It’s evening, and so like some I face the west in this simple ritual.
The four compass points, to many, represent the winter (north), spring (east), summer (south) and autumn (west); but in this ritual of thankfulness, north corresponds to the night, east corresponds to the morning, south corresponds to the afternoon, and west corresponds to the evening. It’s evening and so I faced west.
Ofcourse, some may suggest that a ritual of thankfulness for water is not needed, and all that is required is merely to set aside time to be thankful using thoughts alone. So simple. To me, ritual assists. In many cases ritual isn’t for some other cosmic power or elemental entity, but it is for our benefit. It is an aid to us.
How many times have I intended to set aside time for good-thoughts, and yet other events ‘crowded in’ and prevented me? How many times have ‘obstacles’ been placed in your way that stopped you from that special time of sending ‘up’ good-thoughts? How many times have our good-thoughts and prayers resembled ‘shopping lists’ or have been said at breakneck speed – we are all busy people, after all. And yet, ritual and liturgy have the power to slow us down, encourage us to ‘go deeper’, and to allow our total self, mind, body and spirit, to ‘dance’.
‘Any ritual is an opportunity for transformation. To do a ritual, you must be willing to be transformed in some way. The inner willingness is what makes the ritual come alive and have power.’ Starhawk
Never underestimate the benefits of ritual and liturgy.
No, ritual is for our benefit and important. In making that time different to other times, perhaps by wearing slightly different clothes, lighting of a candle or two, having special words that usher us into sacred time, into sacred space, we make an effort to step outside of mundane time. In purposefully doing things differently, however simple they may be, we declare our intentionality. And, that’s important. That Which I Bigger Than Us, I do believe, honours such intentionality.
The symbolism for the west, then, is water. From the UK perspective this is easy to remember as to the west of the UK is that great body of water, the Atlantic Ocean. And, so in facing west, I encouraged myself to give thanks for water.
We take water for granted, and yet 845 million people do not have access to clean water, and 2.3 billion do not have decent toilet facilities. There is not to heap guilt upon you and I, rather an encouragement to give thanks for what we have, (and later) to send out prayers or light-love or positivity etc to those who don’t enjoy fresh water, and perhaps to take a physical effort in contacting a water-aid charity to make a small difference.
‘I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.’ Matthew 25:35, The Book.
And so, I lit a candle. At the foot of the candle I had placed a small, white sea-shell representing the sea, and which contained a few teaspoonfuls of water. I gazed thoughtfully at the shell and the water; and the only thought that ‘bubbled’ up continuously was ‘thankyou’, and yet it was enough.
‘Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water who is so useful, humble, precious, and pure.’ Francis of Assisi
In front of me I had also placed a glass of cold, fresh water. I sipped it, slowly as a ritual act. Each little sip of water slid down my throat and was so refreshing. In my minds eye thoughts danced. I visualised the turbulent sea, clouds forming above it as the water-cycle played out, I recounted streams where I had walked barefoot in cool water, and times when I had got caught, unprepared, in a rain storm and could do nothing but laugh. Each sip of water produced a feeling of gratitude. With water we bathe or shower daily and are refreshed, perhaps we pour out a libation of water occasionally, and with water holiness is ‘flicked’ onto the faithful and places. It is a dynamic symbol of new life in baptism etc.
Having drank all the water, I stayed silent. In those next few moments I moved from gratitude to thinking of all those without fresh water around the world, and sent out well-wishes, good-thoughts, prayers and positivity to those in need and to relief agencies in the form of a visualised prayer to all near and far. Might you do the same in a similar ritual?
Some ten minutes later, I extinguished the candle, bowed to the west and gave thanks to the Great Supplier Of Water without whom life would cease. The ritual was over and I had left sacred space/time (or, do we ever really leave it?). The simple ritual had ended, but life goes on….because of water.
‘Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.’ Lao Tzu