Thursday, August 25, 2011

On Ritual Work

It might sound flaky or religious or new-agey, but cultivating ritual ceremonies isn't necessarily any of those. It can be a dramatic way to cut through to the core of an issue affecting us and help us through significant transitions. We already do graduations, funerals and weddings (which we don't always do very well, often focusing more on the dress and cake than the union), but there are other transitions that we could use some help getting through. Jung wrote about it, as did James Hillman,

Years ago, an old boyfriend and I, our relationship on shaky ground, went to a therapist. She took us through a ritual to help us end our dying relationship, and I was fascinated by how powerfully the ritual affected me. So in grad school I sought out courses in Ritual Studies to learn more. Then as a teacher, when I got to the anthropology unit of my Challenge of Change in Society class, I started including a section on ritual work.

By chance, one of my ritual studies professors had two children who ended up in my class. I was a little nervous teaching them about ritual work since they were sired by an expert in the field. But he assured me that, at the time, they had no interest in reading any of his books, so they got all their introductory knowledge from me. Yikes!

Now my old professor is collecting videos for a project on ritual work and performance and improv. His son, my old student, interviewed me below.

I actually talk a bit about mindfulness in ritual here, but I don't call it that. I talk about the immediacy of the improv experience in ritual, and comment something to the effect that we're in a more open and authentic place when we're obligated to be fully present and engaged.

Same thing.

I actually posted all this, then deleted it, and re-posted it because I speak a bit on topics that some might see as inappropriate for a teacher.  I don't think it's anything I could be reprimanded for, but I'll have to take my chances on that one.

(And I stammered trying to remember the term "coersive persuasion" a theory developed by Margaret Singer - not Margaret Sanger - I knew I messed that up.)

Teaching Ritual in High School from Ronald L. Grimes on Vimeo.

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