Rituals add meaning to life. Over the past several years I have been participating in plant initiation rituals. They connect me more deeply and more coherently with nature than I have ever been.
As I write this, the wheel of the year approaches the summer solstice. This day is truly filled with light. I am preparing for a shamanic plant initiation that will unfold next weekend, a gathering of plant people led by my teacher and St. John’s Wort.
Plant spirit healing is a shamanic plant medicine practice that works energetically with and through plants for health and healing. In that tradition, a plant initiation is a coming together in a ritual to honor, connect deeply with, hear and receive the healing gift of a plant. It tends to involve experiencing the plant in a variety of ways; through breath, dieting (ingesting) wonderful things prepared by the facilitator. It is done in a ceremony; with singing, fires, shamanic guided imagery journeys and the like.
I have undergone several plant initiations so far and treasure this ritual experience in my life. Perhaps it’s my Catholic upbringing, filled with ritual. I was initiated by Tulsi (the green goddess!) and left with a spirit soul sister, someone to go mystery-shopping with in the cosmos. From Tulsi I learned ageless beauty and that all of the Shakti goddesses are within me – I can learn to draw upon them when needed. I was initiated by Dandelion (the indestructible grandfather guide!) at Damanhur, the eco-spirit community in Italy, and learned steadfast resiliency and impenetrability of spirit. Now it is St. John’s, and I already have a close relationship with the bestower-of-light. I hope to burn off a bit of dross and am open to an enlightening experience!
Bless you and may you have your own nature encounter today. Tell us about it!
For me it’s the combination of the smell of incense thick in the air, the swing of golden incense pots and the slow procession of men in white. I don’t go to Mass anymore, and am not Catholic for all the usual reasons. Nonetheless, one of many things that upbringing gave me was a love of and understanding of the importance of ritual in my life. From baptism to last rites, a Catholic knows the ceremonies and rituals that tie their lives to an ancestral thread.
The rise of secular culture and the “me generation” is marked by greater acceptance toward those different from ourselves (with notable holdouts), but also less drive to maintain the ritual containers provided by religious and cultural ceremony. The re-emergence of earth cultures, of indigenous shamanic ritual, is perhaps a seeking to re-ritualize our lives. We need to find a new set of rituals to connect us back to the earth, to our ancestors and to the mystery that lies at the heart of all life again.
Rituals are acts performed in a certain way to realize an intention. They are things that we do, often that our ancestors or others have done before for the same effect, often in ceremonial events. They can provide a thread of meaning to mark a transition or close a chapter, honor an aspect of life, or connect us to the mystery and miracle of life. Ceremony and ritual allow us to take a step back, pause time, and be in the miraculous web of our own lives here on earth.
Einstein said it well when thinking about the why: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious,” he said. “It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead”. We need it to be fully us, and certainly to be our best selves.
Be it a morning ritual of lighting a candle and bowing to the 4 directions then above below and inside, or a morning or evening gratitude practice, plant bathing, or an elaborate ritual of gathering, clearing, and honoring a common intention (as we will do together at Yoga of Plants over the 4th of July weekend at Kripalu…still room left!), rituals capture time and remind us to feel the mystery.
Interested in learning more about ritual? Check out The Art of Ritual by Renee Beck and Sydney Barbara Metrick. It’s a clear, thoughtful and inspiring book. In my monthly newsletter, I often provide a step-by-step guide on a particular practice that can re-ritualize your life. That newsletter always provides ideas on leading a botanical natural weight lifestyle.
How to add meaning to life with ritual? Practice. All it takes is intention and practice.
What is your favorite ritual?
Enjoy the day. Summer in it’s fullness!