Six Ways of Looking at Ritual
approaching the 3rd House by way of the monastery
Once, a seer said to me, “You know they aren’t doing nothing but magic over there where you are.” I asked, “Where? Who?” She said, “Those people running around in black. They’re doing witchcraft and it’s dangerous the way they are doing it.” She was talking about the Zen center where I was training. I laughed but heeded the warning in my own way. I didn’t leave. I was already one of those witches, so to speak.
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
I happened upon Zen on a whim. A friend, in the midst of an acid trip, mentioned a Buddhist Monastery near where we went to school. Intrigued, I carried this information with me until I faced an empty summer break and pieces of my life to rearrange. I knew nothing of what living in a monastery was like but something deep told me that seeing this whim through was crucial.
I spent a month at Great Vow Zen Monastery that summer but it took only a few hours to know I belonged. In the words of Zen priest Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, “There was a memory in my bones of something old”. And despite my complete unfamiliarity with Buddhism and Zen particularly, “I saw myself sharing those teachings.”
Though Zen originated in China a thousand years ago, though I had never meditated for more than two minutes in my life, the deep home I felt there transcended my bounded Chloe identity.
Through my 8 years of subsequent practice (2 of which were spent at the monastery), the feeling has only deepened. I learned so many things from my stay but perhaps the most potent was the presence of the unseen in all moments. More importantly, it affirmed my ability to tune into this unseen world and change my life through it. I believe everyone can do the same.
As the above quote states, it became clear to me at the monastery that we were performing magic, though it was rarely discussed in such blatant terms. Zenju’s book, “The Shamanic Bones of Zen,” made this quiet part loud enough for me to want to share about my time at the monastery, hopefully to help you live more deeply into your own existence.
Though living in a monastery is certainly a 9th house activity, I learned so much about my own spirituality and daily practice that I carry with me into my lay life. My time there also points to a crucial point: any activity, from eating to going to sleep, can be a spiritual act, if we approach it with intention. Ritual is one of the best ways to bring forth the esoteric threaded into all physical things and times.
As you may recall from earlier newsletters, the Third House is how we make Spirit our own. It’s our rituals, our intuition, our ability to divine through concrete, mundane things. I want to share my experience to help you bring the divine into your everyday life.
Using my own experience and the beautiful, eloquent words of Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, I will give you tips on working with your Third House and seeing the mystical in the every day.
Read on and may all beings be supported by your attention 🙏.