Ritual for meeting your ancestors in the simple
October is the months of rituals. Some prefer the elaborate version, others keep it simple.
While thinking about my own approach, to keep it simple, I thought about what we mean when we say that.
Keeping a ritual simple rests on the premise that the nature and the quality of what you’re doing is close to some essential meaning.
Some say, what is simple does not mean it’s easy. I beg to disagree. I see the very essence of the simple as part of the elegance of easy-going that gets you above the polarity between easy and hard.
I say it again:
When something is simple, by virtue of the nature of the simple, it is above hard and easy.
Why is this so?
In disciplines other than the humanities, such as mathematics and physics, it is a given already that the simple is simple because it’s above duality.
The simple stares you in the face. Its nature is to make you go, aha, beyond verbalization into pure awareness.
Awareness of what is real doesn’t care about your opinion of how the simple manifests, potentially as hard or easy in your own optics.
In my work with nondual perception, I come across this sigh: ‘Detachment is hard’. I always retort: ‘Detachment is not hard, because it’s simple.’ It is not hard to realize that the processes of identification of ‘self’ with any phenomena is part of discourse, and hence fiction.
We are always already detached in nature, by virtue of the fact that we can do nothing about death. Culture, of course, tries to convince us otherwise.
When your mother shows you your image in the mirror when you’re but a few months, and says to you, ‘see that’s you, you’re so unique’, what she does is apply convention to this narrative of the self, not reality.
The famous French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan had a few interesting things to say about such mirror stages, but I’m not sure whether even he understood the implications of no-self.
There is never any ‘you’ and ‘me’ apart from the way in which the mind perceives whatever it is presented with. There is the thought of ‘you’ and ‘me’ as separate entities, but this thought, what the mind produces, is not reality.
So detachment is the simplest thing on the planet simply because essentially it is beyond all fictions.
Let us now turn back to the idea of keeping simple our rituals, and ring the bell to whatever significance we attach to our rituals, so they become more efficient and make an impact on the way we get to perceive our relationship with the seen and the unseen.
And yes, if I say that, the seen and the unseen, I say it because I acknowledge the fact that my mind can easily perceive sensations that are not necessarily ‘thought’ just as it can easily distinguish between sensation, thought, emotion, clarity, and insight, and all that conditions sensation, thought, emotion, clarity, and insight.
To keep a ritual simple means to keep it close to a clear mind. Close to the ways in which the mind prompts you towards recognizing what arises, acknowledging its presence, investigating into its nature, and then resting in the shared void.
A ritual is only good as it puts you on the path of non-identification with whatever arises: a thought, a demon, a god, depression, a ghost, an ancestor, a star.
Many engage with ancestor work at this time of the year, for, as the saying goes, the veil between the worlds is thin. But what are these worlds? How do we know them? The truth is that there nothing to know.
We cannot know either what is here, on this side of our so-called ordinary reality and perception or on the other side of the so-called non-ordinary perception. Why? Simply because all knowledge is pre-conditioned.
If you are of the Pagan orientation, you may entertain the belief that when you die and go to heaven, you’ll meet with Odin, Hekate, or the Moon Goddess. If you’re a Hindu, you may think that Shiva will be waiting for you when you cross over. Such beliefs are all the result of conditioned thought and emotion.
So how do we get past this?
See, a ritual, when it’s done the simple way, will give you a glimpse into what it means to die and go to heaven right as you’re in the middle of it, and where you can meet no one, except perhaps your own nose smelling that glorious, handmade Tibetan incense, or the sound of your bells ringing, or the drum whose beat transports you to fairy land.
A ritual done the simple way is a ritual that puts you in touch with the essential nature of your mind and the power of your perception that exceeds your control, that exceeds what you think you know, that exceeds your identifications.
If you meet your ancestors, in the simple, simply because you invoke them, you get to have a conversation about the nature of insight and clarity.
‘What is the next step on my path’, many ask their dead companions at this time a year. The simple answer is that if you want to know, you can look in the mirror. What are your aversions, your desires, your fears?
These are your ancestors talking back to you. Your mind reflects back to you whatever you allow it to perceive, especially if you make the effort to shift the focus from ‘me’ as a separate entity from ‘them’ the dead, and instead think of ‘yourself’ as that which has come before, comes to pass, and returns again.
Is there any space for fear in all this? Fear of death? The only death that’s frightening is the death of clinging to the fiction of the self. But whether you cling or not is besides the point from the perspective of awareness.
Awareness has your back, and you don’t even know it. This is what experiencing the liminal space between this world and the other world is all about.
Take your cards and create a simple ritual of meeting your ancestors in this space, beyond what you know, beyond hard and easy, beyond dualism.
Here is an example:
Use only the trump cards for this one.
Shuffle the pack, cut it with your left hand and deal one card for each of the following positional readings:
The layout is the following:
As above, so below.
As within, so without.
Ask the card on top:
What is my mother’s line’s ancestral power for all my outward manifestations that I can cultivate?
Ask the card at bottom:
What is my father’s line’s ancestral power for all my inward manifestations that I can cultivate?
Ask the card to the left for within.
What is my ancestral inherited fear that I must detach from?
Ask the card to the right for without.
What is my ancestral inherited desire that I must detach from?
Add the value of the 4 cards, and place a 5th card in the middle. If the value exceeds 22, the number of cards in the trump pack, then reduce the numbers by further addition, for instance, 23, 2+3=5, The Pope.
If the 5th card is already in use, just visualize it at the center of your layout as well.
Ask this card:
What is the simple for me that I must cultivate so that my experience of being between the worlds, neutral and detached, is a unified one?
Enjoy your conversations, and your rituals.
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Originally published at www.patheos.com on October 12, 2016.