Rite & Ritual: Creating a Container for Transformation

The winding roads of winter led me through a soul’s dark night.

Having emerged, I feel much like a sprout rising through warm, fertile ground into sunlight. Spring ushers in renewal and a fresh cycle in my life.

During the long, harsh winter—when a princess crossed the threshold marking her transition into queen—the land was cold and dark. Harsh winds brought with them sweeping change, feelings of isolation, unexpected loss and emotional purging. With that came the opportunity to feel into my depths and reclaim myself.

At cycle’s end, pain finally shattered into tiny, dissolving pieces—and light broke through. Within myself I had discovered an invincible spring.

I awoke from the night recognizing that I was somehow different. A shift had occurred and the trappings of winter no longer held their appeal. Naked in my room, it felt necessary to externally reflect this change. Simple choices now seemed extra-ordinarily important at twilight on this new dawn.  As I laid to rest my grieving persona, black-grey attire, and board-straight hair of the former season, I prepared for a spring day.

Pulling a yellow shirt from my closet, I dabbed on a hint of rose pink lip balm and haphazardly tied my hair up with a print sash.

Walking outside to feel the warmth, I stood barefoot in the grass. Cooing doves and mating birds played in treetops all around me. Nature danced in celebration of spring’s arrival—and I felt right in sync.

The sights and sounds of abundant-life had indeed returned.

While watching the natural world perform spring rituals, the wild-woman within me knew that I too must acknowledge my entrance into a new place and time. Feeling my inner spirit’s call to mark this passage, I was moved to use symbolic ritual.

As Old As Time

Rite and ritual have been used to acknowledge human-transformation since the beginning of time. Serving to give meaning to the natural cycles of life, rituals are a way that we acknowledge a division between the sacred and profane.

Ceremonial or determined modes of action, rituals can serve to celebrate or summon the expression of special, extraordinary, idealistic, supernatural, transcendent or otherwise spiritually significant occurrences or passages.

Rituals can take the form of repetitive actions performed over time, or as a single symbolic act. The inspiration for a ritual can be to reenact a spiritually significant event, celebrate a personal transition, acknowledge a leap in consciousness, or hold powerful intent to bring about positive change.

Rituals create a container for life experiences which are initiated, recognized or felt before they are seen. These container-walls provide a defined place for the happenings of personal growth.

The Making of a Ritual

The most powerful rite, ritual or ceremonial action is one that emerges from an organic impulse within and involves personal feelings, beliefs, and symbolic meaning. This kind of act or practice is born from the essence of our own truth and experience.

In addition, there are common characteristics of ritual which can be used to create these personal spiritual-containers in our own life.

As a vehicle for change and transformation, rituals will generally:

–>Involve the senses: By engaging all of the senses through creative use of natural elements, images, colors, movements, sounds and meaningful objects from our journey we can bypass our conscious-thinking-mind and connect with our unconscious-intuitive-knowing.

–>Set apart certain experiences as meaningful: Offering our time, sincerity and thoughtfulness are ways that we mark something as important and worthy of respect. Performing a series of actions which have been appointed this type of meaning can bring about feelings of well-being and certainty as well as invoke the inspiration needed for committed-action toward lofty-goals and habit-change.

–>Appoint a specific time as sacrosanct: A potent power of ritual is its ability to set off certain times as sacred and outside of the mundane. Rituals have potential to transport you to a timeless place. Serving to remove you from the ordinary-flow of life, they can place you in sacred-time when roles and statuses held day-to-day are temporarily suspended. It is outside the realm of ordinary-time-space that rituals hold their magic and power.

–>Appoint a physical space as sacred: Stepping into a dedicated space created by ritual, we can leave the clamoring of the external world behind and engage in a series of activities that nourish mind, body and spirit. Entering this space can assist us in accessing deeper levels of consciousness and to facilitate a rapid reconnection with the higher ideals that fuel us.

–>Appoint symbolic meaning: Rituals often involve “sacred” articles. Such symbolic items are acknowledged as agents of meaning and utility. Personal symbols and metaphors that emerge during transitional passage often become enduring reminders of peace and wellbeing.

The Power and Function of a Spiritual Container

Rituals help us to balance the work of our outer and inner lives. In our physical reality naturally there is a great deal of focus and acknowledgment given to external experience—that which can be seen and measured. However much of life’s journey is made up of intangible, interior experiences.

The big, wamma-jamma, awe-inspiring moments in life often involve personal growth, moments of transcendence, cycles of death and rebirth, and metaphysical passages into new levels of existence.

As important and palpable as these beyond-ordinary moments can feel, it is easy to disregard or discount them along the way. They become crowded out by the external sights, sounds and demands of life. For this reason, rites and rituals can serve an important function.

Here are five powers of ritual:

1. ACKNOWLEDGE: Rituals acknowledge personal shifts by taking action to honor a great change under gone. A rite-of-passage is often a major turning point in life which helps us connect the mysterious dots and see patterns and cycles which might otherwise appear to be random happenings in our life.

2. DEFINE: Pinnacle shifts on our journey can be so transformative that they serve to divide our life into ‘before and after’. Defining phases in our life can be a powerful way to facilitate life transitions. Often, the personal growth triggered by major life events such as these occur silently as inner-experiences and take place in isolated ways. Private ritual then can help to define an accurate demarcation point in our consciousness experiences.

3. SOLIDIFIES: Ritual marks something as official. It provides some formality or mental permanence and creates a solid “container” within which important processes can happen.

4. ANCHORS: When we make a big deal out of meaningful shifts and transitions, we anchor them into our life in a way which holds us in remembrance and accountability to the growth and change. Without this, these big-time life transitions can be easily lost or forgotten, and possibly even lose their meaning.

5. AUTOMATES: The repetition of sacred patterns or actions can automatically trigger the flow of what is needed for a particular manifestation, expression, creation, or embodiment. Through conditioning, ritualistic acts can assist us in rapidly accessing deeper levels of consciousness and bring about shifts in mindset and mood.

Honoring My Passage & Celebrating the Return of Light

As for me, I have created a number of simple but significant ritual acts to mark this period of positive change.

As a reflection of the immense self-love that I recently realized for the first time—not intellectualized ideas of self-love, but rather a sincere love and desire to cherish myself as God loves me—I now view my body with a newfound respect. Body and beauty rituals have become a natural expression of this new level of understanding of my divine feminine vessel. Purposeful practices involving essential oils, rose water, sea salt, skin brushing, hydrotherapy and physical purification have become high-vibe practices to honor and care for my beloved body.

Symbolic items of meaning and utility have also been central for me in marking my arrival into this new place. The act of using specific colors, objects and stones with certain properties has provided both self-expression and remembrance of my passage. The practice of adorning my body, and infusing my environment, with the energy and substance of these inspirational pieces is a practical and effective way to anchor these energies of change in my day-to-day.

Starting my day with a daily practice involving several things including reciting a meaningful mantra, “I am completely comfortable with the integration of my life” has created a powerful demarcation point for me. Serving as a reminder, these are also the words I drop into my experience when I begin feeling frustrated or get lost in a day. Seeing the matrix of wholeness that makes up my life, I no longer feel the need to maintain division between this part and that, which creates a great deal more flow and time for all good things.

A sacred-writing-ceremony was an important way for me to acknowledge, and not indulge the impulse to minimize, this new life cycle. By writing about the transition, I located my clarity, owned my experience, and admitted that it was a real shift in my life.

Additionally I am in the process of creating two sacred spaces: a wild-flower garden in my back yard where I can “bury” things (the act of planting new seeds in the ground and the symbolic nature of the wild flowers is significant) and an altar in my studio (a small, sacred place for personal reflection, gratitude, and prayer where meaningful totems, inspiring texts, and all that invokes harmony and flow for me can be easily accessed).

Bringing Ritual Back

Rituals can create a container for the process of transformation. Creating and performing meaningful rituals also serves to give meaning to the natural cycles of life.

Rituals can take the form of repetitive actions performed over time, or as a single symbolic act. The inspiration for a ritual can be to reenact, celebrate, acknowledge, summon, or hold powerful-intent.

In our age of constant-change and instant-everything, we have moved away from rituals. We are too busy, there is no time. And in cynical moments, the idea of change and transformation can become common and belittled.

However when we discount our big shifts by thinking that maybe it’s not really a big deal or that everyone is doing it, it diminishes self-confidence and our personal will to follow through.

The energy of spring is known to bring about abundance and fresh insight. Cycles of change, growth, expansion, and visions-of-a-new-way-forward are supported by the season and may be more easily accessed. A catalyst for the energies of resurrection, regeneration, and old things morphing into new–you may find inspiration for ritual now in your own life.

Whether you want to get a tattoo or shave your head; start a fire and burn something that represents what you are shedding; perform the act of blessing a space with sage and prayer to prepare it for a daily sacred practice; sign up for yoga; redecorate your home with items of meaning; insert a purposeful color into your environment; or host a rebirth party and invite all your friends—honoring a personal shift, or performing determined modes of action that cultivate an elevated state of existence, can have a profound effect on your daily life.