Our social life is full of rituals, whether religious, political or educational: whether these are church services, Buddhist pujas, opening of parliament or awarding of degrees. Ritual fulfils a profound human need to share meaning and recognise archetypes. However, the vast majority of rituals are tedious and alienating for at least a section of their audience. Rather than focusing on being meaningful for their audience, rituals often merely reinforce the dogmatic authority of traditions. They also depend on a mistaken representationalist model of the meaning of the ritual for the audience (see the third talk on this page for more details on that). So how could we reinvent ritual to avoid these alienating features?
This experimental weekend retreat will consist in an exploration of how ritual could be done differently from the tedious experiences you may have had in religious traditions. We will engage in rituals to celebrate the Middle Way and its meaning for us, not as an abstract ideal imposed from beyond our experience in pre-set ways, but in a fresh and negotiated way. The form that the rituals take will depend entirely on the participants and what they find meaningful – and it could conceivably draw on visual arts, music, drama, poetry, film, meditation or any other medium. We will aim to strike a balance between creativity and reflectiveness that prevents ritual ever becoming ’empty’, and at the same time put a premium on involving all participants not just in certain elements, but in the whole design of the ritual.
Anyone will be welcome on this retreat who thinks the Middle Way is worth celebrating, and is prepared to play a creative role in developing new approaches to ritual rather than expecting to be a passive spectator. You should find yourself especially at home, if you are one of the people who has ever sat feeling alienated in a religious ritual (from whatever tradition), thinking how much better it could be than this!
Where? Tanner’s Hatch youth hostel, a unique venue which is both within easy reach of London and in the middle of a wood! The address of the venue is off Ranmore Common Road, Dorking, Surrey, RH5 6BE, UK. For more information about the venue and for directions see this link.
When? Fri 6th- Sun 8th November 2015, starting 6pm on Fri 6th.
Leader/ facilitator: Robert M Ellis
Who is the retreat for? Anyone aged 18 or over interested in reinventing ritual and celebrating the Middle Way. You do not necessarily have to be a member of the Middle Way Society (though we hope you will consider joining) nor from any particular religious or other background. Experience of meditation is helpful, but some support can be given to those who have not meditated before.
Cost: Total cost for this weekend is £55, including all accommodation and food. You can either pay this amount in full on booking, or pay a non-returnable deposit of £20, with the balance payable at the beginning of the retreat.
Equipment: Please bring meditation cushions/ stool if you use them, plus anything you need to contribute to the rituals, e.g. musical instruments, artistic materials, costumes, poetry books, cameras etc
Retreat conditions: To help create an atmosphere supporting integrative practice, people attending the retreat will be asked not to use electronic devices such as mobile phones, computers, radio or TV during the course of the retreat, except for the purposes of the retreat programme (e.g. ritual!) or for urgent personal reasons.
Travel: Please note that the venue is situated 0.75 miles down a track away from the car park. If anyone has physical problems with this walk we should be able to provide a lift down the track by prior arrangement. We can also pick up those coming by train from Dorking, Dorking West or Dorking Deepdene stations. Westhumble is actually the nearest station to the venue, but you will need to walk across country from there. For anyone coming from further afield, note that this venue is quite close to Gatwick Airport: trains take about 25 minutes from Gatwick to Dorking West.
Accommodation: This is in dormitories. We will negotiate who sleeps where on arrival (normally separating the sexes in different dormitories). It is unlikely at this venue that we will be able to meet requests for single rooms. If privacy is a big issue for you, and you are also hardy and have a tent and a warm sleeping bag, it is also possible to camp (average temperature in Surrey in November is 4-11 degrees C)! Retreatants will be asked to contribute to cooking, washing up, cleaning etc, unless they have physical problems with contributing in this way.
To book Please fill in the form below. When you submit the form, it should be followed by a Paypal payment facility where you can pay either by Paypal or by debit/ credit card. Once you have submitted the form and your payment, your place on the retreat will be secured.
Questions: For any further questions about the retreat, please contact robert (at) middlewaysociety.org. For queries about payment please contact barry (at) middlewaysociety.org. (Substitute @ for (at)). Alternatively you can use the comment function below for public questions or comments.
Picture by Matt Kowal (Wikimedia Commons CCAS 2.0)