Spirit Walking: Creating a Ceremony of Beginning.
We are deep into the winter season and a New Year is upon us. Our predecessors celebrated the turning of the year as a time of hope, renewal and rebirth–energies our souls desire most as we wait for the return of the growing season. Even though our calendar is just an arbitrary way to mark the passage of time, we can utilize it as a tool in our spiritual life. When we acknowledge a beginning, we are also noting an end of something. These declared landmarks on our path can be a new season, a birthday or even the daily sunrise. Whichever moment we choose, these can be opportunities to hit the reset switch in our lives. They offer us a favorable circumstance for looking back over our struggles and trials, taking stock of ourselves and bringing our attention to what we wish to change or encourage inside. We can honor the way Life has tempered our mettle and made us stronger. It is also a time to nurture the beauty of our soul’s purpose and renew our efforts toward manifesting our spiritual and physical goals.
The turning of the year can be an excellent time to set intentions. I don’t mean simply making New Years resolutions, but creating a sacred moment that helps you to manifest the coming year. It is an excellent time to create a ceremony to declare your intent to the Universe.
Whether for oneself or for a group, ceremony has the effect of making the intangible more real. The word “ceremony” comes to the English language from the Latin, caerimonia, which refers to a “sacred rite or ritual.” While this word may conjure up high religious rites or rigidly prescribed forms of conduct, a ceremony is different for the shaman. For spirit walkers, ceremony becomes a way of life, a way of behaving in the world that can, on occasion, be formalized. When we engage in a formal ceremony or ritual action, we are focusing our entire being. This has the effect of programing our subconscious about our conscious mind’s intent and so making those intentions more powerful. This is critical as it is the perceptions in the subconscious mind that must change for transformation in us and in our surroundings to occur.
Whether formal or more casual, the elements involved in enacting a powerful ceremony are largely the same. They include having a clear, heart-centered intent, preparing the space, setting the stage, calling together the participants—both seen and unseen—opening the energies, directing the flow, and closing.
Have a clear intention.This is the beginning place for all rituals or ceremonies and also for each day. What is your focus? Starting the day with a grateful heart is a great beginning, but in what way do you choose to utilize your energy? This step is often missing in everyday life. Selecting a focus, setting your intention for your day, can transform the way it unfolds.
For your New Year ceremony, your first step is to decide how you want to use your precious time on Earth for the next year. You might want to designate the next twelve months as a particularly sacred time to deepen your spiritual practice. Perhaps you will make it a year of intense creativity. Maybe you will choose to treat yourself with more reverence and respect. You may want to focus on living more from your heart and practicing gratitude for the next twelve months.
Once you have searched your heart and mind for a clear intention, take some time to breathe and center. Next, remember something that helps you to feel grateful. This provides a clear foundation for allowing yourself to feel what it would be like to live out your chosen intention. Give yourself permission to feel it in all of its sensory detail. Does it feel right?
Shamans know that our feelings are what manifest in the physical world. Whatever form your ceremony will take, it is critical that you are able to transmute any disruptive feelings, fill with gratitude, and project the feelings of what you wish to happen in the year as a part of your ceremony. For this reason, take the time to create a ritual or ceremony that has a clear intent, an opportunity to feel gratitude and then a time to fill up with the feelings of your desire already manifested. This is the most important part! Never pray for something, but make your prayer a symphony of gratitude and the feelings of your intent already accomplished. I have found that deliberately working with my feelings effectively puts an overlay of ceremony on even the most mundane of tasks and makes every action much more rich and sacred.
Clearing and preparing the space.When you decide to step into a experience where all is sacred, how do you clear away what is no longer beneficial? It is possible to use your morning time of showering and brushing your teeth as way to enact a sacred cleansing of yourself. Rather than mindlessly stepping into the shower, washing your hair, or lathering up for a shave each day, you can dedicate these times to a sacred clearing away and personal blessing. Along with cleansing your body, it is important to clear out any heavy or sluggish spiritual energy that may be present in your space. Wafting smoke around the space from burning special plants such as sage or incense is one method. Sweet scents may also be used for the purpose of clearing. Spraying a room with light, lavender water or Agua de Florida can be very useful, especially when burning something is not possible. Of course, the feelings you hold and project from your body while engaging in the activity are paramount and outweigh the importance of the substances that you use.
Honoring the seen and unseen—calling together the participants.Unseen guests require the same kind of attention as physical guests! For example, we begin a ceremony, workshop, or healing by honoring the spirits of those who are both physically and not physically present. Using the format of the directions, we honor the spirits of the seasons, elements, our animal and plant companions, the forces of nature, the ancestors, our descendants, and so on. We welcome and honor only those that are beneficial while, at the same time, feeling a sense of harmony and balance filling the space. Our honoring is usually done with our voices and rattles, but can also be done with songs, flute, drumming, or some other method of generating harmonious vibrations that are coherent with your feelings. Of course, the same can be accomplished in total silence while spreading cornmeal around the perimeter of the space or by dancing throughout it. Whatever the method you choose to use, remember to focus on the feelings of honoring and welcoming the helpful and healing aspects of the divine to participate in the harmony and balance of the space.
Opening the ceremony.Once the setting is ready and all the spirits are welcomed, it is important to officially open the ceremony. Sometimes this can be as simple as asking all who are present to share a moment of breath. They may be asked to imagine that they are all breathing one single breath with many bodies until every being who has gathered for the ceremony becomes unified into a coalesced whole. After this the ceremony begins in earnest. In a personal ceremony, it can be simply taking a few deep breaths and stating aloud your clear, focused intent.
Directing the flow. As the ceremony proceeds, describe each step clearly to the participants. When doing a ceremony in the woods and away from other people, I am still clear about each step with the animals, birds, and spirits with whom I share the woods. I do this through my feelings and sometimes even softly aloud. I should mention here that I am a big proponent of vocalizing prayers. This can feel awkward at first but the human voice is an immensely powerful tool. We have the capacity to create the physical world through our feeling vibrations, and when we couple those with actual vibrations from our voice, we magnify their effects.
Making closure.Just as a clear beginning is an important aspect of ceremony, so is a clear point of closure. Thank the nonphysical beings and let them know that your work together is done. Let yourself be filled with gratitude as you thank them for their participation, releasing them back into their normal flow. At this point, the ceremony unwinds so that ordinary life may resume. It is very good to enjoy specially prepared food and drink to celebrate and ground back into the physical body.
Follow through.Ceremonies created in an atmosphere of gratitude are the most powerful that you can experience. They help to transform us from the inside so that the world around us begins to shift, too. Of course, it is also necessary that we direct our actions in alignment with our intent. If you desire to have a more creative year, make sure to make time to practice your creativity! If you want to have a relationship, make sure you meet new people.
Remember, being a spiritual person isn’t about trying to do anything. Instead, you choose to bring feelings and thoughts into alignment and then take action. One heartfelt choice and its subsequent action, followed by another and another, are a spirit walker’s lifework. If you don’t immediately succeed at a goal or purpose, you continue to make the choice to realign and take action. As a result, you incrementally move forward. Since all is sacred, the path toward the goal is equal to the goal itself. Each is of equal merit and deserves full focus and attention in collaboration with Spirit.
If you would like some inspiration for crafting your ceremony, some gratitude-based examples can be found in my book, Spirit Walking: A Course in Shamanic Power. However you choose to declare your intent to the Universe and yourself, embark on this New Year with purpose, a heart full of gratitude and the tenacity to continue unfolding your life with intent and action.