Sisters Speak: Rituals and Practices that Bring the Holy into our Lives

Posted by on July 18, 2014 in women | 14 comments

 

Dear Exponent readers, the Sisters Speak column of the Exponent II magazine will focus on innovative rituals or practices that enrich our lives.  I am looking for brief (one or two paragraph) responses to the following question, and I will email some of you commenters to ask if I can quote you in the magazine. For those that would like to respond privately, please email me at carolinekline1 at gmail dot com. 

Mormonism has an abundance of rituals and practices meant to imbue everyday life with holiness. I appreciate many of these, yet as a Mormon feminist, some of these rituals just don’t speak to my soul. From experience I know that I feel God more fully in my life when I supplement my Mormon worship with additional practices and rituals, particularly women-centered ones. 

Some of these practices which have been particularly moving and meaningful to me are:
  • a blessing ceremony for my baby daughter, in which a group of women friends brought a thought or a poem to help my daughter navigate her woman’s life, as well as a bead which symbolized some advice or insight for her
  • reading beautiful prayers from world religions
  • displaying images of the divine feminine in my home
  • shifting my God-language, so that I often mention Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father together
I feel like these practices are a good start, but I am sure there are many, many others that would add meaning and spirituality to my life. Please share your ideas on this subject. What spiritual practices or rituals have you developed (or do you hope to develop) to bring the holy into your life? What meaning do you find in them? Do you feel any tension because these practices are not developed or mandated by the Church, and if so, how do you deal with this tension?

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14 Comments

  1. I love to read the stories of my Sisters as written in the scriptures. Their examples and stories re-affirm many important eternal truths to me:

    1. Holding a Priesthood office is not the same as having Priesthood power. As a covenant woman, I have Priesthood power. My ancient Sisters understood this as well and 2 examples among many are particularly poignant to me: Eve – She reminded her husband Adam of their bigger, eternal purpose and the importance of eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam may hold a priesthood office and title, but in my opinion, Eve used her priesthood power to influence and remind him that this was a necessary step not just for both of them but for all of us. Sarah (Sariah) – when she sent Hagar and her son away, Abraham (Abram) was troubled by this because he loved his son very much. God told Abraham that what Sarah had done was a righteous thing. My personal opinion is that Sarah knew the importance of her son carrying the birthright and the importance of that covenant and the rivalry going on between Ishamael (Hagar’s son) and Isaac (Sara’s son) could have ended in one killing the other, thus jeopardizing the covenant. Abraham may have held the Priesthood office and title, but Sarah used her priesthood power in her covenant calling as a wife and mother to preserve the birthright. I understand that as a woman I too hold priesthood power and through my covenants and that power, I can be a force for good in this world, my family and in my own needs and circumstances.

    2. Reading about my ancient scriptural Sisters reminds me that God speaks to both men and women to bring about His purposes. in The Book of Mormon, Abish is given the gift of discernment, courage and inner strength. She was converted through the Spirit but kept it hidden for many years. Fast forward several years when the Queen of the Lamanites together with the King had their own conversion, she was sure in her knowledge of what was happening. She ran from house to house and shared the good news of the gospel. Even when some did not share her beliefs, she was strong and courageous in standing up for her beliefs and acted on them when she held the Queens hand who then rose to her feet to testify. Such courage and strength I seek daily.

    3. The sisters in this dispensation and even in my own time remind me that through the organization of Relief Society, we as women have an important work to do regardless of the ideas and perceptions of the world and even sometimes the well meaning brethren in the church, we as women are a force to be reckoned with. Mary Fielding Smith, mother and grandmother of prophets told a well meaning trail captain and priesthood office holder that not only would she make it west without his help, she would beat him there – and she did. She was later surrounded by , cared for and strengthened by her Relief Society sisters in her old age. I strive for the determination and grit of Mary Fielding Smith.

    These women and others in the scriptures were informed by revelation. We as women are entitled to our own revelation and I am grateful to a loving God who has shown me that I have full access to Him and He does not withhold that revelation based on gender.

  2. This is something I don’t really share with a lot of people, because I these experiences are very dear to me, but I’ve been thinking about this since I first read your questions, Caroline.

    The best thing I have ever done for myself in terms of feeling close to the feminine divine is practicing yoga. I’m not sure I can explain, but when I do physical activity or when I am mindful of my physicality I feel a connection to my Heavenly Mother. I get the same feeling of divinity as when I feel close to Heavenly Father, but in a qualitatively different way, if that makes sense. Yoga provides a context that is both physically and mentally exerting in a way that for whatever reason facilitates that connection. I think it has something to do with knowing that She has a physical body like mine. We talk about how Heavenly Father has a physical body, and how we were created in His image, but for me as a woman that doesn’t directly apply. Being aware of my woman’s body helps me better imagine what my Mother’s body must be like. When I first started yoga I prayed to my Father during shevasana; now I use that time to communicate with my Mother.

    I do feel a little bit of tension about this because of statements that President Hinckley made about it being unacceptable to pray to Heavenly Mother. So I don’t speak, I just listen.

    • Love it, Jess. Thank you! It sounds like yoga is a perfect time to mindfully commune with HM.

      I have not done yoga, but I now do zumba. It doesn’t have that same degree of spiritual dimension you describe, but I have felt more connected to my body since I began a couple of years ago. I’m aware of it in ways I haven’t been before, and that does feel meaningful to me.

    • Aww…..this is what I was going to say. I’ll leave my yoga comment here, too!

      • Yay for yoga! I’m glad you get fulfillment from it, too, Violadiva :)

    • Yes, Jess. Amen. And, for what it’s worth, I think President Hinckley might be changing his story now. . .

  3. There is a lovely book called Wild Feminine I have been working on reading for some time. Usually I read fast but this has exercises and things to work on that include self appreciation and understanding how we hold tension in our pelvic floor, and ergo appreciation for our feminine bits. Caddie Woodlawn’s father has a lovely quote about being feminine that I love but can’t find the book right now. All this combines to better appreciation of the power of our feminine selves, and an honor to the divine fine in each of us, therefore that we are each made in the pattern of our Heavenly Mother.

  4. There were a few blessed years when I lived in Boston, where my best girl friends (and more rarely my best guy friends) and I would gather and celebrate every equinox and every solstice. We made up rituals to fit the occasion, but there were some constants. We always went around the circle at the beginning, to take turns sharing a poem, prayer, hymn, or art work that reminded us of the season. We always expressed our favorite thing exclusive to each time. We always had candles. We always had jumping over (small) flames. We always had hand holding and chanting some of the favorite things.

    Sometimes we wrote our wishes for the season on tiny paper boats, that we sent sailing on the water. Other times we wrote the things we wished would grow on tiny seeds, that we planted in nearby dirt. One of my very favorite times, we lay on our bellies in a circle and took turns saying the things that we really do believe. It was generally a word or phrase, like “I believe in kindness,” or “babies.” It felt powerful to say true things together.

    Out of these celebrations, I formed deeper friendships and deeper appreciation for seasons that were hard for me. I looked for light in winter and joy in the sweltering summer, and the rituals we made helped me find it.

  5. Some of my most sacred and spiritual moments have come during quiet moments of yoga practice. As I focus my mind, control my breath, move my body and chant with my voice, it seems the perfect way to combine my emotional, spiritual and physical self. It opens my intuition for solving problems. I follow the prompts of a sensitive teacher as she guides us to balance our feminine and masculine energies, ground our roots deep into mother earth and to imagine the Great Mother cradling us in her arms. When I practice yoga, I feel strong, balanced, peaceful, clear-headed and more emotionally present in my relationships. I feel a stronger connection to my spiritual self and the presence of our Heavenly Mother.

  6. Meditation, to me, is the listening part of prayer. Each night, I do a meditation I made up, where I meet with Jesus, look over the past day and see what I could have done better. He washes me off and gets me ready to try again the next day. Then we go walking through a woods, around a mountain, and onto a beach by the ocean; these are places I chose because they are meaningful from my life. Jesus helps me through any obstacles that arise and gives me advice. Sometimes I ask Him questions or complain about something. But mostly, I just listen. It starts in my imagination, but occasionally, Jesus actually steps into my mind and really does talk to me. I’ve learned so much about Him and fallen deeply in love with this God who actually wants to communicate with us lowly humans.

    I also practice meditation each morning. One life-changing meditation is the Buddhist loving-kindness, or metta, meditation. It has been a way to learn about charity, to experience the way Jesus views us, and to soften my heart toward others. The basic way to do this meditation is to concentrate on different individuals one at a time, while focusing on these thoughts: “May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you be happy. May you be free from suffering.” It can be hard work. Sometimes I cry and sob as I struggle to find even a small bit of loving-kindness for someone who has hurt me. But it can also feel incredibly peaceful and empowering, and I’ve cried and sobbed as I’ve been completely saturated in love for a sister or a friend. It has been profoundly moving for me. I am a much kinder and more Christlike person for having practiced this particular meditation, because what a person meditates on expands and becomes part of the rest of her life.

    There are some decent metta meditations on YouTube; in my opinion, the videos need to be at least 30 minutes long in order to experience the meditation properly. It takes time to get into the frame of mind and to really focus on each individual you choose.

    I am aware of past church teachings (from McConkie, I believe) that we are not supposed to cultivate an actual relationship with Jesus. And surely, some members wouldn’t approve of using Buddhist teachings to learn about Christ, even thought Joseph Smith taught that all truth was part of Mormonism. But I simply don’t care what anyone else thinks. I love Jesus and I want and need time with Him. Once I heard His voice, I was hooked and I’m not giving up the path where I can hear Him. Meditation has been my spiritual lifeline to Heavenly Father and Jesus, and I’m using it to stay open to meeting our Heavenly Mother also. I feel sorry for anyone–even a GA–who is so afraid of doing things in an “unproper” way that they miss out on actually “coming to Christ.”

    Jesus said, “. . . if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.” Meditation is the best way I have found to do that, and I certainly have been blessed by the practice.

  7. Love these comments! thank you, everyone. I will email many of you and ask if I may quote you in the magazine.

  8. Have spent some more time thinking about what is ritual, and now realize that I use the time when I am driving places alone in a ritual way. when I have a 30+ min drive without my kids in the car, I have time for a meaningful prayer/discussion time with God. I have received strong personal revelations during this time, and other times I have felt a prompting to seek out closer communion with God.

    I am learning to look forward to long drives alone, as one of the few semi-regular times I can commune with God.

    Another thing I do when feeling disconnected is find a nearby place in nature and go for a walk, trying to appreciate beautiful simple things from the perspective of my 5 year old. Rebuild ing my appreciation for nature ‘s beauty reconnects me with God.

  9. For the last several years, whenever I have a dear friend of mine who is having a baby and labor has started (or when a friend is on her way to pick up a baby she’s adopting), I light a candle and say a prayer that the baby will arrive safely and that everybody will be protected. The lit candle is a reminder to me to keep my friend and her family in my prayers. Even if I have to leave the house, I try to keep a small flashlight with me lit at all times – just a reminder of hope, and of their struggles. I’ve since expanded that practice to include whenever a sister is going through a hard time – a funeral for their mother, for example, or a meeting with a doctor to receive a potentially terrifying diagnosis. There are times when I feel like my candle is never extinguished – it seems that there’s always somebody going through something really hard, but it’s a constant reminder to me to be prayerful and to send good, peaceful vibes to my sisters that are struggling. I love it, and it feels much more meaningful than to just say that I’m praying for somebody or that they’re in my thoughts.

  10. My life has been blessed by the practice of meditation. I have intensively studied Buddhist meditation practices and implementing them has made my Christian worship more fulfilling and spiritual. As I learned to center and still my thoughts (Be still and know that I am God) on my Savior and to release negative thoughts that pass through my mind, I have discovered a peace that is indescribable.

    The study of mindfulness has been invaluable to me. The practice has calmed my mind when life is especially challenging. It has helped me better love myself and others. I describe myself as a Mormon Buddhist because the Buddhist practices have become critical to living the gospel in a manner that is healing and spiritually nourishing to my soul. It has helped me avoid becoming critical of myself and others when we are less than “perfect,” to allow leaders to make mistakes without dwelling on their shortcomings, and, most importantly, to learn to love the Lord better so that I can love myself and others more fully.

    I plan to teach a class on mindfulness soon. Because I live in Utah, I will title the class “Stress Reduction” because some Mormons are intimidated by Buddhism, but the class will be based on Buddhist teachings that have blessed my live. I know read the Scriptures, pray, and worship with great faith. Isaiah’s words, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee (Christ) because he trusteth in thee” has become my mantra.

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