One practice that has completely transformed my perspective and the way I connect and communicate is creating ceremony.
Although daily practice can be very rewarding, I have often set myself up for failure when I declare that I will do something every day. Meditation is a good example. I have tried to incorporate meditation into daily life with the same discipline and effortlessness that I use for other things. After several challenges to meditate daily for 10, 30, 75 consecutive days, I’ve learned to accept that it doesn’t have to be so rigid. Habits can form if I let it happen naturally, right? It seems when I decide to take on something new, especially when it’s extremely beneficial to my health and wellbeing, I can’t help but grow to resent it.
Here’s my trick. I found a way to meet ritual halfway, something that works for me. Three years ago I was trained as a shamanic practitioner. Part of the initiation process in my training was developing a sacred altar, a Mesa, that represents and facilitates healing. Twice a month in congruence with the moon cycle, I open my Mesa and create a ceremony full of gratitude and manifestation. In this time I naturally incorporate all of the practices I strive to do every day, deep meditation, yoga, and even speaking Spanish! Yes, I could do all of these things more, but showing up twice a month on full and new moons makes them even more sacred. I notice that since I’ve started these ceremonies I naturally do the other practices more often. So, I encourage you to find a semi-frequent ritual that can balance everything you do or “are meaning to do.”
I invite you to try ceremony. Maybe when you think of ceremony you imagine something religion-related or a rite of passage like going to a holy place of worship, a wedding, a funeral, or a graduation. This kind of ceremony I’m suggesting is less….organized. There are three major components that structure it.
1. Create a setting. This can be as elaborate or as casual as you’d like. The aim is to make a space for yourself that is comfortable and undisrupted. I like to light candles and incense (or if possible have a contained bonfire). I also will have a bowl of water, sit in front of my bookcase or outside in the grass, and play some grounding music.
2. Have something special. Again, this does not need to be complicated. The aim here is to separate this time from your daily grind. I try to have at least one special thing that is constant and one that is spontaneous according to how I’m feeling. Every time I go into ceremony I open my Mesa, and most times I use tarot and oracle cards. Then, I add extra thing(s) for the occasion that feel special and spontaneous. Maybe wear a certain color or mala beads, journal, or reflect and burn your hopes and fears. I celebrate the full and new moon phases along with the changes, emotions, and happenings of the month. This is your celebration, so be creative!
3. Use intent. I always open and close the ceremony. Maybe you believe in a god to talk to, or you can simply say “I am opening this space” then “I close this space with gratitude.” Sometimes as you speak, the intentions flow out. I call to the four directions (south/fire, west/water, north/earth, east/air) and greet the sun and moon. To close, I give thanks. My intent is in the form of meditating, inviting insight and guidance into the space, beating my drum and rattle, and having fun with it. There’s no need to overthink anything, but be sure to have loving, curious intention. When you show up open and present, there is so much to receive.
How does this apply to life?
A personal ceremony, like other communal ceremonies and holidays, is a way to connect. Even though your personal ceremony is held in solitude, you are grounding yourself. You may find after however many ceremonies that you feel more connected to nature and to all beings. Or, you may seem to feel nothing at all. At the very least, giving yourself a special time and place naturally increases your sense of compassion, appreciation, and peace which naturally improves your interactions in general. This is the ultimate self-care practice that can trickle into all other aspects of your life.
When I speak my intentions, I learn to speak from the heart. This means not having to think about what you’re saying. It’s not the same as blurting out whatever and regretting it. Instead, speaking with your “true voice” flows perfectly, confidently, kindly, effortlessly and never with afterthought (“I shouldn’t have said that,” “I wish I said this”). When you practice speaking this way on your own, it becomes “safer” and easier to do it “out there” with other people. We communicate more clearly when we speak with truth and integrity. Confidently saying what’s on your mind and speaking your truth can be differentiated. Do you need a ceremony to do that? From my experience, it’s a great option with gradual results.
When I open my Mesa and set up a place twice a month, it feels expansive, empowering, and full of possibility. It becomes a metaphor for my life. I hope your ceremony, whatever and whenever it may be, connects you to the feeling of expansiveness, empowerment, and possibility that is your life.