What does ceremony mean to you?
If you grew up in a western society like mine, perhaps you think of ceremonies as formal acts of conventions and etiquettes, performed without deep significance, but with much elaborate pomp. We celebrate events like holidays, birthdays, baptisms, anniversaries, and weddings with traditional cakes, balloons, flowers, food, cards, and fancy clothes accompanied by physical rituals like sprinkling water, saluting flags, opening gifts, blowing out candles, first dances, vows, walking down the aisles, exchanging rings, etc.
However, sometimes we lose touch with the why.
What are we trying to accomplish with this ceremony?
What is the intention?
What is sacred and how are we growing through this?
Throughout the last several months, I’ve explored many ceremonies related to my intentions of deeper sacred connection and personal growth. Ceremonies can be an individual experience, or one to be shared with a loved one, group of friends, or a larger community as a tool for transformation and healing.
In The Book of Ceremony: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life, Sandra Ingerman describes, “Performing ceremonies creates a bridge between the material world we live in and the world of the unseen, the divine, the power of the universe.”
With our thoughts, we design and water the garden of our inner landscape. Our imagination creates our reality, so it’s important that we choose loving positive thoughts that relate to our vision. When we perform a ceremony, it is connecting the vision with a tangible movement. We are connecting different modes of intelligences within our brains and bodies.
The Elements can also be incorporated into ceremony.
When I was walking along the Camino de Santiago this summer, there were a few opportunities to perform ceremonies for letting go. One of my favorites is bringing a rock from home and laying it down at the Cruz du Ferro to represent a burden that you are carrying and leaving behind. I also left behind some heavy, but cute clothes that were physically weighing me down. You can learn more on this YouTube video.
In addition to the earth element of rocks, prayer trees are another excellent opportunity to connect as a community. One day while walking along the French Way in June of 2018, we came across what we called an oasis. A corner of an olive orchard was transformed into a lovely rest and meditation area for pilgrims. Hammocks and shared books were sprinkled throughout treasure chests and trinkets. But most exciting was this tree, decorated with intention symbols of positivity and love. Cross necklaces, shells, and dream catchers hung with tied strings and pieces of paper like wind chimes that danced in the breeze.
You can create a prayer tree and perform you own ceremony, and invite friends and family to use the same tree with you, or on their own. When you choose an intention, its important to keep in mind the greater good for the whole planet, such as welcoming a new earth awakening or healing. Tie a loose string or piece of paper with a special message on one of the branches so that the wind and tree will share the prayers with the forces of the Universe.
The nature of fire is energetic and transformative. Sometimes we need to release negative energy that we feel from toxic relationships. About a month ago, I wrote down several expectations that people had of me that I wanted to break free from and release. In exchange, I wrote down what I wanted to embrace for myself towards my purpose. For example, I let go of society’s expectation that we have to cram our days with work and appointments to monetarily maximize every moment and embraced more free time to pause, walk slowly among the trees and flowers and meditate when I want to. This space and time for nature connection is what allows the creative energy to flow through my work.
For my birthday this year, I invited some friends down to an exclusive cliff-surrounded beach in the San Diego region. We enjoyed food, conversation, music, bonfire, and of course the stunning landscape and sounds of the ocean. Then, I introduced a cacao ceremony. I had participated in one of these at the BaliSpirit Festival in March 2018 and I was excited share this opportunity with my peers. Cacao ceremonies have actually been around for thousands of years, originating all the way back to Mayan and Aztec traditions in Central and South America, and used for spiritual, medicinal purposes of inner awakening and creative guidance. Pure cacao is used as a heart opening medicine for people to connect to ourselves and the loving energy in our body.
Ritual cacao is made from ground cacao beans and water, so earlier in the day, I mixed dark Valrhona chocolate with hot water and poured it into temperature saving thermoses. I gathered everyone’s attention and asked them if there was a change that they wanted to welcome into their lives. We took some time in silence as I passed around bamboo cone cups and filled each one with this hot chocolate. Then we took turns sharing. After a turn, one would drink the cup and release the cone into the fire pit. At the end we gathered for group photos and I noticed a dancing green blog floating in the air around us! Green air blobs represent human spirits that have left the body! We actually shared this experience with a ghost who heard our intentions and wanted to join in with the community love.
Another ceremony that I performed on my own was one to release negative sabotaging thoughts into the sand and let the waves of the ocean swallow and erase them into the sea.
When we send anger to another through our unconscious thoughts, this negative energy has an impact on the collective. With this ceremony, I drew a mandala of symbols into the sand. These symbols were simple objects like a broken heart, representing rejection, a lightning bolt that represented anger or resentment, and a light bulb representing negative repeating thought circles. It felt magical to watch the waves wash over these old patterns, bringing in a clean slate of purity.
The following are some more reasons for you to create a ceremony: call in your purpose, community intention for the planet or nation, healing for self and others, moons cycles: full, new, equinox, solstice, etc.
Sandra recommends guidelines like the following to designing your own personal ceremonies for spiritual growth. I’ve noticed that these suggestions flow a lot like a yoga class.
While walking the Camino Frances, the most popular route of the Saint James Pilgrimage in Spain, I encountered a special opportunity to practice, Pratyahara.
Often times, this is the forgotten limb of the 8 Limbs in Patanjali's Path to Enlightenment. It means to control what we take in, or to retreat from the sensual world of temptations. Imagine a turtle pulling it's head and limbs back into it’s shell.
Have you ever heard the old wise saying, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” We are so accustomed to ongoing sensory activity that we don’t know how to keep our minds quiet. If we don’t discipline our senses they dominate and disturb us with their endless demands. The senses are like holes in the vessel of the mind. Although we are constantly surrounded by distractions, this form of meditation is about recognizing how we let these stimuli affect us.
Pratyahara is about the right intake of the sensual experience. Strong sensations dull the mind, and a dull mind may lead us to act in ways that are insensitive, careless, or even violent. Just as junk food makes the body toxic, junk impressions make the mind toxic. The body benefits by fasting from food, just as the mind benefits by fasting from sensations.
How mindful are you about how these media affect your peaceful demeanor: music, television (and commercials), films, conversations, advertisements, etc?
During the first week of trekking, I walked in silence for at least the first few hours of the day, honoring the morning bird song and other present moment sounds, but then I would plug into my Audible or Spotify accounts on my iphone and tune into some external inspiration. Like most days at home when I go for a walk or drive, I felt like I was maximizing my time and being efficient. I chose the books and music carefully to add to this spiritual experience.
However, after about ten days, my earbuds broke. I knew that I could buy some new ones in the next big city, but a little voice within me reminded me that this happened for a reason. I needed to use this time on the pilgrimage to practice Pratyahara on a larger scale.
Like many of you, one aspect of my Gemini spirit is that my mind likes to constantly spin, generating ideas for artwork, poems, and more. Much of this pilgrimage was/is about letting go of attachments. Being bored has always been one of my most unpleasant realities. I needed to let go of my dependency on external sounds as ideas to feed the mind. My mind needed a lesson in being content with the fullness of the present moment.
However, when I accept boredom and turn it into an opportunity for meditation, something magical happens, inner stillness!
Another control the senses is to put our attention on a source of uniform impressions, such as gazing at the ocean or the blue sky. We can filter in positive natural impressions by meditating upon aspects of nature such as trees, flowers, or rocks, as well as visiting temples or other places of pilgrimage. I suddenly feel unaffected by the car honking or the dust blowing all over my skin. I no longer mind flies in my face and pain in my feet.
I simply am: here, alive, grateful.
If you'd like to read more about this topic, please check out my blog about a Silence Meditation Retreat: https://www.halfmoonyogaandart.com/blog/silence
Did you know that the elements are one of the most universal insights in ancient philosophies?
In Sanskrit they are known as the pancha-maha-buthas, the great states of existence.
Each time we ground, flow, transform, or breathe, we are connecting with the earth, water, fire, and air.
Have you ever felt suspension...hanging or floating, waiting for an action or response?
Did this instability and movement bring feelings of anxiety or excitement?
When you approach an obstacle in your life, how do you choose to accept this bump in the path?
Are you frozen with fear, or joyful with curiosity?
“Haven't you ever dreamed of a place where there was peace and security,
Have you heard of the fountain of youth?
A fountain is a source or origin of a desirable quality. Youth is the quality or state of being young, especially as associated with freshness, energy, resilience, and vitality. Is there such a thing as an origin of vitality? Most of us associate aging as the opposite of youth, when we become boring, tiresome, or wrinkled. Can we reverse, pause, or slow down the aging process?
"Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination, nor both together, go to the making of a genius.
So much love at Cafe Gratitude!
Did you know that deep in the heart of all of us is a source of pure, unconditional love?
The Greatest Love is free flowing timeless love with no limits. It is the love that a mother can feel for her child. It is the love we read about in poems. It is the love we long to have. Although most of us have experienced different forms of love like romantic affection, comradeship, appreciation for family and friends, have you tapped into the unconditional love is the highest form? It is extensive, true, and eternal.
While trekking through the Himalayan mountains of Nepal, on my way to Everest Base Camp (March 2017), I came across this sign, Lovism.
My heart was filled with warmth as I contemplated this term.
Surrounded by striking trees, mountains, and sunshine, I realized that love is everywhere all around me. I felt an intense warmth and gratitude for nature as well as my life and body in this place, at this time.
I remembered Rumi’s quote,
Did you know that symbols and architecture of many ancient civilizations imply a synchronistic source of higher inspiration?
There are some close parallels in the meaning and formations of pyramids of the Ancient Maya to the Pyramids in Ancient Egypt and the serpent sculptures of MesoAmerica to Angkor Wat in Cambodia (Mayan Yoga).
December Nights at Balboa Park
With the winter holidays approaching, do you ever take the time to notice the world with a unifying perspective?
Are you open to beliefs from people that practice different customs than you?
Are your traditions in line with your evolving values?
Tradition refers to beliefs, objects or customs performed or believed in the past, originating in it, transmitted through time by being taught by one generation to the next, and are performed or believed in the present.
Years ago, I was kicked out of a dance club while yelling these words at the security guard, “Let me move my body!” We were being packed and roped into the center of a room and some of my curves drifted outside of the imaginary lines. Okay, there were some actual ropes, but it felt arbitrary.
Perhaps this wasn’t my finest moment, but in retrospect, I believe there was some divine insight to this riddle of authenticity.
This spring at the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh, Jivamukti teacher, Jules Febre, led a Hip Hop Asana class along the Ganges River and encouraged us to let loose and travel around the space, moving our body however it wanted to move. My face could barely find room for the smile that was brimming past my ears. My limbs encountered no boundaries and my hips whirled to infinity.
“With amazing creativity, we can design our lives and become the driver of our destiny. No matter what difficulties we may find ourselves in, we are able to change them and create them anew according to our choice.”
"In time and with water, everything changes."
“You’ve lost weight!”
I’m surprised at how many people notice and comment. I’ve always been pretty comfortable with my weight and size. Trimming down was not my motivation for starting this juice fast, but after three weeks of a liquid-only diet, I must say I do feel lighter and some of my pants are feeling quite loose.
A monster is a threatening force, usually found in legends or horror fiction, that is often a creature of strange or terrifying shape, and may produce fear or physical harm by its appearance or its actions.
Well-known monsters in fiction include Count Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, werewolves, mummies, and zombies, yetis, sea-monsters, and dragons.
We carefully tied the scallop shells to the backs of our packs. When pilgrims carry the scallop shell it represents our personal journey, the sacred path that we must take within. Starting on the outer rim of the shell, we try to find our way back to our center. Many pilgrims along the Road to Santiago wear the scallop shell to identify other pilgrims. When we see other scallop shells, we are reminded of why we are walking. Even though each person has their own story, the shell itself represents the many different spiritual pathways that lead to the same place. We are ultimately bound together by this oneness of the universal center, the spirit. On a more universal note, scallop shells relate to travel and movement.
Over the past hundreds of years, pilgrims would also be given food at churches and other establishments, and a scallop shell scoop was the measure for the food they would be donated. Further, this symbol guides pilgrims on the way, as a milestone marker pointing you in the right direction, and can provide reassurance at some points that you are still on the right path, The Way of Saint James.
A combination of diverse elements forming a more or less coherent whole, perhaps as piece of art or picture produced by arranging together small pieces.
It is often used in decorative art or as interior decoration. Most mosaics are made of small, flat, pieces of stone or glass of different colors, known as tesserae.
As my flight arrived into Krabi, Thailand (March 28, 2017), I was surprised to hear an announcement, through the intercom, advising tourists to respect the feelings of the Thai people, following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a man seen as a father-figure in the country.
Diiiinnnnnnggggg, Ding, Doooooonnnnongggg, Dong, Diiiiiinnnng, Doooooooonnnnnnng...
Rings of purple and gold outlined a bright white glowing circle. The white light grew, expanded, and faded out as a new outlined circle appeared in the center and began to expand as well. Although my eyes were closed, my entire body was filled with vibrations of warmth, love, and joy. A blissful smile expanded across my face.
Digital Artwork by Hannah Faulkner
At this first annual Elysia Yoga Convention in Amorgos, Greece in April 2017, Yoga and Wellness leaders from around the world gathered to resonate together under a high frequency. Lying in the open space of sound, I felt a deep connection within my body. My mind was clear as it allowed the sound to penetrate every cell of every organ. This alignment was not only taking place within my body, but also within the whole room as David Kennet swarmed around us with crystal and metal Tibetan singing bowls, chimes, and dynamic shamanic chants.
Tiny hot fragments massaged the heel of my foot, then the arch, ball, and in between my toes. My calf muscles extended and tightened with each step. Suddenly, the refreshing edge of the vast sea snuck through my feet and ankles, bringing my awareness to its icy trace. From admiring the organic wind and sea layered auburn, ginger, and beige rock formations, to the contrast and patterns in the black and white sand, my attention was once again redirected to the sparkling stones all around me.
After a long day on my feet, the first thing I want to do is to rest them. Whether I’m trekking 10-20 miles a day with a heavy backpack, teaching, serving tables at a restaurant, or even sitting and writing, my body craves relaxing restoration. My favorite pose to recover and heal from a long day is Legs-Up-The-Wall and it can be practiced almost anywhere that you have access to wall and enough space to lay your back down against the corner. You can add blocks, blankets and bolsters to feel more supported and increase your energy through a back-bend, but the basic posture itself does miracles inside of our bodies.
The other day a friend, Ashlee, told me that I must have been a cat in my previous life. She was trying to make sense of the phenomenon of why animals, and often times cats, are so attracted to me. But, I haven’t always been this way. I used to be afraid of animals and tried to steer clear of them for most of my life.
It wasn’t until I started doing yoga (Yoga One San Diego), that I’ve made a connection with these beings. The more I became centered and found inner peace and awakening, the more animals liked to be in my aura.
Two-year-old Stephen pointed and stumbled closer to these flighty creatures. Only stopping for moments to chirp, the birds at the ruins of Herculaneum, in Italy (April 2017), would float from room to room with an air of mystery and lightness.
Stephen’s curiosity was piqued at this concept of creatures that can both stand and fly.
Photo Credit: Nicoleta n Shawn Photography
When was the last time you marveled at these feathered friends?
" At once this disk of sky slid over the sun like a lid…
Photo Credit: Collective Evolution
Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
My Paintings are now on Yoga Pants!
Fun Yoga in the Park
Travel the world with me through yoga!
These themed lessons are fun for all ages and levels at Mission Bay Park.
See the page, Park Yoga, for more information!
Lessons from Abroad