In the course of my recent cleaning of my apartment, I came across a document I created over two years ago, before I knew I wanted to start a ritual consulting business. I was still working in a mental health agency, leading educational and therapeutic groups for adults. The document is titled “Creating Personal Ritual”, and it was my first attempt at outlining the process by which we can create ritual for ourselves on a regular basis.
Reading it over, I still think it’s pretty cool. So, I’m going to do something a little different in this post. Instead of merely detailing what I did for my daily ritual challenge, I am going to show you some of my thought process as I go through planning a personal ritual. I am going to use three different examples and take them through the ritual creation process.
Example one: the ritual I created yesterday (a very simple, impromptu ritual). Example two: the ritual I choose to create today (a bit more involved and planned). Example three: the ritual I am dreaming up for the near future (much broader in scope and much more significant for my overall life direction!).
“Personal ritual can be defined as a set of actions that you personally determine to be meaningful, undertaken with the conscious intent to become more fully present to yourself and your life….One of the things ritual can help you to do is slow down and remain conscious even while feeling the full impact of your experience (pleasant or unpleasant). It can then help you shift the energy of that experience in a gentle way, which is much easier than trying to fight the experience off or running away from it. But, it takes courage. You need to be willing to do the work of creating the ritual structure and then staying with it even when you’d rather just go to sleep.
The first step in creating personal ritual is to make a plan. That involves reading through the rest of the steps and deciding in advance what you will do for each of them.”
Ok, got that covered. Doing that now.
“The second step is to create the space….Ask yourself: what do I love? What comforts me? What inspires me?”
One thing I left out of my earlier document, possibly because I hadn’t considered it, is that the sacred space within which ritual takes place can be a physical sacred space (for example, a room or an altar with specially chosen objects that help you to focus on your intention, and/or help you to feel grounded, centered, and supported) or a “virtual” sacred space (a space that exists mentally and is maintained through your continued focus on what you are doing). The ritual I created yesterday made use of virtual sacred space. I did actually feel comforted and inspired just by the thought that I was creating ritual. That is something that helps me. Today’s ritual will be taking place in my temple room, which is physical sacred space (since I have consistently intended that it should be, and I have taken action to clear the room and keep it cleared of anything irrelevant to my sacred work and intention, plus I have already created many rituals there). The ritual I am dreaming of…I imagine it taking place in my temple room, with a specially created altar just for that purpose. The more important it is that I maintain a particular focus, the more important I feel it is to have deeply meaningful, specifically chosen objects that help me hold that focus.
“Next, set an intention. What do you want and need at this particular time? What would you like to be open to receiving? What would you like to shift to? Name it, and be specific.”
Yesterday, I needed a way to calm myself after a very emotional day. I also needed something simple, because I had been busy all day and needed to go to bed early. Today, I want affirmation of my vision and my light. I want to feel myself committing to those things deeply. In the near future, I want clarity of purpose and priorities for my life, so that I may make a solid, trustworthy plan for my next steps and follow through with that plan.
“Then, choose an action. In order to choose an action, it helps to look at where you already are. Ask yourself: am I feeling restless? Lethargic? Fearful? Angry? Sad?….After you’ve been very specific and honest about what you are feeling…the next step is to bring in your intention. This is the outside force that will help you to shift your energy to be more in line with what you want it to be. Ask yourself: what can I do to symbolically announce the presence of my intention? What you want to receive or bring about is already somewhere inside you, even if only in your imagination. If you can name it, you already know something about it. What does your intention feel like? What action can you do that will embody your intention, or a piece of it? What object can you bring into your space that will represent your intention? When answering these questions, go with your first thought or instinct. You don’t have to understand it all right away.”
Yesterday, I was tired, sad, and afraid. I chose to do the dishes (something I was going to do anyway) within mental sacred space. I chose to imagine that as I cleaned the dishes, I was cleaning the parts of myself that have been encrusted with beliefs and attitudes that have not served me. I did not identify these beliefs or attitudes. I felt too worn out to do that—I wanted comfort and peace more than anything. I trusted that my psyche would know what needed to be cleansed, and that my intention would set that process in motion.
Right now, I am feeling excited, although just a couple hours ago, I was feeling lonely and wanting something to hold on to. I am choosing to complete my vision board for Incorporating Ritual tonight, because I want to send myself the message that I am serious about holding onto this vision. I want a strong reminder of my vision that I can keep with me when I doubt.
When I think about my future plans I feel worry that I don’t know how to create what I desire, doubt of my capacity, and persistent hope that the future could be really excellent. My intention is to strengthen that hope and turn it into something that feels solid, that can withstand my storms of doubt. I am picturing my hope as a flame, a light willing to hide in the darkest corner if that’s where it’s needed, something all the more beautiful for being unexpected and perfect in the midst of so much that isn’t hopeful. I want to see this hope retain the moving, dancing, alive quality of a flame, while at the same time shedding the fear I always associate with a flame that it may be blown out at any moment. I have been considering creating some kind of physical representation of a flame with these qualities, but I am not sure how to do it—except, I can do it with my own body! This feels right, imagining myself becoming a living flame of hope and locking that feeling into my cells. As I continue to dream and plan this ritual, I will incorporate this idea into it, along with other pieces (it also feels important to me to make a list of priorities while I am within sacred space).
“…the next step is to release the outcome….You do not know as yet how things will work out, but you can trust that they will. Tell yourself: I am safe. Everything in this moment is exactly the way it needs to be. After a time (you will know when you feel ready), you can do something to symbolically announce your readiness to release….Let your intention and your feeling together move out into the universe.”
I did this last night through trusting that what needed to happen was happening even if I didn’t know the specifics. I choose to do this tonight as well, and in the future.
“The final step is to re-enter ordinary space.”
When the ritual is over, we walk away. The more often we practice creating, embodying, and releasing intention in this way, the easier it will be. It’s as if a channel opens, and whenever we touch that channel, after we have taught ourselves how, what we need for that moment will come through. Last night, even after I had finished the dishes, all I had to do was glance at them drying in the rack to feel comforted. I knew that I had successfully connected intention with action. My ritual was complete.