I used to be the queen of New Year’s resolutions.
Around this time, I would be writing long lists of goals in my journal and all of the ways I was going to improve my life. I taped positive affirmations to my kitchen cabinets and read them to myself every morning. But there came a point when I was sick of trying to “manifest” change.
No matter how many big goals I had, it seemed I couldn’t let go of the pain and doubt and fear that kept me from getting to them.
I know I’m not alone in this. The difficulty of sticking to New Year’s resolutions is so common it’s practically a cliche. Why do we have so much trouble making change in our lives even when it’s something we really want?
Albert Einstein is attributed with saying, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” I had no idea what this meant or how I could change my level of consciousness if I wanted to get different results—until I discovered the power of ritual.
What I found is that ritual can be used to majorly shift things on the subconscious level, which makes change on the conscious level seem to happen effortlessly. It’s a way to re-train our brains and the way we feel about ourselves and the events in our lives.
By investing our energy in something, we can send a powerful message to our subconscious mind that something important is happening and things are going to be different.
The idea of “ritual” can bring up fears for some of us, whether they’re of mindless repetition of a set of words and actions or darker stuff like bloodletting or sacrificing cats. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about creating meaningful ritual, it’s that there are no rules (and I’ve never had to sacrifice a cat)!
Tapping into the power of ritual does not depend on following a prescribed set of actions. In fact, we could “do” all the steps in a ritual perfectly and not create something that actually shifts energy and brings change into our lives.
The secret is not in what you do, but how you do it.
Whatever it is that you do, do it in way that feels meaningful and special to you. There is no “right” way that will magically zap your old shit out of existence. But doing something—anything—that signals to your brain that you are in a new era, that is where the magic comes in.
Here’s a simple releasing ritual for laying the year that’s been to rest. Remember, it’s not the steps that are important. Don’t do it to do it. Do it to feel it.
1. Pick the location.
Make it a somewhat private place. Most of all, it should carry some meaning or make you feel powerful in some way. You have probably “connected” with it before. It may be a place of childhood memories, or of your last relaxing summer day. It will preferably be outside in Nature, but it is possible to do very meaningful and powerful rituals indoors as well.
2. Prepare yourself beforehand by doing something that makes you feel like this time is out-of-the-ordinary.
I like to take a sacred salt bath. It’s tempting to skip this step, but it’s a very important part of that brain re-wiring we are seeking to do. It separates the coming experience as different from “the norm.” It becomes something important in your life.
3. Pack any ritual supplies you may need.
Include anything that you feel drawn to in the last moment. These ideas usually do not make “sense,” but often turn out to be the most powerful symbols needed for the ritual.
Supplies could include:
>>> A package of bubbles (Go one step up from the Dollar Store brand and maybe test them out beforehand. There’s nothing like feeling “defeated” in the middle of your ritual because you can’t get good bubbles to blow.).
>>> A personal talisman or power symbol (This may be a special rock or figurine or piece of art that you look at and admire throughout little meaningful moments of your life.)
>>> A gift to leave in thanksgiving and appreciation to the natural world. (This may be some dried flower petals, small rocks, birdseed or colorful herbs–something that is natural and disposable.)
4. Notice the journey.
This is especially effective if your place requires some effort to get to—a short hike, a long drive down a wooded road, something that will tell your brain that what we are about to do is so important, it’s worth all this extra effort. That’s how badly you want it. When you arrive, have a private moment of celebration. You are embarking on the best day of your life, the day that you have long sought! It’s a new era for you.
5. Begin by doing something that you feel to be regulating, that calls your attention into what your body is doing right at this very instant.
Walk, hum, sing, chant, or dance as a way of getting yourself into your body and into this time and this place. I find walking at a steady pace and humming to myself is an effective way of coming fully into my body.
6. When you feel centered in your body and present to what you are going to do, prepare a special space.
I like to make a circle of small stones or draw in the sand if I’m at the beach. Take a few minutes to breathe in your space and notice what is around you and how you are feeling.
7. Take out your bubbles and begin blowing.
As you watch each one drift up and away, be specific about what you are letting go of. Anger at a specific person, a negative belief about yourself—whatever it is, the more clear you are about what it is that you are letting go of, the more powerful your magic will be.
As you call these things into your attention, let yourself feel everything that comes with them. Take your time. Cry, yell, laugh and let yourself go with whatever you need to. Keep blowing and observing until you feel complete. If you’ve brought other elements to add to the ritual, incorporate them as you want to. You could bury a small symbol of what you are letting go of or burn a page you’ve written about it on.
8. Take several moments to pause and experience the physical state you are in now.
What does it feel like to be on the other side? Begin to visualize what you want to take the place of all that has been released. If you can, find a gift from nature that can be part of carrying this transformation with you. I find that a small stone, feather, or shell will present itself. Whisper into it the transformation that you are seeking. I like to bring this object home with me.
Contemplating it regularly when I return to my normal life brings me right back into the magic of the moment. The seeds of transformation have been planted!
9. Leave a gift in thanksgiving and appreciation, honoring the space that has served as a witness for you.
Sometimes I bring birdseed or flowers to leave behind and sometimes I create a small mandala or design using twigs, leaves, or stones. However you choose to, leave a testament to the special time you’ve shared. As you walk away, let a little more spring into your step. It’s time to celebrate!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Bethany Vaccaro
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Asim Bharwani/Flickr