It wasn’t that long ago that I created and participated in my first ceremony. Or, should I say, my first consciously created ceremony. I’ve attended my share of graduations, weddings, baby showers, and birthday parties. The difference, to me, is in the mindful way it was created and performed.
This particular ceremony was a suggested activity in an online course I was taking with Dr. Anne Davin called Feminosity. (I HIGHLY recommend it by the way.) At first I felt a bit of resistance… I’m going to do WHAT? But I also felt a great deal of curiosity. So, I packed my bag with sage, a few sticks, and my journal. I went into it with a completely open mind and no expectations. I was amazed by the shift I felt. Nature offered several pertinent metaphors for contemplation. My logical mind couldn’t and still can’t explain what my heart experienced, but I can tell you that it was powerful! From that point on I’ve made a sincere effort to incorporate ceremony into my life.
If you are hesitant about participating in ceremony, I totally get it. It is common to have pre-conceived notions or fears about something you’ve never experienced before. At its most basic, a ceremony is really a set of tasks that are done to mark or celebrate an occasion. In this sense, your next bath can be a done as a ceremony. I believe our modern lives are in desperate need of more ceremony. It has become a bit of a status symbol to frequently declare how stressed out and tired we are. We have lost touch with the beauty of life’s cycles, our own included.
In hopes of lifting the veil of mystery that shrouds the term, I’d like to describe one of my favorite ceremonies. I hope that it resonates and takes some of the otherness out of the practice. Perhaps it will even inspire you to create and perform your own ceremony. I call it Bliss & Gratitude. It is a combination of a Cacao Ceremony and a Despacho Gratitude Ceremony. I experienced these ceremonies through my participation in Qoya retreats and teacher trainings. I am forever grateful to Rochelle for sharing these traditions with me. (I should note that my interest is in offering these experiences for women, but they are equally great for men.)
As the women enter the room they are greeted by the scents of sage, cacao and rose petals. Flickering candles, music playing, and a beautifully set table signal that they have stepped from the mundane into the sacred. I love setting up for this event as it provides another way for me to express my creativity and to create something beautiful. I think of it as a gift from my heart and for my heart.
I open each ceremony by asking everyone to pull an oracle card. If you’ve never done this before, the idea is that each card contains an archetype. All of us hold these archetypes within us, but the one we pull provides a mirror, in that moment, for us to reflect upon. Questions to consider: Why is this particular card showing up for you? Is it the image that you connect to? Perhaps the words caught your eye? Sometimes you know right away why it’s the perfect card and other times you have to talk it out a bit- we always share our responses with the group or with a partner. Starting this way gives each woman a chance to place her voice in the circle. It can also inspire her intention for the ceremony. (It’s also a great practice for learning to trust your intuition, but that’s a story for another day.)
A Cacao Ceremony invites you to move deeply into your heart and connect with yourself in a way that awakens self-love. Together in ceremony we drink cacao sourced from traditionally produced cacao, grown by farmers in Guatemala, produced ethically, sustainably and in fair trade. Cacao awakens the creative and vital energies of the body when used in a ceremonial way. Participants often describe feeling as if their heart is literally opening like a flower.
What is Cacao?
Cacao is what chocolate is made from. It is the seed of a tropical fruit known as Theobroma Cacao.
How is it different from chocolate?
Cacao is the pure form of chocolate. Most chocolate has milk added which interferes with absorption and inhibits the feel-good effects. Additionally, the processing that chocolate undergoes further diminishes the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
What are the benefits?
Cacao contains the neurotransmitters serotonin, tryptophan and dopamine -which help promote feelings of wellbeing.The alkaloids, neurotransmitters, neuromodulators, vitamins and minerals specific to cacao have a particularly nourishing effect on the human body. When you consume cacao prepared for ceremony, all the mood enhancing neurochemicals in cacao activate; there is increased blood flow and nutrition to the brain, heart and skin, awareness and focus is heightened, and sensations are intensified.
The idea of a Despacho Gratitude Ceremony is simple; you say thank you. You say thank you for as much as you can think of. And then you keep saying thank you until you feel like you could say thank you for hours. It is medicine for the soul.
The Despacho originates from the Q’ero Shamans in Peru. It is often the first thing done to bring healing-no matter the condition or desire- whether it be to heal from losing a loved one, to welcome a new soul to the earth, to honor a birthday, to heal from a break up, to call in love, to start a business, to experience physical healing, etc.
This is more than just creating a checklist i.e. I’m grateful for: my house, my job, my dog. This ceremony asks you to get really specific and to bring that energy of gratitude into your body to honor that aspect of your life. This ceremony has helped me to heal many aspects- letting go of past relationships, forgiveness, and it reminds me to see what I already have (rather than always wanting more). I often find myself welling up with tears of joy, almost overwhelmed with how beautiful my life is. It is said that by giving thanks you open up space for what you desire to come to you. Doing this in circle, hearing from other women, I realize that her story is also my story. That we are all one. I have found that the more I practice this the more my life expands.
Let’s just stop for there for a moment… how fabulous is that?! I just said that by setting a beautiful space, and expressing gratitude that I feel in my whole body, in the company of amazing women, whose stories touch me deeply… my life gets better!
I’ve been testing out the theory for a year now and I can honestly say that I’ve found this to be true.
This is not to say that this practice eliminates all hardships and my life is now all rainbows and butterflies. It is to say that when you slow down and express gratitude for the abundance that already exists in your life, it opens the way for more abundance to flow in.
Ok, back to Bliss and Gratitude…. At the end of ceremony, I make sure to honor the fact that we were able to make time and space in our lives to do something that feels good. As women we often care for ourselves last, always giving to others first. Participating in a ceremony such as this is a gift that you give to yourself and to the other women who have shown up to witness you. Each ceremony takes on its own energy and vitality, it doesn’t become rote. Finally, the despacho is wrapped and offered back to the earth through burning it in a fire, placing it in running water, or burying it in mother earth.
If you’d like to learn more about how to do a Despacho, check out Rochelle’s video tutorial on the Qoya website.
If you’d like to join me in Cold Spring, NY for a Bliss & Gratitude Ceremony, find the schedule on my website.
Suggestions for creating your own ceremony:
You can start simple… you don’t need this wide variety of ingredients. Use what you have in your cupboard. Take a walk and collect things that inspire you. (I frequently pluck the petals from a rose and use each one to express gratitude.) There really is no way you can do it wrong- just approach with an open and sincere heart!
The basics (do one or all- as you wish):
Find a time when you will not be interrupted.
Light a candle.
Play some music.
Take a few deep breaths and let go of external thoughts/ to-do lists
Pull an oracle card (there are even apps if you don’t have a deck).
Set an intention.
Begin the ceremony: themes could be related to giving thanks, honoring yourself, your cycle, the moon or season, or simply meditate for guidance.
Notice: any shifts in how you feel and messages or inspiration that come.
To end the ceremony: give thanks.
Are you inspired to create your own ceremony?
Please write to me, I’d love to hear about your experience!
And if you haven’t already, I invite you to read my post on Dreaming Bigger Dreams that describes more of the magic that ceremony has brought into my life.