Rituals: bringing us into our wholeness

 

I was annoyed with myself, and even beginning to feel angry at myself.

 

I was in my 20s and had been living in New York for a little while. I wanted to travel and nourish my spirit with adventure! I wanted to go solo and create a pilgrimage of meaning. 

 

As a dancer, barista, yoga instructor, and emerging Thai massage therapist, I had managed to gather a little bit of money together but always thought that it wasn’t enough. Why did I keep procrastinating? It was only me who was holding myself back.

 

I began to make ritual of thought. And I have come to find, that I believe this is possible. That we can ritualize thoughts.

My daily practices, rituals, of thinking of traveling shifted towards the positive. I started to envision what the traveling experience would offer me. I started to speak to myself and to this desire in more expansive, open, and loving ways. It all started to feel much more close to my heart and accessible; I was going to make it happen!

And then I did it! I booked my flights to Thailand!

I could write many stories about my time in Thailand. And as a bodyworker, one of the reasons why I chose Thailand was so that I could study my craft!

Perhaps someday I’ll share more stories of Thailand, but in the theme of rituals, one of the most beautiful aspects to Thai massage are the rituals.

 

Here’s a snippet of how I ritualize my A.L.I.G.N sessions and Thai Bodywork:
 
 

Even before I connect physically with a body, I connect with my own. I make sure that I’m a little bit stretched, and that I am clear of mind and grounded in energy. When I meet my client, we take some time to connect and check in on where they’re at on that day. All of this is ritual; even setting up the space that they will enter into.  

 

And then one of the most sacred moments is just before I make my first physical contact. That is the moment where ritual is so potent. I invite the client to take some slow steady breaths, using the last breath to invite the knowledge that this is for the higher goodness of their own well-being. I sit at their feet, say a blessing for this work, and then look at their energy. I become an open channel for the work to happen.  

 

And then I ritualized the first touch. It is a grounding, firm, and loving connection so that safety, sacredness, and connection are present.

 

What are some of your rituals, dear reader?
What aligns you with your highest self as you move about your days?
What do you do on a daily basis that supports you in positive living?
 

 

Maybe it’s sipping your morning beverage, reading to your kids at night, rolling out your yoga mat, or saying a blessing at your altar space. Maybe it’s taking a moment with the picture of a beloved who has passed on. All of these are just examples of ritual. Call it practices, act, habit, or procedure if any of these resonate with you more.  

 

Some definitions of rituals I really love

I really love the way my dear friend, Lauren Mahana, defines ritual:

“Ritual by dogmatic definition is a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. In modern culture, we have begun to take back the meaning of what the word ritual implies.

She further writes:

Simply stated, a ritual is an action that creates a moment of sacred space for the commune of self with higher self. Taking this broader term we can apply ritual to everyday mundane actions that hold the strongest magic in our lives.

From our morning cup of coffee, and evening walk through the park, sitting in meditation, even sleeping in on a Sunday. These moments that create space for connection are deeply needed for spiritual and personal development.”

As I began to lead classes this week around the theme of ritual, I had no idea how many rituals are embedded in my day. Let alone one yoga practice. Think of those first grounding breaths when you start your yoga practice. Or that closing om. These moments, though brief, are some of the most important because they connect us to that higher self.  Think of that lovely savasana! 

Jack Kornfield writes in his book, “The wise heart: A guide to the universal teachings of Buddhist psychology”,

“The simplest gesture may become a ritual.”

Where in your day, dear reader can you envision a small, short act of breath to connect to yourself? 
And what thought would you like to add with that breath? Hint: make sure it’s a positive and supportive thought! 

Ritual comes from the Latin root word, ritus, which means “to fit together.”

 

Through daily practices, we are bringing all the pieces of ourselves into our wholeness. Through our daily actions and thoughts, we can connect and remember our Oneness. 

 

This reminds me of last week’s intention around slowing down and the Purna Mantra, read that blog here.

 

The 19th principal of Buddhist psychologies states:

“What we repeatedly think shapes our world. Out of compassion, substitute healthy thoughts for unhealthy ones.”

Rumi says the same but in a different way:

“When you go to a garden, do you look at thorns or flowers? Spend more time with roses and jasmine.”

There’s a large spectrum of daily practices and rituals that one could implement. But what’s most important is that you make them a practice.

You make it habit. You come home to it time and time again because you know how it makes you feel.  You know how it shifts your thoughts or your energy. You know how it affects how you feel in your body.

 

In yoga we talk very much about daily sadhana, or daily practices. There’s a whole spectrum of practices, the lengths of the practices, whether they have to do with the body or the mind or the breath, or whether they entail anything physical or not. 

 

A daily practice might look like connecting with a gemstone. It might be taking slow deep breaths. It could be sitting on a folded blanket to meditate.  

 

A daily ritual might be taking a breath and speaking and uplifting mantra to yourself as you take one step over the threshold of your front door. This is a ritual I learned in Thailand. They don’t necessarily do it every day out their front door, but you do have to step over the threshold of the entryway into a temple.  And the ritual of taking your shoes off before taking that step.  All of these processes even before entering the temple begin to connect you to that sacred place within yourself.

 

And that’s what ritual really all comes down to. Is to connect with what is. To connect to that higher self within. To remember what is important.

“Rituals can help us find our sense of purpose, to orient and support ourselves amidst the fragmented polls of our busy modern life.”

-Jack Kornfield

And when we connect, what healing is possible.

Rupi Kaur writes a beautiful poem:

To heal

You have to

Get to the root

Of the wound

And kiss it all the way up

What rituals could you implement today that support your healing process?

Because these rituals are also meant to support you and remembering that you’re not alone.

 

When I came to this next passage in Jack Kornfield’s book, I was nearly brought to tears.

“…(you) Do not carry your burden entirely by yourself.  The altar is a daily reminder of how the forces of compassion throughout the world uphold (your) dedication. We do not work alone for change; the power of life works with us.”

How incredibly beautiful and what a sacred gift and blessing.

 

All my love,

Shawna

Breathe and Believe.

 

P.S. – A student of just sent me a lovely article on How We Need Rituals, Not Routines. Hope you enjoy this read too.