For years, I've practiced ritual.
When one is mature spiritually, one no longer needs the structure of ritual or formal meditations. This is not to say that structure was unnecessary, for without it one could not stand at this vantage point. But once one attains a level where one has completely internalized the lessons of structure, one can freely improvise in fresh and valid forms.
In spirituality, one can soar, free of ordinary restrictions. Imagine yourself on a high cliff overlooking the ocean. Slowly your body elongates like a ribbon. Longer and longer, undulating up into the sky. Before you is the limitless vastness of the ocean and sky. You feel drawn forward, and you can glide and soar over that expanse like a ribbon. That is spiritual freedom.
Autumn is about to pass into winter. Spring is on the other side, just as spiritual soaring is on the other side of stiff ritual. Devotions have their own seasons. When you first learn them, they are magical. Then they yield their harvest and wither. On the other side of the withering is a new spring and a new spiritual vista. Wherever you are in your spiritual years, cooperate with the cycle of the seasons, until you emerge like a design, soaring in the sky.
by Deng Ming-Dao
from the book 365 Tao