — are similarly autonomic, or “unconscious.” Obviously, I am beating my heart, monitoring my internal body temperature, secreting the necessary hormones — but not the conscious, waking me.

Breathing also occurs without conscious direction or intervention — yet it is different from other involuntary processes in that we can consciously control our breath. Hence breathing is that act where consciousness and the unconscious most clearly come together, and so has long served as a launching pad for subjective explorations of the mystery of Being.

Which brings me back to your analogy. As you point out, we can’t just inhale or exhale – we must do both, and do – but when we are conscious of what we are doing, paying attention to breath, that takes it to another level.

Meditation – which for me pretty much consists of just sitting and being aware of my breath – has become one of my longstanding personal rituals. I’ll light a stick of incense and sit in front of my altar to enhance the sanctity of the setting, but breathing in, breathing out, is the core of that ritual – one that serves as a metaphor for so many experiences in waking life.

Nice distinction as well you make between the cyclical and linear time of nature vs. the Zoroastrian/Judeo/Christo/Islamic traditions, though that’s probably a conversation for another thread . . .