don’t let ritual get in the way of life

Gray Aft Agley

A little more than a month ago my partner and I had a very private commitment ceremony. After six years together, it was time to express the intention of continuing to weave our lives together. Being the theatrical romantic that I am, I decided to surprise her.

Just after dawn a close friend would bring her to a sacred labyrinth in a wooded clearing, where I would wait in the center with talismans of our commitment in hand and words of love on my lips. She would walk the path to reach me, we would share that private ritual, and we would trace the path out of the labyrinth together as we continued our joined lives.

That was the plan, at least. I’ve written about plans before, though, and this was no exception.


Gray Plans; God Laughs

The reality had a few extra variables thrown in. Such as rain coming down when I arrived at the labyrinth. Coming down fairly steadily, in fact. Also, my dear friend and cohort happened to oversleep, which meant that I was standing there (in the rain) for much longer than I’d expected.

In fact, I gave up; I headed back to our cabin, and of course ran into my just-woken and very-apologetic friend on the way. After a quick re-calibration, they went to get my partner and I headed back to the labyrinth. Standing in the center, as the rain lessened to a soft drizzle, I watched and waited.

There is likely a special hell created for people like me who make plans for their partners at early hours when caffeine is not readily available. My poor partner had not had days and weeks of looking forward to this moment, and being faced with the task of tracing, without coffee, a path to where I waited in the center was somewhat daunting. Her words were both profound and prophetic as she moved unknowing, step by step, towards our declaration of commitment:

Where…whuh…I don’t understand why this…WHERE is this going? Why does it keep winding back and forth?!? I need coffee!

Every word rang so true!

When she arrived at the center, of course, she saw what I was holding, saw the look in my eyes, and everything from there on was as beautiful and poignant as an azure butterfly flapping slowly in the rain (thanks for that, by the way, powers-that-be. It was a nice touch).

And as I related this story to a friend over lunch today, she laughed with me at the way plans can go awry – but then she got a thoughtful look.

You know, it reminds me of how we sometimes let our ceremonies get in the way of reality. Sure, you had your plans, and they were all well and good – but what you got was not just the ceremony, what you got was real life!”

I’ve got very smart friends.

We practice for many reasons: to change habits, to reach goals, to polish the self-image we carry around. Yet it bears saying that sometimes the ritual can lose the original purpose and become an end unto itself. There’s nothing wrong with that – sometimes it’s just fun, or just feels good.

It’s important, though, to pay attention when things don’t go as planned. It’s entirely possible that things are actually not going as planned, but instead they’re going exactly as they should. In those circumstances, rather than trying to fight against life, perhaps it’s better to try a different tack.

Perhaps, to repeat the metaphor: it’s better to just join in and laugh along with God.

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