Life is moving way too fast! I often feel so overwhelmed with all the things I wish I could accomplish in a day so I can shorten my to do list. I crave the respite of relaxed stillness, but unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to dwell on that feeling, as I have to move on to my next task and obligations of the day. I often feel a race with time, feeling that I am constantly not meeting my expectations of what I should be doing. It makes me feel disappointed, sad, and frustrated.

Despite my home being nestled in the tranquility of nature, I regularly experience the contrasting worlds of rural life and city life due to my long work commute to the city. It is an interesting transition as I traverse them, and feel the shifts of energy between them. – the slower pace and serenity of the rural area to the traffic congestion and frenetic energy of the city. As I observe this, I often become awash with a nostalgic longing for a simpler time with less demands. I long and romanticize for a time that surely exists somewhere out there, somewhere in my being, steeped in the present moment, where it is feasible to have a sustained pause, a stillness, a serene quiet that is like a languid breeze on my soul, and to savor the nectar of successfully touching upon the unassuming essence of myself. For in those moments, I feel closer to the nebulous envelopment of the Great Spirit. (aka the Universe, God/Goddess, the Oneness, etc. however you wish to name the formidable cosmic energy that created us.)

ritual1These feelings of longing emerge at first as a fleeting thought…especially when I am driving…to more steady whispering reminders from that ache in my soul during the brief moments of reflection in between emails and phone calls at work, to ultimately recognizing my feelings of being depleted. So I can’t help but surrender to the unmistakable beckoning within me – insisting on taking some time out, to initiate intimacy with my undernourished soul. At this point I determine that I must set a date for an intimate encounter with myself, in order to sink into the pool of silky tender soul space that deeply anchors me, nourishes and aligns me.

I have been working at a Yoga and Meditation center that adheres to the wisdom teaching of Ayurveda for two years now. As I progressively learn more and more about the ancient Ayurvedic teachings that stemmed from the Indian Sages and mystics, I have been so continuously delighted and given goosebumps of recognition, realizing the eloquent congruency of the wisdom teachings and the Andean tradition I practice.

ritual4I thoroughly enjoy the practice of meditation as taught in the East. I have experienced its power and great opening space of potential for creating health and well-being. The shamanic ceremonies and rituals I practice are similar to the destinations reached of altered states, but they use a different approach. Ritual and ceremonies are like a sacred meditative movements that utilize archetypes, symbolic tools and gestures to reach deep states of being, presence, connection, alignment, release, healing, transformation and transcendence.

I have had the great fortune that the immensely beautiful and poignant teachings of Andean Shamanism found me several years ago. The shamanic practices I have learned have taught me a great deal thus far about the great healing potential, wisdom inducing and empowering capabilities of ceremony and ritual. There is always so much more to learn from each encounter with ritual and ceremony.

If you feel the calling yourself for a respite from your rushed routine, and accept the invitation from your spirit and Great Spirit to submerge yourself in the nourishing sea of the primordial soul, please honor yourself and set a date for self-care to indulge within yourself.

I will explain further what I mean. One of the most accessible and comforting rituals I use when time is limited and simplicity is needed, is a mini fire ceremony – a ritual that I can privately do on my own, requiring just a little nook of private space to perform.

ritual2I call out and open sacred space (you can just set an intent for protective and supportive energy to surround you, calling forth the archetypes that speak to you to act as a force field around you). I light a candle, and fill a metal bowl (for example I use a stainless steel one) with some sand or earth into, stainless steel tweezers and a box of toothpicks.

I take a toothpick in my hand, and using my inward breath, I start doing some “house” cleaning. This is a great way to clean the energy body, particularly the chakras from old stagnant or toxic energies, emotions, patterns, blockages, etc. What nooks and crannies in your psyche, body and soul need airing out, cleaning, clearing and release?

For example, I could blow into the toothpick my feelings of overwhelm, of not having enough time, the pressures of day to day life, my frustration, sadness, emotions etc. I tune in to my body as I breathe, in order to ask and notice, “Where do I feel this stress and worry reside?” I may determine that I feel it in my heart, my stomach and my shoulders. So then I use my inward breath, filled with the intention to scoop up these energetic dense cluster of energies, and exhale, blowing them into the toothpick to release them from my body. In this process I am symbolically acknowledging the presence of these energies, making a conscious decision to process them, as I use my breath to exhale and release them into the toothpick.

Keep this cycle of deeply intentional inhalations and exhalations for as long as you like, using various toothpicks as you wish, and you may find in these cycles of breathing that you will be taken to other areas of information to access, such as a myriad of feelings, old memories, insights, revelations and connections to other situations in your life that will aid you in the process of discovery and healing. Sometimes you may feel the body speaking to you in sensory cues such as tingling, change of temperature, or waves of emotion surfacing for release. Blow all of this unto the stick. Give yourself the space to purge and liberate these energies from your body. What follows is the enactment of alchemy. Burning the toothpick.

ritual3Have the metal bowl close to the candle. Use the tweezers to hold the toothpick, (if you have several toothpicks it is best to burn them one at a time) light the toothpick tip from the candle flame and take the lit toothpick (held by the tweezers) over to the metal bowl, letting the flame progressively burn. Drop the toothpick in the bowl when it has nearly all burned. This symbolically represents the shedding, cleansing and deep transformation that fire imparts. Be a witness to how your energetic imprints bound in a wooden toothpick are alchemized to smoke, ash and purified by the sacred element of fire.

How do you feel? Do you feel lighter? Or do you feel there are more toothpicks to burn? You are the compass, you decide as you tune into yourself and how you feel. The beauty of any ritual that you accept the invitation to participate in, is that it is a sacred opportunity to take you deep inside your self. Over time, with a regular practice of ritual and ceremony, you can continually deepen your connection and entrain the honing in to your intuition, inner wisdom, heightened states of awareness and the many possibilities that can be experienced in these states.

The next step is equally as important as the releasing work. What do you want to experience, create and manifest instead, now that you have released the old energies? Grab another toothpick and blow all those desires into the stick, imbuing, imprinting that charged focused energy from the depths of your being into the toothpick. You can also, with intention, imagine that the warm light emanating from the candle flame is feeding each chakra with pure light energy, taking newfound residence there, and seal the gaps of the dense energies you just previously released.

For those that may be having difficulty knowing what you want, perhaps feeling blocked, or have doubts creeping up, start right there! Even the shadow elements need the presence of light and acknowledgment. There is power in bringing this energy out for exposure and clearing. Blow those things holding you back, the unanswered questions, the mysteries you encounter, into the stick and keep doing this practice. It may take time, several rituals perhaps. Eventually, what is likely to happen, is that underneath the resistance, blocks and fear, the inner voice of your heart’s desire that you have been wanting to connect with will emerge once the path is cleared.

This is akin to embarking upon the “Hero’s journey” to reference Joseph Campbell’s work on mythology. A healthy dose of curiosity, adventure and patience is helpful in discovering the myriad of facets visible and not yet visible within you. Shadow elements can come up, but use the fire ceremony to honorably acknowledge their presence with as much neutrality as you can muster, and courteously release it unto the toothpick, gleaning any lessons from it, and releasing it unto the fire.

What is important to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to do this ritual, as long as you show up, and accept the invitation to be present enough to delve intimately into your self. What you are feeling? What is festering? What in your life do you need to come to terms with? We can use the metaphor of the digestion process – what in your life do you need to properly digest, extract the nutrients from (i.e. lessons, wisdom and growth gained) and allow the waste (what does not serve you) release and exit you?

My teacher says it another way: doing this work is like pulling the weeds from a space you wish to grow a garden. You must clear and prepare the area, so then you can start planting the seeds of what you wish to create, grow and harvest. How you want to design your life now that you have freed up old energies and stories into the fire?

If you happen to want a version of this that does not require fire, here are some alternatives. Instead of burning the stick you can either bury it into the earth (the great alchemist Mother Earth will mulch the heavy energies and transmute the toothpick in to nourishing compost for the soil.) Or you can offer the stick to a river, ocean, or other body of water to cleanse and purify the energies as you release it to cleansing nature of water.

Are you ready to get sweetly romantic and set a date with your self, and do like the great and wise teachers, sages, and shamans before us, which was to dance intimately between the realms of body and Spirit? Use these ancient practices to glean inner and out wisdom, and allow that elusive magical wonder of life take you on a journey. Will you say yes to the invitation?

Now it is your turn, please share the rituals that you practice for self-care!

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