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.