Breaking out of Enclosures, Searching for the Bridegroom

I can’t quite believe that I am moved to tell this story for the first time, but here I go. Some twenty years ago I designed for myself a 40-day ritual that I did every day during Lent for three consecutive years. My spiritual teacher at the time used to talk about ways that we humans box ourselves into small spaces spiritually and psychologically and find it difficult to think or move outside the box. She called these “enclosures” and would teach her students how to identify and then move through small spaces we detrimentally limit ourselves to.

One day I became painfully aware of patterns in my life that were repeated almost mindlessly every day. I felt like an ant moving in a colony – from the laundry room to the kitchen to bathing the kids to putting them to bed to taking them to school to the office to the parking lot to the grocery store to home…  to repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Every day felt like a repeat in that certain way, and I wondered how I would grow without more adventure than that.

So, I decided to create a ritual to invite a break in patterns. Each day during Lent I determined to take a walk of whatever length I could manage with exactly the intention of breaking out of patterns I felt enclosed by, to search for the mystery, the beloved, “the bridegroom”, a term that had been used in a book I loved. I gave the ritual the title Breaking out of Enclosures, Searching for the Bridegroom. I practiced the ritual each day of Lent for three years.

As the life of a working mother with small children goes, often the only opportunity I had to take my walk was after the children were tucked in for the night. I lived in La Crescenta, California, at the time – a rather safe neighborhood in the Los Angeles area. I had been trained by living in the greater area to fear walking alone at night, but what was I to do after I made the committment to myself? Off I would go into the dark. Behind bushes I would sense movement and feel fear move in my gut, the rustle of leaves, the shadows of trees and street lamps – many times fear would arise. And just as soon it would dissipate as I realized they were only shadows in my mind, not outside of it.

Ever since this period in my life I have been strongly aware of what that ritual did for me. It has been an immense power in helping me to understand fearful workings of the mind and to overcome them. I do not believe I could have moved to the mountains of North Carolina, living alone in the wilderness for all of these years, never having experienced a moment of fear in my house alone, without having done this ritual. And that in only one of many, many ways I have come to identify the way that ritual has worked for me.

I realize I want to create a new ritual to help address other kinds of fears that taunt from the shadows now. I know the power of such practice, and invite the angels and invisibles to help me conceive a new one to help with current needs for breaking through.

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