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The Power of Ritual

 
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Last September I sat in a yurt near Yosemite sitting at an altar in each of the four directions with the question, "How do I fully express myself? I was at Erica Jago's EARTH retreat where Erica had just taught us a powerful exercise from the Native American tradition about how to use the 4 directions to gain more clarity in our lives.

Through the exercise, I answered questions like, "What was I like as a child?"  "What am I grateful for?" "What wisdom have I gained?" "What brings me joy?" and "What are the new possibilities for my life?"  I drew a card from the tarot for each direction, sat, wrote, and meditated on these questions.

The whole process took about an hour, and afterwards I left with a map of exactly what I needed to do over the next year to fully express myself.

I knew I needed to sing, dance, write, and speak in front of large groups.  However, I had so much fear even just thinking about it.  Erica then placed an empty glass jar in the center of the room and said, "Now, write your fears on a piece of paper and place them in the jar.  On the Full moon we are going to burn them."

Through the exercise, I discovered I needed to meet monthly with other women on the full or new moons as a space to be vulnerable so that I could gather strength and courage.  I knew I needed to join the public speaking group I was avoiding because it would give me the space to practice, and I knew I needed to start singing, dancing and playing kirtan in front of others.

On the Full moon, Erica held a powerful ritual.  Each person shared the art they had created over the week, the insights they had gained and released their fears, and their art in the fire.

One by one, we shared the insights we had gained over the weekend - what we were releasing and what we were stepping into.

I had my harmonium with me, and I knew it was time to play it in front of the group.  I openly shared my fears and blocks I have had around self-expression.  As I did, tears streamed down my face as I imagined the little girl inside myself who had been closed down for so long.

Then, I sang the mantra, Aad Guray Nameh, The Mangala Charan, a mantra to help us all overcome self-doubt and create a protective field of light.

Everyone sang with me.

In that moment I was witnessed in releasing a deep rooted fear, and for the first time, was fully witnessed in sharing my singing voice.  That moment carried so much power and healing.

A ritual is a space to be witnessed in your truth and supported by your sisters.  It is a space to honor the rites of passage in your life.

Rituals infuse magic, intention and sacredness into our daily lives.  A ritual can turn a mundane act done without awareness into a sacred act with clarity and purpose.  Slowing down to say a blessing before a meal changes the experience.  Meditation, singing, or lighting a candle imbues a moment of peace and serenity into a busy day.

Ritual can also be this healing space where women come together to honor a specific purpose.   These rituals may honor transitions, letting go, grieving, the lunar cycle or the change of seasons. 

Participating in ritual has been one of the most healing ways to mark a big transition in my life.  Ritual has provided a space for me to be fully seen, acknowledged and supported.  After participating in ritual, I feel more confident and courageous to share myself with the world.

I had no idea the kind of transformation that would take place over the next year.  I went home, with a map in my hands, knowing exactly what I needed to do to fully express myself.

Without that ritual, I don't know if I would have had the courage to go on my first teaching and singing tour, to join a public speaking group, deliver toasts and speeches, dance without self-consciousness, and devote myself to writing and art.

Ritual helped me release my fears and feel supported in taking action towards my dreams.  It was a way to mark a new beginning and enter into a new way of living.

 
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I am excited to participate in Erica's EARTH retreat again this September, and this time, I will also be sharing as a teacher.

I'll be teaching two workshops - one an intuitive goddess collage art session to connect to your archetypes and another a vision & voice offering to open to your life's dreams and visions as we sing with the harmonium.

I know this year is going to be another intimate and sacred community.  I'd love to share this experience with you, so if you feel called, click here for the full retreat details.

Now I'd love to hear:

What rites of passage have you gone through that you would like to honor?  

What fears are you ready to release and what new beginning are you stepping into?  Share with us in the comments.

I encourage you to create your own ritual, or join us at EARTH this Fall to create one with us there.

With love, Meredith

Sync with the moon

 
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Since last Wednesday I have been sleeping outside in a tent watching as the moon grew full over the horizon.  I drove from my home in Sonoma County, CA up to Mount Shasta and to Oregon for a music festival.  (check out some photos from my travels here).  Sleeping outside on the land, watching the moon brighten to its fullness and start to wane again has made me think about the connection between our bodies and nature. You may notice you feel more social during the full moon and more introverted with the new moon.  The moon pulls the tides and can also sync with the woman's body during her menstrual cycle.  Traditionally, women would menstruate with the new moon and ovulate with the full moon.  The new moon energy of drawing inward would coincide with the woman's time to rest.  The energy of the full moon would energize the woman during ovulation and nature would optimize the conditions for her to find a mate.

Unfortunately, with so much artificial light both inside and outside our homes, many women have lost their connection to the moon.  So today, in honor of last weekend's full moon, I have a few tips for you to harmonize with nature and sync with the cycles of the moon.

4 tips to sync with the moon:

1. Sleep in total darkness during the new moon and allow light to come in through your window during the full moon

The body will attune to the moon the way women did in ancient times sleeping outside with the moonlight.  Make sure there are no digital lights in your room when you sleep and do your best to turn off all technology.  Leave your blinds open during the full moon so the moonlight can seep in.  Your body will begin to naturally sync your menstrual cycle with the cycles of the moon.

2. Rest during your menstrual cycle and save times of rigorous exercise, movement, dancing and socializing during ovulation

The menstrual cycle is a time to focus on intuition and listen to the body's subtle messages.  It is a great time for gentle yoga, journaling, and reflection.  During ovulation, the body will have much more energy to be social and active.  See if you can sync with your body's natural rhythm.  If you are not sure when you ovulate, count 14 days after the first day of your period.  Plus or minus 3 days of this time will most likely be when you ovulate.

3.  Eat foods to support your own moon cycle

Did you know certain foods are beneficial during the woman's menstrual cycle?  The best foods to integrate into your diet at this time are dark leafy greens, like dino kale, beets, and sea vegetables like kelp.  Try adding a few kelp leaves to the mix when you cook brown rice.  These nutrient dense foods will replenish the body during the depleting time of menstruation.

4.  Practice these restorative yoga poses during menstruation to relieve low back aches and menstrual cramps

This sequence of poses was adapted from the Iyengar moon cycle series for women.  The poses support the downward flow of energy during the woman's moon cycle.  I used this sequence just a few weeks ago during my own cycle when I woke up in the night with aches.  After twenty minutes, I felt relief and was able to fall back asleep.

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Have you ever thought about connecting to the moon?  Let me know what you think of these tips in the comments below.  Try out these poses the next time you're on your "moon" and let me know how it goes!

With love, Meredith

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About the Author:

Meredith Rom is a women's leadership coach,  yoga teacher, and group facilitator.  She helps women tap into intuition and manifest their dreams through yoga, writing and retreats.