By CHRISTINA RAI WHEELWRIGHT
The creation and observance of ritual is as necessary to the human soul as sunshine and water are to the body. Rituals remind us of our hopes, faith and systems of belief. They are based on our innate understanding of the way reality functions, and our rituals grow and evolve as that understanding expands. Without an ongoing sense of ritual that frames our life journey and provides us with a consistent reminder of who we are and why we are, we can become purposeless, feeling adrift on the great sea that is existence. Rituals are a tangible reflection of our aspiration to connect with something sacred, something that exists beyond the constraints of ego and desire; they are the pathway into the divine, a vehicle which can connect us to the ecstatic.
Today, we live in a reality that has, in many ways divested itself of the sacred. Facts, not faith, drive us. Aspirations are based on material worth, that which we can touch, measure and count. The Divine is discounted and minimized. Life is about success and accomplishment based on principles that ignore the human soul and spirit. For those who want to live a mindful, purposeful and intentional life in harmony with the entirety of creation, it is vital to reinvent the practice of ritual and insert it into every aspect of daily life.
The first rituals were based on the organic, the sun and the moon, the changing of the seasons and all that is connected to these earthly and celestial events. The natural world gave us the cues for both celebratory and solemn observance of these seminal periods, spaced throughout the yearly cycle. Ancient peoples had a keen understanding of the cycles of life and the importance of commemorating them.
The first supplicants probably gathered at the break of dawn or under the light of a full moon in wonder and worship. Today, our unconscious collective memory holds the knowledge of these ancient rites. Who has not gasped in awe at the sun rising above the easterly horizon or the glorious moon hanging full and fat in the night sky surrounded by a mantle of shining stars? We may not consciously remember our ancestral practice, but our bones and blood tell us that we are witnessing something sacred and profound. It is the promise of a continuity of life, and we are all a part of that promise and purpose.
We can easily reinvent ritual on a personal level. We can fill our daily lives with the practice of “habitual ritual.” Where once it seemed necessary to go to a priest or other spiritual director to follow strict guidelines, even rules, that is no longer the case. We can create and observe rituals that serve our own unique needs and fill our own spiritual requirements. We can call it prayer or we can call it mindful meditation. Whatever the name, it provides us with the same result: a closer connection to the divine, a mindful recognition that we are connected beyond the flesh, deep into the spirit. Humility can now be defined as a relinquishment of desire so that the expression, “Thy will, not my will…” still holds much meaning.
You can easily begin incorporating ritual by observing the repeating and unchanging yearly seasonal cycles. Here in Manitoba, at our latitude, the change of the seasons is evident. One of the most hopeful and vibrant seasonal shifts comes at this time of the year, the Vernal Equinox, or, in common language – spring! Technically, we have come to that point in the year when there are equal parts daylight and nighttime. At the Equinox the earth begins to wake up. It is a time of renewal and the promise of growth. Astrologically, this time is aligned to the element of fire and particularly the zodiac sign of Aries. Energy surges up through the body and surrounds the heart with optimism and with a will to begin anew, yet again. We can make plans and formulate projects. We can cultivate a spirit of readiness and courage to act.
Some of the ways that we can create a personal ritual for ourselves based on this shift into spring (Aries) is to take some time on the day of the Equinox, March 20, and meditate on how we can call our warrior self into action. We could light a candle and surround it with objects that symbolize any projects that we might want to begin, or with objects that signify changes that we want to make, either on a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual level.
Let’s say the goal is a healthy body. A bowl of fruit or nuts can be used to symbolize mindfulness in eating. What if the goal is a new course of study? An inscription describing what we want to learn can be included. If there are intentions connected to love and romance, a picture of a heart with the loved one’s name inscribed on it can be put around the candle. Spiritual goals can be symbolized with feathers, crystals, or any such objects that hold specific and personal meaning for us on a spiritual level.
Once the sacred place has been prepared and the candle is burning, we can mindfully relax our bodies and fully engage with the moment. It is a form of meditation. While gazing at the candle, we can gently call to mind the intentions that have been set and allow them to sink deeply into our consciousness.
Often it is useful to repeat a simple phrase such as:
“My body is strong and vibrant.”
“I am surrounded by the love of my lover.”
“My mind is powerful, and I can learn anything.”
“I submit to the power of the divine.”
We can set the mood for the ritual by adding music or movement and ensuring that the place we pick is private and secluded. Some of us might sing, others might dance, yet others might recite a prewritten invocation; but in all cases, we must fully participate in the process. The key is total commitment to and belief in what you are doing.
Once the ritual is complete, and this is definitely a personal decision, the closure of the process is just as important as the inception of it. We should mindfully remove the symbolic items, burn any written inscriptions in the flame of the candle and then carefully put the candle out while mindfully acknowledging the power of spirit that infuses us and everything around us. Devotion to the process is a must. To make something sacred, we must undertake it with an attitude of reverence. Really, the key is to cultivate a truly mindful mental and emotional presence of mind.
Ritual can provide us with a foundation for a more conscious way of living. At this time in the world’s evolution, it is vital that we all reinvent ritual and weave it into our daily lives, performing habitual rituals in whatever way we can. We are living in critical times where something new is being birthed. Will that new thing be a monster or a miracle? As conscious participants in the process, we have the power and the ability to create the reality that most reflects who we, as a collective, truly are. Are we monsters? Are we mortals? Are we miracles? You decide as you reinvent and observe the rituals of your life.
Christina Rai Wheelwright has studied with shamans, both locally and internationally. She is also an evolutionary astrologer, writer and energy worker trained in reflexology and craniosacral therapy. Visit Christina’s website at christinarai.com