An Appreciation of Tradition As A Spiritual Practice

I have been reflecting on the shadow side of tradition. I find it to be a challenge to reflect upon what one often does not see, or chooses not to see.

You may agree or disagree with my observations below. I would love if you shared your point of view.

  1. Tradition is inherently resistant to change while at the same time ongoing change is absolutely vital to tradition.
  2. Which traditions are valued has to do with power. Which traditions are devalued or invisible is also a statement about power and control.
  3. The relationship between custom and tradition is permeable. There is no specific time frame when custom becomes tradition.
  4. Tradition shapes what we value.

I write these observations as a woman who has grown up in a particular country and who has been educated in a particular school system, including graduate school. I came from a particular family and worship in a particular faith tradition. My understanding of secular and religious time, my reading, my appreciation of art, and the way I understand my life are all grounded in tradition. I can’t separate myself from my tradition as I have been formed by it, because I am that. Am I able to change? – yes, but slowly.

Traditions shape us. This week in the Northern Hemisphere, it will be Fall. The season brings with it both traditions and customs to be celebrated. Those traditions and customs of harvest, life, death, gratefulness and generosity (among others), ground us and provide witness to who we are and whom we are becoming.

Spiritual Practice.

  1. Reflect upon your complex traditions. What do you accept as normative? Are there distinctions between spiritual and secular? Distinctions between gender and gender roles? Distinctions between culture, race, physical appearance, age etc.
  2. Where and when have you experienced dissonance, if any?
  3. Explore another tradition, another culture. Another way of being? How is it lived? What are apparent self understandings?
  4. How is your experience of tradition changed by exploring another.
  5. Write a poem, an art journal page, an essay or other creative action to further reflect on your experience.



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