Each time we embark on a new calendar year, we feel as if we’re getting a fresh start. Or as if we should be able to get a fresh start. We make that new list of resolutions or goals, and we vow to leave the sludge of the last year behind. However, it is many-a-year that we discover that our best intentions get squashed or simply fade away once we are back in the flow of life.
The problem often lies with the fact that while we genuinely want those new behaviors or situations, we haven’t really done any rebooting at the deeper levels. Many of our behaviors are entrained in our cells and many of our patterns reflect the beliefs embedded at the unconscious levels of the psyche. People often talk of the power of intention, but how do we invoke those intentions at a holistic level?
Certainly techniques in meditation, qi gong, yoga, active imagination, transpersonal psychology, and other energetic, psychological, and spiritual offer processes that have helped millions find holistic health, balance, and fulfillment. While I enjoy the benefits of these, I personally find personal Ritual my favorite resource for making a definitive and lasting change in my life.
Through Ritual, you activate the mind (conscious & unconscious), body (material & subtle), and soul (divine self). Depending on your beliefs, you may also tap into the Sacred other. Thus drawing on various attributes of the above list, creating a harmonic resonance with the natural world and your authentic self. The trick is, you must step fully into the process as if you were an actor stepping into a character. Shed your tendency to worry about what your Ritual looks like to your insecure and rational mind. Once you are ready to begin, fully immerse yourself in the process, the way a child steps into make-believe—making this moment the truest reality.
Here’s a Ritual to help you release the old and embrace the new. The first New Moon of the year is approaching and would be the perfect time to embark on a Ritual for initiating a new personal cycle. However, you can do this whenever it works best for you.
There are two parts to this Ritual. The first is a shedding Ritual. The second is a prayer packet that will release your intentions as Grandmother Moon begins to fill back up with light and energy.
Clearing string. Cut pieces of paper, approximately the size of standard post-its or a little bigger. You also need several feet of string and something to wrap the paper around as an offering in fire, such as sage, incense, or flowers.
Set your intentions to open Sacred Space, and then write on the slips of paper all the things you need to shed. Any old grudges, doubts, habits, illnesses, etc. that you don’t want to take forward should be listed on the page. This is not a hit-list, but rather a list of those things you choose not to continue to stay tied to as you continue your journey. You don’t want to write with hate or a destructive attitude, but rather offer up a freeing, an unraveling. You may write one or more word or phrases on the papers.
When you are finished, tie your papers with the offerings onto your string. For each paper, focus on the words you wrote and wrap it around the sage (offering). Now find where it feels as if those feelings/issues live in your body, and begin winding the string around the paper. As you wind it, imagine unwinding it from your body—and drawing it out. Tie a knot, then pick up the next piece of paper and follow the same process until you have made a string with all of your papers. You can add length to your string and more papers until you feel you have identified all the heavy stuff that restricts you from stepping into who and how you truly want to be.
Now, in a hearth or fire pit, or some other safe place, light a small fire. Place an offering of gratitude in the form of sage or something beautiful to burn on the fire. You may want to sing a chant or say a prayer, but when you are ready, yield your string to the fire. Lay it in, and as you watch it burn, imagine all that stuff still being drawn out of you and into this Sacred Fire. Let it go with joy and appreciation to the Divine. The Great Mother not only brings forth life, but also mulches all that we shed. Stay with the fire until your prayer string is burned up and the fire is safe to leave.
Prayer packets, called Despachos, are the core healing practice for many Peruvian shamans. This is a simpler version of their process, but can be a very powerful process when done with sincerity. You are effectively making a mandala inside the paper, then offering it to the Sacred.
Materials: A sheet of wrapping paper approximately 3 feet square. Ribbon, flowers, incense, candies, and other things that would make nice offerings to nature and the Divine.
Again, working in Sacred Space, set your intentions to create new patterns for the new year. Lay the paper out before you, and begin by making a circle with one of your items to outline the size of your mandala, which should take up only about the center third of your paper. You want to be able to fold the sides over and tie it when you are done. You may create the border of your mandala with sage or candy or flowers. Whatever feels right for you.
Once you have the border, begin creating a work of art with your offerings. With each item you are offering special gratitude to the Universe, Nature, Spirit, your guides, any elements of the Sacred that you recognize supports your life, as well as people and situations that have benefited you. Believe me, none of us live by our own devices, so now is the time to recognize the way in which the Universe and the Sacred support you. You do this by focusing on a thought or feeling and blowing it (with your breath) into the offering that you hold in your hand.
You also want to choose some items to blow in your intentions for the new year. Now is the time to focus on the positive, so imagine the healed states, the goals, the ways of being that you want to create for this year. Focus on your intention, find where it resonates in your body, then blow that into the flower or candy or whatever you have chosen.
After you energize an offering, lay it out in the mandala to continue to make a work of art. Items may be stacked upon one another as you like until the mandala feels completed. The Peruvian shamans like to offer up symbols of Mother Earth, Father Sun, the ocean, stars, and the opposites of masculine and feminine. They also like to offer up whatever they think Spirit will like, so they use colorful candies and other items. Personally, I like to also place seeds and foods that creatures of the Earth might like. But you can use anything you wish as long as it is healthy for the environment.
The key to these offerings are gratitude. When we feel gratitude it dissipates or completely displaces feelings of fear, anger, bitterness, and so forth. At least for the moment. In that moment, if you can be without those heavy emotions, you can be open to healing, and the rewiring or rebooting that you seek. Find the things to be grateful for and place offerings in a state of as pure a feeling of gratitude and appreciation as you can.
When you have finished, fold the four sides of your paper into a packet and tie it securely with your ribbon. I usually like to make one last thank you with a flower or stem of rosemary and place it in the ribbon.
Now find a good place outside to bury your packet. By burying the packet, you are giving it to the Universe to mulch it and receive the blessings and intentions it carries. These seep out into the Universe as the packet mulches and infuses the Cosmos with your intentions, your energy.
If you don’t have a garden, yard, or nearby woods to bury it, then here are two other options. 1. You can make a very small packet that you can bury easily in a small garden, or 2. You may burn the packet. However, burning speeds up the release of the energy, and for this packet, the objective is to release the energy over a time as you engage the new year. However, energy follows intention and the most important element of this Ritual is how you have set your intentions and engaged your energy.
I wish you a joyful and meaningful new year. I welcome feedback on how this Ritual has gone for you.