The Aftermath of Ritual: A Reflection

2014 Water Ritual

Five days have now passed since the Ritual of Letting Go was held on the banks of a shockingly cold river in the Columbia River Gorge.

My memories of the ritual are ones of laughter, of beauty, of song, and of deep connection to myself, to nature, to the other participants, and to Water.

Most often, after this ritual, I feel amazingly clean, clear, alive, and deeply connected to who I am and to what I am here to do.

The water truly does wash away all murkiness, all confusion, and all that stands in the way of my connection to my true nature and to Spirit.

This time, however, the ritual seems to have served another purpose.

It seems that this time the waters washed away all that stood in the way of me being able to truly see and feel a deep pattern of misalignment within myself.

Today, as I write, I feel raw and vulnerable.

Today I am recognizing and acknowledging there is a much deeper pattern of letting go, of release, that needs to occur.

And, it isn’t something that I want to release. In fact, it is something I have resisted releasing with every cell of my being – clutching and clinging with every fiber of my will.

I’m not certain I can speak directly about this pattern that is asking for release today.

It is too new, too raw.

So, I will share in this vague way because it seems important to acknowledge that this is one of the possible outcomes of ritual.

Yes, often, we exit ritual space feeling deeply alive, nourished, and connected.

Often, the clarity of our vision, of our thoughts, and of our being, is astonishing.

And, there are also often times when what we really needed from (in this case) the water was not exactly what we thought we needed.

Participating in ritual is an act of surrender.

We take into this Ritual of Letting Go all that we are aware needs to be released.

And then we surrender, trusting that Water and Spirit know what is truly needed and that what is truly needed may be different than what we think is needed.

Further, we trust that Water and Spirit will reveal that which needs to be released in ways that we can understand, that we can process, and that will lead to the transformation and healing that we truly need.

In my experience, this has always been the case.

While the aftermath of ritual may at times be challenging, the end result, for myself, has always been a deepening into my gifts, into my connections with Spirit, and into my ability to show up for my family and community in ways that are loving, kind, and aligned with Spirit and my purpose.

While I’m not there yet with this latest pattern asking for acknowledgment and release, I trust the water of my tears to bring the healing, release, and clarity that is needed.

I trust that the next step will reveal itself. I trust that transformation will occur.

And, I trust that I am continuing to be held by Water, by Spirit, and by all of my sisters in ritual.

Committed Heart; Committed Action – a Real Life Example

Shortly after writing last week’s post talking about the two aspects of commitment (vision + action), I received a link to a truly incredible story told in a 15-minute video.

The story is about a man in Northeastern India who, over the span of 30+ years, planted an entire forest.

His forest is now home to elephants, deer, and even Bengal tigers. A particular species of vulture that has not been seen on the river island where he planted his forest, has began to return after 40 years of absence.

It is a remarkable and, for me, very touching story.

His love for, and devotion to, his forest shines so bright.

And, it is all so very vulnerable. He speaks plainly about the dangers facing his forest – from the harvesting of the trees for profit to the poaching of the animals that now call his forest Home.

And yet, every day he walks back out into the forest to plant still more trees, to help his forest continue to grow and thrive.

The benefits of his actions have been acknowledged.

The river island where he lives is slowly being eroded away by floods.

The planting of the trees is countering that erosion and he has been showered with accolades and awards by the government and various other organizations.

However, the awards have not been backed up with action on the part of the government. It is obvious that without his message of how the planting of trees benefit both humans and animals being heard and acted upon, the accolades are meaningless to him.

This story beautifully demonstrates how concrete, daily actions can bring a vision for a better world into reality.

He is living his vision, despite the very real dangers posed to his forest, despite the pain he would have to face if his forest were to be harvested or his animals poached. And, he continues to plant tree after tree despite the lack of concrete support from those in power around him.

This story demonstrates that rare and powerful combination of strength and vulnerability; of committed heart and committed action.

For you:

Here is a link to the full video. What comes up for you around the concepts of commitment, vision, and vulnerability as you watch?

What ‘serious, active’ steps (whether great or small) are you taking to make your life and the world a better place?

Committed Heart; Committed Action

Last week, I had a conversation with a close friend that made quite an impression on me.

We were talking about my business and she said something about how it seems to her that I’ve never fully committed to my business, at least not in the same way that she has seen me commit to my marriage and various other non-business activities.

I could feel the truth of that and yet, I had no idea what it meant, or what I would do differently if I were to fully commit.

She pointed me to an article on one of my favorite marketing blogs and suddenly I got it.

The internal (more feminine) piece of commitment.

Yes, I was fully committed in my heart to my business. Yes, my intentions (for it to thrive; to serve humankind; to benefit the world and my family) were all in place. And yes, I was even continuing with my daily practice of self-care, meeting fears as they arose, and interacting mindfully with whatever was happening in my internal world in relation to my business.

The external (more masculine) piece of commitment.

BUT (and this is a very large but) I had never fully committed to ‘serious, very active’ ________ that showed up in the external world – like consistent blogging, social media stuff, podcasting, whatever form that might take for me.

For me, the internal piece is easy. I love being at my altar, I love meditating, journaling, exploring the depths of my psyche, interacting with my shadow. That stuff is fun!

The external piece requires much more effort for me and tends to evoke much more anxiety as well.

My commitment.

However, at some point, if I truly am committed to my business and to the message I carry for the world, I have to step more into the external piece of commitment than I have in the past. I have to meet that anxiety and fear AS I’m consistently engaging in serious, very active external action.

Thanks to the combination of the discussion with my friend and the article above, this is exactly what I am now committing to doing.

For you:

What does commitment mean to you?

Take a moment and think about something that you fully committed to (a project, relationship…). How did that feel? What did you do to stay engaged? And, even more specifically, what were the concrete actions you took to demonstrate your commitment?

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