“This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don't have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down.”
I have been thinking lately about the power of rituals in my life and my spiritual practice.
This is all quite new to me… it is only recently I have even thought about incorporating rituals into my daily life but I am starting to feel their power and potency.
Rituals go back thousand of years and if you think you don’t have any experience of rituals think again. I would say Christmas, pancake day, New Years Eve, bonfire night and even 'end of season' suppers for sailing and other clubs are all rituals we are all very familiar with.
But what about spiritual rituals….
For me, it started back in the summer when I started meeting with another friend to chant the Gayatri mantra 108 times on the full moon nights, sometimes we would use oracle cards and affirmations as well. Maybe you can remember those heady days when we could go to someone else’s house, it seems like a long time ago now!! Acknowledging the power of the full and new moons and the ceremonies/rituals to support the energy shifts has been illuminating and I feel it has helped me navigate more skilfully the emotional impact the moon cycles have on my mental wellbeing.
And more recently when I got the keys to my new house, I blessed the new house and ‘smudged’ it with palo sante whilst my brother went around with holy water and said a prayer (he’s catholic). All nonsense perhaps… or maybe not. The energy in the house seems beautiful, peaceful and calm to me and it feels like it belongs to me now. The ritual bought me closer to the bricks (well timber!) and mortar.
But what does ritual mean for my yoga and meditation practices?
It means I do certain things every time I sit down on my meditation cushion. I always sit in the same spot facing east next to my altar, I always use the same blanket wrapped around me. I sit on the same mat, the same cushion, I light my Himalayan salt lamp. These rituals help me get into ‘the zone’ and help me quieten (even if it’s just a little bit) my busy mind. I think it helps me get into a place of stillness faster. Others might add that by meditating in the same place and using the same items you are raising the energetic frequency of your meditation space.
And for my yoga practice, I always face the same way (north this time), I light incense and have that same trusty blanket ready for savasana!
One ritual I have been doing every day for the last few months is a daily chanting (Japa) meditation. I do 108 repetitions, using my Mala beads to count. I do the same routine every morning. I take down my statue of Lakshmi and my Mala beads from my altar. I start by stating what I am grateful for that morning. I don’t believe we can cultivate the opportunity for abundance to enter our lives without being grateful for what we have first. Then I begin the chant, ‘om shrim maha lakshmiyei namaha’ I start louder at first and towards the end I soften right down so the last few repetitions are in my head only. Then I say a few affirmations ‘I am worthy of abundance’ I take a big breath in, then I say ‘ I invite in abundance’ and take in another breath. Abundance of love, friendship, joy, peace, good health, wealth and success.
Then I thank Lakshmi again for the abundance in my life.
Now I am not saying I have suddenly found a pot of gold under my bed, but I have noticed small moments of abundance in my life (financial and otherwise) since I have been doing the practice. Maybe they were always there but cultivating awareness of abundance through the ritual means I notice these moments, I am mindful and I am very grateful. It’s been such a good practice to do every day.
In March, I will be starting a six month, 120 hour course studying mantra and meditation and I will be looking more deeply into learning Sanskrit and the power of mantra. I am very interested in sound and mantra and how this can help us develop a deeper spiritual practice so watch this space - no doubt I will write about this again once I have started the course!
And in the meantime I’ll leave you with these words from Joseph Campbell:
"A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of the psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are being, as it were, put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you anyhow. Your consciousness is being re-minded of the wisdom of your own life. "