Last night, in ritual space, I finished one of my fairy dolls that I started last December.  Sitting in its unfinished state, it was symbolic of the many things I have started in my life and then let lie fallow.  I admit that I did not have one clear strong intention for my ritual, but several moved through me as I was working.  One was: I persist in my creativity.

This is so important.  When I think of persistence, I often think of unpleasant or boring tasks that take days, weeks, months, or years to complete, that have many stages, progress slowly, and seem to have few rewards.  Some things are like that.  Writing a book, once you’re past the initial excitement, is probably like that.  Despite having been told since I was a child that someday I would write a book, I have not yet seriously tried my hand at writing one, but I have watched others close to me work at their own book projects.  It takes a lot of faith to sit with each blank page, each sentence, day after day as the words flow or dribble out, and not know what will eventually be born of all the work.  Taking care of children is probably like that too.  Knitting a blanket is probably like that.  Row upon row–and how many good reasons there are to just put the whole thing down!  After all, there are already lots of blankets in the world.  There are already lots of books.  Who needs the one you are creating?

Except, what you are creating is needed.  You, as the creator, are needed.  I am needed, as someone who has persisted through a process I wanted to give up on.  The finished product may or may not be what I wanted it to be.  My fairy doll did not turn out perfectly last night.  She had glue matted in her hair no matter how careful I was with the glue.  My pencil seemed to have a mind of its own when I was drawing her face, and I think her smile looks a little silly.  But I thought (and this was also one of my intentions): I persist in my creativity even though what I create is imperfect.  I love the act of being creative and the abundance that manifests through me when I am creative.  After all, tonight I have a fairy doll, who is, along with her sister who was created last year, helping to remind me of even more of my intention. 

Vision.  Gratitude.  Yes, I am grateful for many things.  I am grateful for the bits of the sunset I watched tonight, the pink-tinged clouds.  I thought of my best friend’s father-in-law, who is leaving this world tonight.  I wished him a good journey.  Later tonight, I will light a candle and pray for him.  I am grateful, too, for the strength of vision, which has brought me back to writing here, which has brought me back to my love for ritual and my passion for the beautiful and the sacred.

I persist.

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Vision Board Update

In case you were wondering, I did finish my vision board last night!  Here are some pictures:

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Creating Personal Ritual

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!).

I will structure this post by quoting from myself of the past via the “Creating Personal Ritual” document, and then responding as myself in the present.  Ready?  Go!

“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.

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Five Days of Daily Ritual

Here is a recap of what I’ve done for my daily ritual challenge for the past five days.

Wednesday: I had a group ritual planned for this evening.  I did not prepare beforehand as much as I would have liked to.  I was co-leading with my best friend, and we outlined what we were going to do, but I had a hard time moving myself into mental and emotional sacred space before the ritual.

That said, the ritual still contained beauty.  I am far more likely to go to the trouble of creating an altar when I am facilitating ritual for others than when I am “only” facilitating for myself (something to think about—I don’t think it has to be this way).  This particular altar (the center around which we sat during the ritual) was focused on the color red and images of women, because the ritual was focused on a celebration of womanhood.  It was at heart an initiation ritual, meant to get us thinking about our own passages into and through womanhood (I should note that all the participants were women), although as it played out that was only one of many themes we expressed.  (Others were: nourishment, abundance, skills, nature and natural elements, and our relationship with the Goddess in her aspects of Maiden, Mother, and Crone.)

And, although I struggled with getting into mental and emotional sacred space, I have to say that the one piece of the ritual that was unequivocally powerful for me was playing a large frame drum at several different points.  The sound of that drum as it echoed through the chapel space we were in was amazing, and it seemed to call me back to my ancient self.  I could feel the energy moving with the drum, and was amazed that my own energy seemed to be flowing right along with the sound, which helped me to be more deeply present to what I was facilitating.

Thursday: I arrived back home and felt myself falling into an “energy drain”, meaning that I didn’t feel any momentum for creation and moving things in my life.  So, I decided to use ritual to help me.  I’d been thinking that even ordinary, daily activities could be an occasion for ritual consciousness to emerge, provided I allowed for an opening with my intention.  I decided to take a shower on Thursday evening and, instead of merely washing my physical body, I intended that I would simultaneously be washing myself free of my self-imposed limitations, those things that have been holding me back.  It was lovely to hold that intention, to feel it and believe it as I took the physical action of showering.

Friday: I woke up this day feeling back in alignment with my intentions for creation: using my capacity to persist, and my strength, to really move and shift things.  I spent most of the day cleaning my bedroom, both in preparation for my Little Sister’s visit that evening and because it felt good to me.  I cleared about six months’ worth of dust off the bedroom floor!  I persisted in the task, letting the momentum work for me (I kept telling myself I was persisting because I could, because I felt it in me to persist!).  I felt that this task was an outgrowth of the ritual intention I had held for myself the day before, in that I had successfully been washed free of the mental limitations that would have told me to give up.  I also reminded myself periodically that I was working through old layers of experience, of things I had been letting lie where they had fallen months ago, moving and changing things, giving them new and more productive homes.  I was clearing space for new energy to come into my life.  (I wish I had a “before” picture for the way my bedroom looked!  I didn’t remember to take one, so the best I could do was take a picture of all the dust in the garbage, on its way out!)

Saturday: Today I decided to create a vision board for Incorporating Ritual.  I have been calling back to myself the dream of this venture, reminding myself of what is at its heart, stepping back into the living flow of the vision.  Words are great, but images can be more captivating.  I set up my supplies in my temple room, burned some sage, asked for guidance, and began choosing pictures according to my intuition.  At times this felt like hard work.  I doubted myself.  I wondered if I was losing track of my intuition or my vision, or both.  My body hurt from sitting on the floor leaning over magazines.  But I persisted, and I believe my focus and determination to stay with my task created a sacred space in and of itself.

I did not finish the vision board last night, because I realized, once I had cut out pictures and placed them on the board, that I didn’t know if I was missing something, or if the way I had arranged the pictures was in the best alignment possible to my vision.  I realized that my process of making the vision board was parallel to and symbolic of my process in developing the vision of Incorporating Ritual.  That vision is always going through evolution.  I have gathered many pieces of it over the months and years, but I do not quite feel it is complete.  I think, also, that part of me is afraid to declare it complete, to metaphorically glue it down and unhesitantly and consistently bring it out to show others.  So, something to think about.  I did look at the vision board again this morning, and I feel good about it.  Perhaps another ritual is called for, soon, in which I decide to glue it all down even if I still feel some doubt about whether it is perfect.  Visions can be hardy things.  A little glue in the wrong place isn’t going to stop them from manifesting.

Sunday: I woke up this morning, again, in some fear that things aren’t going to work out.  I decided to create ritual space and focus on the reality of abundance.  I need abundance, but I tend to think of it as though I am on one side of a wall and abundance is on the other.  Abundance and I need to merge.  (In fact, we already are merged, but I have not really believed it!)  I lit a candle and worked on my list of financial priorities—the places I need and want to flow my money, once basic survival needs are taken care of.  I also read aloud to myself a few inspirational papers I have on the concept of abundance, the power of thought, and attracting what we need.  It’s amazing to me how much lack and scarcity I have created in my life, and how ingrained my thoughts are that support those experiences of lack and scarcity.  Yet, what if something else could be created?  I started by telling myself, while still in ritual space, that even this moment in which I am worrying and doubting is perfect.  Isn’t it great that I get to have this experience, to learn so deeply what it takes to be abundant?  Isn’t it great to have the resources I have?  I’m doing just fine.

So there you have it.  My daily ritual challenge feels good to me, and gives me something to reach for…I’m going to keep doing it!

P.S. In case you’re wondering, my “I CAN” is still on the floor in my temple room.  I remind myself multiple times every day.  It’s keeping me going!

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Daily Ritual Challenge Day Three

I love having this challenge to help structure my day.  I love ritual, period.  I don’t always know how to explain why I love ritual.  It’s something I feel in my bones.  Now, I am loving the challenge of finding a way to incorporate ritual into my life every day.  I tell others that they can create rituals anytime, anywhere.  What better way to show the truth of this than to do it myself?

Today involved a lot of activity, and while I thought about what I would do for my ritual challenge all day, I didn’t actually decide on anything until late afternoon, after I got a call from my best friend telling me that her husband’s father is in the hospital with a collapsed lung.  I decided to spend five minutes sitting in ritual space with the intention of sending him comfort and healing.

The ritual was very simple.  I lit a candle and asked to connect to my friend’s father-in-law’s higher self.  Then I sat and breathed and prayed.  There is often a great peace and stillness that comes when I bring myself into the present like this.  It can be hard to hold focus.  My mind was and is still busy; it wants to think about all the things I have to do tonight.  But for the moments when I did hold focus, I was in peace.  I believe we all have the potential to connect to each other through the space of present moments like these, and that this quality of blissful attention to being actually brings about a space outside of space and a time outside of time, a reality that is quite different from the one ordinary consciousness creates, but no less solid and true.  I believe we can touch each other in this space even if we are physically distant, and I believe we can, through our loving intention, help each other find this space.

I dedicated whatever merit there was from my sitting in this space to my friend’s father-in-law, and then I blew out the candle, wishing that its light may also go to him, for whatever he most needs.

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Daily Ritual Challenge Day Two

(In case you’re wondering why Day One and Day Two are being posted on the same day: Day One was yesterday, but I wasn’t able to get it online then.)

This morning I woke up feeling overwhelmed by all I feel I need to do.  Get my life in order.  Be abundant.  Connect with others.  Do my taxes.  I realized that my thoughts were defeating me before I’d even begun doing anything (before I’d even gotten out of bed!), and even making it difficult for me to decide what my daily ritual challenge would be.

So, I decided to use ritual to work with my thoughts.

I wrote down all of the defeating thoughts I could think of, the ones that were spiraling through my mind.  They’re real, they’re here, and I might as well name them.

These are some pretty strong thoughts.  “I’m not the kind of person who can do this.”  “No one wants what I have.”  “It’s going to take too long.”  Etc.  Repeating these thoughts to myself on a regular basis has been a kind of ritual in itself, but an unconscious one.  It has created a certain kind of reality for me, a reality boxed in by the thoughts.  It is as if I have been creating a temple inside my mind, but instead of hanging beautiful fabric and inspirational pictures on the walls, instead of placing objects inside that remind me of my soul’s purpose, I have been spraying graffiti on the walls and placing garbage on the tables.  We are affected by what we surround ourselves with.  And I didn’t even know I was doing this!

I knew I couldn’t simply throw out this piece of paper with all the thoughts written down on it.  It isn’t realistic to think I can wish these thoughts away, as much as I might desire to.  I knew I had to find a way to transform the energy of the thoughts so that it could work for me and not against me.  After all, if the energy of my belief in these thoughts has been so strong that it could create an entire reality for me, a reality which I have lived within for a long time, I want to use that same energy of belief to create a reality where something different is true.

I cut the paper into strips, with one defeating thought on each strip.  Then, I folded the strips, telling myself as I did so that I was folding away the content of the thoughts but keeping their strength.  I arranged the strips on the floor so that they spelled out a new message: “I CAN”.

I’m going to keep this on my floor for a while.  What changes will this five minute ritual bring into my life?  Stay tuned…

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Daily Ritual Challenge Day One

As part of my recommitting and reconnecting to my work, I am taking on a challenge.  I am going to be bringing ritual into my life in specific, concrete ways each day, and I am going to blog about it.  You will get to witness my journey into fully living what I profess, my day by day steps into incorporating ritual.

Today my focus is on cleaning my apartment.  Very few people know what my apartment looks like on the inside.  This is because I consider it to be a mess.  Yet, I have done very little over the almost three and a half years I have lived here to change this situation.  The clutter has always filled me with guilt and a feeling of helplessness, as if someone had decreed that I should have to step over and around piles of papers, books, and clothes each day, and I have agreed that this is the way it is and have done my best to live with it.

That is about to change.  I choose to align my physical environment with the clarity I desire to have in my life—clarity about what is important to me and supportive of me.  This is my sacred intention.  I choose to use ritual to support me in beginning this process and following through with it.

I am clearing one area at a time.  Today, I began by clearing the kitchen counter.  I pulled the dead leaves off of the plant that has been sitting there for months, often neglected and suffering for lack of water.  As I did so, I imagined pulling away the parts of my life that have withered or come to dead ends for lack of care.  Many projects have not been finished; some relationships have ended.  I accept that I have allowed this to happen, and now I am removing what is withered to allow the vitality at my core to flow straight to what is still alive and vibrant, without being hindered by the old pathways that are now only energy drains.

I also found a pile of papers on my counter—notes I had written to myself as I moved through an emotionally challenging time this past winter.  I gathered these, placed them in an envelope, and labeled it “Winter 2012: Learnings and Questionings, Pain and Healing.”  In the symbolic language of ritual, I am setting aside this part of my life, which is still tender but no longer holds the sharp slicing pain it did a few months ago.  I am also honoring it by labeling it and placing it with my old journals.  One day, I may come back to this envelope and find that something has grown and fermented with dark and time, and new wisdom may come forth as I reread what is there.

Moving to the cabinet, I noticed a gathering of old flower essence bottles on the shelf.  I tend to save my essence bottles in case I want to reuse them, but I usually think it’s a pain to wash them.  So, I have tended to shove the bottles away, thinking I really should wash them but excusing myself by saying I don’t feel like it yet. 

Today, in the sacred space I created for myself by intending to be conscious about clearing my apartment space, I found the strength to begin this task and persist in it.  As I washed the bottles, I imagined that I was cleaning the vessels of my life, the invisible structures of thought, belief, and energetic capacity that hold my life together and allow me to receive and hold my experiences.  I was cleaning and clearing so that new energy may flow into my life.

I admit that I got tired during this task, and wanted to stop before I was done.  But, I persisted, using the same type of mind tricks I use on myself when I am jogging (my new exercise and spiritual practice!) and want to stop but then find I can go on when I tell myself it’s only a little farther.  Just one more bottle.

When I got to the end, there were six bottles left which required more intensive washing due to the length of time they had been left dirty.  I left those for now, but look at what I did do!

Not only is my kitchen a little clearer, but so are my mind, heart, and spirit.

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