The Forbidden Orange
Every spiritual tradition in the world has its own collection of rites and rituals that make up the warp and woof of its particular path.
These rites and rituals, the origins of which are not always understood, give its practitioners something to do — something not just think about or meditate on, but a physical activity they can focus on to help them remember the metaphysical connection to the essence of their path.
I get it. I do. Rituals work. Or as my rabbi liked to say, “If you want to learn to dance, sometimes you need to start with the box step.”
My kids, for example, cannot celebrate Christmas without leaving milk and cookies out for Santa, even though its been years since they realized that the fat guy in the red suit didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of making it down our chimney.
While I have never been a big fan of rites and rituals, I definitely have experienced their benefit, the most memorable one happening for me in 1974. That was the year I lived in a spiritual commune, on a 600 acre farm, 12 miles outside of Charlottesville, Virginia.
Three times a week, the six of us would sit, cross-legged, in our living room and, as a part of a spiritual practice given us by the same wonderful Teacher, share from the heart.
It was at one of these gatherings that I first heard the news about an ashram that would soon be moving to our little town. An ashram! A center of spiritual life! A divine abode of God-seeking souls — students of the same teacher I had — who had dedicated their lives to the realization of the highest truth.
I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Now, I would have a place to go and serve whenever I wanted to dive deeper into the depths of the spiritual path I was on. Cool.
Back then, as I understood it, the prevailing ritual of welcoming a new ashram was to bring a gift — usually a flower or a piece of fruit — and place it on the altar. And so, on the day the ashram was going to open its doors, I made a pilgrimage to my favorite grocery store in search of the perfect piece of fruit.
The cantaloupes looked great, but seemed a bit too big to place upon an altar. The…