Rituals support shifts in non-linear and almost instantaneous ways.
If you have a story or loop that’s holding you back – perhaps grief or a grievance, or feeling stuck – a brief ritual can help you break through to a new level.
Years ago I was in a workshop with the great Jean Houston. The culmination of three days was an invitation to cross a threshold between who I had been and who I might become. We could do this by stepping over a line marked out on the floor by a string of tea lights.
Who knew that such a simple exercise could be so powerful?
As I come up to the line, all my fears and resistance concentrate in my chest and throat. I stand at the “edge”, gathering myself. I have the distinct experience of energy moving, as though whole complexes and patterns are coming to the surface and breaking up in the face of my intention to transform. With time I feel a readiness – a clarity that I can and should step over the line – and a quiet shift within that I know is a quantum increase in self-authority and self-acceptance. I step over, and instantly there is more space, and more vulnerability. I don’t yet have sea legs in this new ocean of possibility. In a short time though, I stabilize. I am excited. I’ve passed over into a new world.
If you are dogged by a pattern you’d love to shift, I recommend creating a ritual of transformative change for yourself.
Here are the basic elements:
1. Name what you want to transform and listen for the new you that is seeking to emerge.
2. Create a container for yourself Pick a time and place that has meaning, and ask people from your inner circle to join you in the process, or to bear witness. Decide the format: what will represent your threshold?
3. Prepare yourself. Before a rite of passage there is an energetic need for a “vigil” – a time for reflection and cleansing to support you to be ready for transformation.
4. Honour your truth at the heart of the ritual: do you commit to what is emerging or not? Only cross over your symbolic threshold if you are truly letting go of the old and embracing the new. This is not a mental shift, but one that happens at the level of deep inner knowing.
5. If you cross over, celebrate! There is a reason that marriages and funerals include food. The “nodal” points where we take a different path need to be marked, and celebrating with food is in our DNA.
You can also honour this basic five step architecture any time you do something new or big, since the newness/bigness involves “stepping over a line”.
I recently facilitated a three day planning retreat for a large multi-stakeholder group. In the days before, I allowed myself more quiet time, deepening and gathering myself to hold space for a dynamic group process. Afterwards, I celebrated (a part of the cycle too many of us neglect!).
Creating rituals, and seeing more of what we do through the lens of ritual, are two ways to support transformative change.