How to Create Your Own Ritual of Letting Go (Water Ritual)

To celebrate the approach of our 4th Annual Ritual of Letting Go (Aug 29), I’ve created a mini-guide to help you create your own water ritual. Let’s get started!

The purpose: while it is possible to work with water for many (many, many) purposes, the purpose of our ritual is cleansing, release, letting go. So, that is what this guide will help you create.

The basic steps:

1) set your intention
2) select your location
3) create sacred space including your altar
4) invocation + stating your intention aloud
5) the water!
6) closing the ritual
7) returning the space to pre-ritual (or better) state

1) Setting your intention.

While the overall intention for this ritual is (again) cleansing, release, letting go, what you are releasing is for you to determine. The stronger and clearer you are in stating your intention, the more powerful the ritual becomes.

For instance, I ask my ritual participants to make a list of all that they wish to release (old beliefs, patterns of scarcity, non-serving attachments to people, situations, etc). Then, I ask them to create a second list describing what they would like to welcome into their life once they have released all that no longer serves.

Once you have created your lists, keep them with you as you move into the next stages of your ritual.

2) Choosing your location.

The most important consideration here is privacy. As it is impossible to predict what might come up during your ritual, you want to feel safe and to know that your space is private and protected.

If this means doing the ritual in your backyard (or even in your home), that is perfect. There is no true right way to do ritual. Our intention and our sincerity are what really matters.

3) Creating sacred space (including your altar).

While there is a specific way that we create sacred space in our ritual, I’m going to simplify the process a bit for this guide.

If you are outside, it is nice to outline the space in some way, perhaps using sticks or rocks. Then, once you have said your invocation, you remain within the space you have created for the duration of the ritual.

If you are in your house, designate a room (or part of a room) as your ritual space. Again, how can you set this room or space apart from the rest of your house? Use your imagination and be creative.

The altar.

As this is a water ritual, we create an altar honoring the water element. This can mean various things to various people. In general, connect in with water and see if you can bring the elements of flow, grace, harmony, peace, etc into your altar.

In the tradition in which I work, we use the colors blue and black for our altar (including blue and black candles). We include shells, river rocks, sea creatures, photos of water, bowls of water. etc – anything that symbolizes water for us.

Make certain that you include at least one object of significance or deep meaning to you on the altar (something from your normal altar if you have one; something from your ancestors; a special rock, etc). This connects you personally into the altar.

The most important element of creating sacred space is that it be filled with a sense of beauty and magic. What does this mean to you? Follow your own intuition and allow yourself to be astonished by what you create.

4) The invocation.

In an invocation, we state our intention for our ritual and call in all of our guides and allies (ancestral, angelic, the elements, plants, animals, everything we love and want to be present in our ritual). Again, there are many ways to do an invocation and as long as you are calling sincerely, humbly, and with strength, yours will be effective.

Wow. I’m realizing there is a lot I want to say here about invocations. However, that is not the point of this guide, so… :) In general, our allies and guides (Spirit) are especially attracted when we do things that are out of our normal range of experience. If you call, they will come.

As you call, make a statement that you are only calling those Spirits, being, allies, and guides who have your fullest and highest interests in mind. No other energies may enter this space you have created.

Offerings.

At this point, you can also make some offerings (to the water, your guides, etc) of song, tears, tobacco, lavender, incense, and/or cornmeal at your altar.

5) Working with Water! Yay!

In our ritual, participants will have the opportunity to immerse fully (or to whatever extent they choose) into the icy-cold waters of our chosen river. This is what is known as a radical ritual – one that is most definitely outside the normal experience of most people these days!

NOTE: I do not recommend the full immersion ritual unless you are in a very safe spot of the river AND you are in the company of other people. Doing a ritual immersion is somehow quite different than just jumping into a river to cool off on a hot summer day.

Fortunately, there are many other ways to work with water for cleansing and release, even in your backyard or your home. Here are some suggestions:

Backyard: use a garden hose to spray (cleanse) yourself. You could even use a sea salt scrub and then spray yourself down (or, if doing this ritual with a friend, have them spray you down). Conversely, you could just dump a bucket or two of water over your head. Again, it is the intention, the sincerity, and the symbolism that is important here.

In your home: perhaps you jump into a shockingly cold shower. Or, have a large bowl of water in your ritual space and use cedar boughs (or anything that will carry the water – a towel or washcloth even) to wash/cleanse your full body with the water.

In brief, be creative, follow your instincts, and trust that what you are doing is exactly what is needed. Remember your intention and allow the water to wash away all that is ready to be released.

6) Closing the space.

Once you feel fully cleansed spend a bit of time at your altar, listening or meditating. If it feels right, you might even speak the things from your second list (that you would like to welcome into your life now).

Then, when the time feels right, move to close your ritual.

Stand, feet firmly on the ground, and thank your guides and allies for their presence and for all that you have experienced together. Be as specific as you can be about what you are grateful for and what you experienced.

Then, simply state, in whatever way feels right to you, that the ritual is closing. In my tradition, we do not send our allies and guides away but simply release them to stay or go if they wish. If you follow a different tradition, do as you feel called.

7) Returning the space to pre-ritual (or better) state.

This step is most important when you are doing ritual outside of your home/yard. But, even in your home/yard, a ritual is not completed until the space is returned to normal.

In general, dismantle the altar, scatter the sticks or stones you used to create the boundary of your space, make certain that any offerings you made are buried or carried out to be composted.

Basically, make certain that everything you carried into the area is taken out with you. And, if you notice any trash (from someone else perhaps) take it with you as well. We want to leave no trace of our work there – other than perhaps an energetic sense of more aliveness and magic.

There you have it.

Again, this is a very, very basic guide. I could go into so much more depth with each step. AND, this is also enough. It is plenty for you to create your own ritual in a good way. It is more than enough for you to have an experience of working with water and spirit for cleansing, release, and letting go.

May it serve you and all your relations well.

much love.

ps. Want to experience this ritual in community? Join us on the 29th!

pps. I would love to hear your thoughts on this guide including stories, questions, plans for your own ritual, etc. Please leave me a comment below. Thank you!

Self-Care Expedition Day 10 (of 10!): wrapping up the expedition

[Note: this is Day 10 of a 10-Day Self-Care Expedition. I am examining my relationship with food and movement. You are welcome to join in as well through committing to your own self-care practice, commenting, and/or silently supporting.]

Day 10! The final day of our expedition. Celebrations!

Of course, since my original intention was to jump-start a deeper food and movement self-care practice, I’m really only just beginning.

Still, it feels as though I have covered a LOT of ground over these 10 days and I might be at a place where I can have more of a grounded, in-the-moment, relationship with food and movement. This is pretty exciting!

Let’s take a quick look back over these 10 days, starting with movement/exercise.

I started the expedition feeling as if all exercise was an obligation, something that I have to do in order to be healthy.

On Day 1 I reconnected with how much both my body and I love to move – just to move. Day 2 was spent uncovering and processing a huge about of grief around this sense of betrayal and distrust between my body and me.

Discovering the pressure-resistance piece on Day 3 was especially huge for me. Then, on Day 4, I was able to apply the insights of Day 3.

Ever since then, everything has felt different to me. That sense of exercise as an obligation has completely melted away and I feel a much greater sense of trust. Trust both in my body to let me know what it needs and trust in myself to be able to listen and do it. It’s practically a miracle!

Moving on to food.

It took me until the middle of this expedition to realize I was completely neglecting the food part of my original intention. Finally, on Day 7, I set the intention to spend the remainder of the expedition noticing what came up when I turned my attention towards food.

Days 7 and 8 were spent in absolute resistance. On Day 9, applying Byron Katie’s inquiry process proved helpful – at least in identifying my extreme terror of herbal tea!

There is clearly a lot more to uncover and explore here.

Still, it has been quite illuminating to take the time to truly notice all the resistance and internal conflict/confusion that I carry around food. It has been helpful to be in more of a place of witnessing vs just being in it.

I trust that this relationship will continue to unfold and that I will eventually come to a place of more ease and inner knowing with regards to my food decisions.

Even now, I feel much less conflicted than when I began. I even have this glimmer of hope that that my body and I might want the same thing, that we are in this thing together.

To bring it all together.

Throughout my teens and 20s, food and exercise were my primary (perhaps only) forms of self-care. Then, as I began to open to the more subtle levels of emotional, energetic, and spiritual self-care, food and exercise fell to the side.

This is a fairly common pattern for me.

When learning something new, I tend to become consumed with it and everything else has to fall away to make space for me to go as deep as I need to with the new thing.

Then, there comes a time when all of the things that were dropped need to be picked back up, dusted off, and integrated into the new thing. Or, the new integrated into the old??? In any case, integration must occur. :)

In this case, my old ways of caring for myself through food and exercise no longer fit with all the deep listening skills I had cultivated. I guess I could say that the old ways needed to be upgraded in order to fit into the new model of self-care I had developed.

So, in a way, it feels as if I have come full cycle.

From…

a) food/exercise as my foundational self-care practice (but in the form of me imposing what I thought was healthy onto my body) to…

b) the softer, more listening-based skills of self-care, and…

c) back to the core practices of food and movement (but now coming from a place of listening to my body – of integrating the new and the old).

It’s very interesting!

And, I’m so grateful for this expedition… for giving myself these 10 days to focus on this aspect of my self-care practice. It will continue to unfold, evolve, and deepen. Makes me very curious to see what happens next!

For you.

Welcome to Day 10! How does it feel to have arrived at the final day of our expedition? What are you noticing? What is the story arch of your expedition?

Thank you to everyone who participated in this expedition through commenting, reading, participating silently, liking posts on fb, etc. Your presence was immensely helpful and made it possible for me to keep going when I hit all that resistance on days 5-9. :)

I want to give a special shout-out to Emma for sticking it out with me visibly through the comments. It was so helpful to know that you were there in the thick of things with me. Thank you. Thank you.

xo

Self-Care Expedition Day 9: applying inquiry to a thought about food

[Note: this is Day 9 of a 10-Day Self-Care Expedition. I am examining my relationship with food and movement. You are welcome to join in as well through committing to your own self-care practice, commenting, and/or silently supporting.]

This whole food-thing is definitely not getting any easier. At least not yet.

I again, spent all day yesterday putting off eating and then grabbing the most readily available thing. Well, I did eat real food for dinner… but only because my husband insisted on us cooking. Left to my own devices I likely would have just snacked on crackers all evening.

Speaking of my husband, he was watching some Byron Katie videos on youtube and I remembered how useful I have found her process of inquiry in the past.

I have a lot of deeply ingrained thoughts regarding food that might be helpful to examine. So, that is what I’m going to do today.

This is the thought I’m choosing to play with today:

I will never know what I want or what truly nourishes my body.

Let’s begin.

Question #1: Is this true?

In this moment, it feels true.

Question #2: Can I absolutely know that it is true?

Well, no. I can’t absolutely know that it is true. Some things do change.

Question #3: How do I react when I believe this thought?

Well, my chest feels constricted. There is this hardness throughout my chest. It is difficult to breath.

I feel hopeless and helpless. Depressed and exhausted. I just want to eat a whole bunch of sugar and wheat and not give a f*ck about anything. I want to give up. Not just on trying to eat better but on everything.

If I can’t feel what my body wants for food (the most basic self-care practice), what’s the point of any of my self-care practices? I teach self-care skills based on listening to my body and I can’t even hear what my body wants for nourishment. I’m a fraud.

Question #4: Who would I be without the thought?

I would be a person who is doing the best she can in this moment. I would be a person who is deepening into one aspect of her ability to listen to her body.

I would know that just because this aspect of my self-care practice isn’t where I want it to be, that this one not yet being highly refined, does NOT negate all the other ways that I DO know how to listen to my body.

I would give myself a bit more compassion. I wouldn’t put so much pressure on myself to have it all figured out. Right. This. Minute. I would relax a bit and approach it all with more curiosity and less judgement and self-deprecation.

Hmmm.. I’m also noticing a ‘should’ in my original thought. When I say that “I will never know what I want or what truly nourishes my body” I am implying that I should know. And, I don’t know.

So, I guess without this thought I would accept myself a bit more where I am, as I am, a person who is learning more about what nourishes and supports her on a daily basis.

The turn-around (the opposite of the original thought):

I always know what I want and what nourishes my body???

Is that thought as true or truer than the original thought? Find 3 reasons why it is true.

Wow. I feel rather panicked just starting to think about reasons why the turn-around might be true. Pressure/constriction though my throat, tension in my solar plexus, more difficulty breathing…

Ok, let’s see… can I come up with 3 times when I did know what I wanted and what nourished my body?

1) Two weeks ago when I went out to the woods and gathered nettles and made the most wonderful, deeply nourishing/satisfying nettle soup. That was awesome.

2) Refusing to eat quinoa for the past year even though I have no idea why I don’t want it and think that I should want it.

3) The times when I poach eggs and steam some veggies with Parmesan for breakfast. Mmmmm. So delicious! And, my body feels really happy eating it!

Whew. I did it. That is 3. Damn. That was difficult.

And yet, these are 3 shining examples of me knowing what to eat. Of me knowing and honoring what deeply satisfies and nourishes my body.

What I’m realizing right now is that, just like with movement, being present is the key.

And, I’m still rather terrified by the thought of being present enough to know what my body wants in the present moment regarding food. There is still stuff to untangle and fear to be met there.

However, it is very clear to me that, like exercise, diet is a very fluid thing for me.

It is NOT a matter of determining some specific foods that I eat (or don’t eat). Rather, it is a matter of checking in and seeing what brings that sense of relaxation and openness to my body when I present her with various food options.

Ah! Here is another piece. I just received some insight into the fear piece.

I’m afraid that if I check in with my body, she won’t want these things that I so love. Like black tea with milk and sugar. What if my body wants herbal tea every morning? NOOOOOoooooo!

Ok, and now I’m laughing.

I guess herbal tea isn’t so scary. And, if I find black tea with milk so comforting, there are probably times when my body does as well. We do exist together after all. And, if she were to really want herbal tea, for example, there is a chance I would really enjoy it as well.

So, onward. :)

For you.

Tomorrow is Day 10. Our final day!

For today, is there any thought interfering with your self-care practice that might benefit from the process outlined above? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

Self-Care Expedition Day 8: encountering still more resistance

[Note: this is Day 8 of a 10-Day Self-Care Expedition. I am examining my relationship with food and movement. You are welcome to join in as well through committing to your own self-care practice, commenting, and/or silently supporting.]

So.. I want to untangle my relationship with food, huh?

Yes. I want to untangle it in the hopes that I can get to a place beneath all the confusion, external stories/fads/diets/studies, and internal conflict to where I can truly hear what my body wants to eat. So I can truly hear, directly from my body, what nourishes and strengthens her.

Because, she knows exactly what she needs in order to be strong, healthy, and nourished… right?

That is the premise on which I’m basing the remainder of my expedition. It has proven true so far with regards to exercise. Surely, it is also true when it comes to diet.

Except, my god! The resistance!

Yesterday I set the intention to consciously pause and check in with my body prior to making food decisions.

Ever since then, I’ve basically not eaten.

Well, I’ve eaten. I’ve just put off eating (and checking in with my body regarding food) until I’m to a point where I just don’t care anymore. And then I eat whatever happens to be the most readily available.

This means that my primary diet over the past 24-hours has consisted of cheese, crackers, caffeine, and chocolate. Yes.

So, today I’m noticing this resistance to checking in with my body regarding food decisions.

I’ve watching (with as much compassion and curiosity as possible) as I put off eating until I get to the point where my intention is feeling weak and then quickly devour the first thing I see.

And, I’m noticing that this pattern itself isn’t new… that it isn’t solely a result of this expedition and yesterday’s commitment.

No, this pattern is typical for me.

Now though, thanks to this expedition, I have a bit more distance from it and can see it a bit more clearly.

Maybe tomorrow I will even be able to pause (once even would be terrific!) and notice what is present in my body before I just grab whatever is most handy. Maybe not. We’ll see.

For you.

Focusing on a particular self-care practice for a length of time tends to open the door to whatever stands in the way of us being able to practice deep self-care on an on-going basis.

10 days can feel like an eternity when practicing a deeper way of caring for ourselves and/or noticing what comes up when committing to a new level of self-care. We are, or I most definitely am at least, in the thick of it right now.

If you are as well, just know you aren’t alone.

Everything that is surfacing (resistance, wanting to quit, forgetting your intention…) is coming up for acknowledgement and healing.

It is coming up so that, after this expedition concludes, we can be in a more authentic and effortless relationship with ourselves and our bodies. It is coming up so that self-care can become more of a way of life and less of a chore or an obligation.

I’m sending love to you on this, Day 8, of our expedition.

Self-Care Expedition Day 7: turning towards food

[Note: this is Day 7 of a 10-Day Self-Care Expedition. I am examining my relationship with food and movement. You are welcome to join in as well through committing to your own self-care practice, commenting, and/or silently supporting.]

Welcome to Day 7! We are now on the homestretch of our Expedition. :)

I realized something over the weekend.

My original intention was to spend time with my relationship with food and movement. While I feel a lot of my underlying resistance to healthy movement is beginning to heal (yay!), I’ve completely neglected the food piece thus far.

I stumbled across the following brief email I sent to friend more than a year ago talking about how tangled my relationship with food has become.

“So, this article (very humorously) sums up pretty much everything I feel/think about food right now – that it is all gonna kill me and/or the planet. To me, this means I might as well just eat sugar all day. :)

Lots of stuff hidden in food and all these issues for me for sure. I wonder just how long it will take to unravel it all?”

Clearly, I’ve known for a long time that my relationship with food needs some time and attention. I just haven’t been willing to go there. With the support of this expedition, I may be willing to go there now.

Therefore, my intention for the remainder of this expedition is to really, truly pause and listen to my body regarding my food decisions. I’ll be back tomorrow to let you know how it is going. :)

For you.

How does Day 7 find you? Are there any shifts or changes you need to make in your practice? What do you need to help you sustain your self-care practice through these final days of our Expedition?