by Dawn Fulton

We, being a healthy bunch of adventurous souls, braved our way through thick slushy snow to gather at the Gabriola Theatre Centre on Sunday afternoon of January 21st  – for a most intriguing workshop. The Healing Power of Personal Ritual, facilitated by Rev. Dr. Karen Arends.

Sitting in a circle, Rev. Dr. Arends guided us to reflect on the many ways our modern culture has stripped us of meaningful ceremony and ritual in our daily living. It was valuable to explore why, and at what cost. How might the monotony of our ordinary life (however busy and fast paced) be robbing us of vitality? And…how performing rituals might be a powerful tool to reconnection, self-realization and self-empowerment.

While anything can become a ritual, such as taking a bath or preparing a meal, mindful intention is the key ingredient to crafting transformative rituals. What differentiates ritual from unconscious habits, is intentional preparation and process.

We learned that personalized rituals essentially follow the circular trajectory of the hero’s journey. (Something I had never thought of in this way before!). Just like the hero’s journey, a well-crafted ritual has a clear beginning, a middle, and an end. Regardless of scale, simplicity, or complexity. The process of manifestation starts with identifying purpose and intention. Followed by planning and preparing, setting aside time and clearing your schedule, as well as finding and gathering supplies. Followed by actually performing the ritual. Also known as departure from your ordinary, mundane life. The middle part can be seen as surrendering to the experience. Entering the trials of the abyss. In the process of giving-ourselves-up to the journey/ritual we “unlock the creative power of our deeper conscious self”, thereby accessing the rewards and gifts of self discovery (quote from Bill Moyers in conversation with Joseph Campbell). The end marks the return to our normal daily life, renewed anew. Re-entry into the ordinary world with new knowledge and gifts to share.

So…we brave souls…armed with an understanding of the healing power of ritual, now broke into groups 4 groups of 4 to practice crafting our own rituals. Each group was given one topic to brainstorm and report back. Not only did we discover simple ways to enrich our lives through the practice of intentional (personalized) rituals, we also came away equipped with more ideas and tools for increasing our spiritual, mental, physical, and creative wellbeing. Participants also had time to share some of the rituals that they have been practicing for many years, and to share the benefits that they have discovered from doing so. Such as meditation, journaling, forest walks. Deep sharing is one of the many the joys of being guided by a great mentor and coming together in community.

In closing, our mentor/facilitator reminded us once again of the importance of grounding. A part of the hero’s journey, or any effective ritual, that is most often ignored is grounding. Which makes sense. Because departure from the ordinary and return can be discombobulating. Therefore, any sequence of steps that allows us to transition back into the routines of our daily lives is helpful. Such as blowing out the candle and putting away supplies after meditation. Taking a shower after exercise. Or, taking time to tidy up the chairs and give thanks before rushing out the door. Oh, closure is so underrated, but isn’t everything more satisfying when we allow time for a sense of completion?

I would truly love to see this workshop offered every January – as a yearly  ritual. I am grateful for the opportunity to adapt new life skills from old world knowledge. The rewards of crafting and preforming rituals are plentiful. As witness to our own practice of metamorphosis, we are better able to give to ourselves, and share of ourselves, with renewed vitality and purpose. Thank you!