We dust off the shrine, light a few candles, chant some words of veneration, bow in the direction of the altar … and then we sit and begin the practice of meditation. We might have the idea that our practice doesn’t begin until we reach the cushion, but would we do the rituals if they didn’t contribute to the overall experience? If these rituals settle the mind and warm the heart, perhaps they are as much the practice as following our breath.
The topic of skillful means is broad and general. In short, anything we do which encourages wholesome mindstates and diminishes unwholesome mindstates is a valuable accessory to our growth on the path. There’s no one right answer or perfect ritual. We are given free license to experiment and explore until we find what works best for us.
Last night during the uposatha, Tahn Pamutto offered a reflection on skillful means, and how we can judge our strategies and techniques against a framework like the Four Noble Truths to determine if we’re on the right track.