“Creating ritual is designing energy.” - Suzanne Sterling
Suzanne Sterling— the founder of Voice of Change and co-founder of Off the Mat, Into the World —was recently a guest at our Hawai’i land. She offered classes, and brought her musical medicine. One afternoon, we gathered to talk about the Art of Ritual.
Rituals have been vital to our human experience since the beginning of recorded time. They demarcate such rites of passage as births, deaths, coming of age, retiring, and healing; they help us celebrate, remember who we are, and connect us to nature. They help us change our minds and redirect our attention. Rituals can help define family or tribe, make sense of the things we encounter during our human lives, and magnify our belonging.
“Ritual is a participatory sport,” Suzanne says. “When you design a ritual, you are engaged in directing energy and attention. It’s a creative, expressive process.”
A ritual space has a natural arc. This is evident in many ceremonies you might already be familiar with, from weddings to sporting events. If you break that arc into steps, it might look like this:
Intend: Know what you are aiming for.
Ground: Come present. Connect to the Now.
Gather: Set the circle. Create the container.
Invoke: Call in the Energies and Blessing Beings who can help this ritual.
Do The Thing (she calls it “The Tofu”): An action or a process that supports the intention—designed, ideally, by participants in the group.
Energize: Raise the energy in the space by moving, singing, drumming, etc..
Bless and Release: Complete the ritual, give thanks, close the Ritual.
Integrate: Let the directed attention echo and ripple through your life.
Tying this back into Rosebud Woman, I invite you to think about the rituals of womanhood in our mostly gender-binary culture. Where do our rituals exist? Where are they lacking? An engagement, wedding, or birth of a child are often celebrated— menarche, menopause, or divorce, not so much. There are some rituals that connect to the moon cycle (yours, or the actual moon’s), but these are largely confined to subsets of the culture: Orthodox Jewish women, for example, enter a mikvah, or ritual bath, at the end of their menstrual cycle. Pagan women often mark the new and full moons, the solstices and equinoxes.
Where are your rituals? Where might we create more of them?
Since Rosebud Woman is all about coming into self-love (especially around the body), here is an outline of how you might create a personal ritual using this framework.
Intend: This ritual is to remind myself that I am whole and holy, and to accept my body fully.
Ground: Do a few minutes of deep breathing, perhaps literally touching the earth or the floor.
Gather: Demarcate a sacred space around you, using fabric or flowers, candles or lights.
Invoke: Picture and invite into your ritual any loving beings who demonstrate a natural perfection, such as Gaia, Mary, Tara, or Durga. You might visualize someone in your own life who’s shown you unconditional love, or even call on animal or plant guides.
Do The Thing: In this case, a full body anointing: Spend about 5 minutes (though it could be much longer) touching your entire body from your toes up to the crown of your head, paying exquisite attention to how you’re made and tapping into the wonder of that appreciation.
Raise the Energy: Listen to music that drives home the spirit of self-love.
Bless and Release: Thank the people you invoked at the beginning of your ritual and set them free. You might end by saying something like, “This time with myself has come to a close. I walk into the world knowing that I am full, held, whole, worthy, loved.”
Integrate: Let this daily ritual echo in your life, noticing any time when “not-love” comes up in contrast. Notice how unkindness, criticism, and harshness feel in contrast to the daily practice of turning a loving voice toward yourself.
To learn more about ritual crafting, or participate in a program with Suzanne, please find and follow her.
I hope you find a ritual, a new energy design, to amplify whatever you’re about these days! And that at least some of that centers around more love for your own beautiful being.