Ritual Healing-What It Is, And What You Can Do With It What Is A Ritual? First, let us examine a definition of what rituals are and how we use them. Rituals are ceremonies, or a series of actions that are purposefully taken in different forms to symbolize something. Rituals are personal acts that have a transpersonal element. We seek guidance, connection, healing, power, or inspiration from a source deeper or higher than that of our conscious minds. Rituals work through multiple levels. What the ritual symbolizes is something more important than the actual ritual. Rituals represent or express ideas, beliefs, and thoughts about any particular subject or issue. Rituals give a purpose and connect us to something greater than ourselves. We may hold or participate in rituals as we seek to reach a goal or particular outcome. Rituals can help us as participants, reach a sense of clarity, peace of mind, sense of calmness, or another goal. We may also be seeking a connection to others through different types of relations. Still, some simple rituals are not meant to reach such serious enlightenments, conclusions, or results as other rituals. Rituals-formal and informal-large and small, are often practiced without us even realizing we are involved. Rituals and mini-rituals are often conducted frequently even on a daily basis. Many of us have a specific routine in the morning, at lunchtime, during exercise, or when preparing to go out for an evening. These routines are actually small rituals that we perform. Wearing a specific sweater at Christmas, or a particular piece of jewelry on New Year’s Eve may also be considered rituals. Other common rituals include birthday parties and weddings. As we grow in body, mind, and spirit, our rituals accumulate throughout our lives. We derive rituals from our backgrounds and as we grow to be adults we develop our own. Our rituals are derived from, but certainly not limited to, our sex, ethnicity, religion, family, culture, or other elements. The Science Behind Rituals A series of investigations by psychologists have revealed interesting new results that are not surprising. Their research demonstrates that rituals can have a causal impact on people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Other experiments by psychologists, into grief and ritual, showed that people who engaged in a ritual after the death of a loved one or loss of a close relationship, felt less grief about the loss. Rituals, such as birthday parties, weddings, funerals, coming of age parties, and other celebrations are an important way we gather together with our friends and loved ones. Today rituals have become more secular and materialistic than they once were, but essentially the desire behind them is the same. We want to connect, celebrate, and be happy with life and all the joy that comes with it. Increasingly ancient rituals are returning and finding a place in modern society: rituals such as blessing way ceremonies for mothers before they birth their child, or rituals for girls as they enter womanhood and start menstruating. Today there are camps and outdoor activities for men and boys as they become men, Women’s Healing Circles, Full Moon circles, Earth Healing Circles, and so many more ritual gatherings that are evolving as we acknowledge our primal need and desire to be together in sacred ways that are healing and transformational for us. Yoga is actually a deeply sacred practice, and preparation for higher connection and communion with the Divine. However, for most people, it starts off as exercise but quite soon becomes something sacred that nourishes the spirit as well as the physical. These rituals are grounded as they are today, but still a spiritual experience. What is Ritual Healing? Ritual healing is a very broad term. It is all-encompassing used to treat physical, mental, and emotional problems. Ritual healing can include ceremonies, parties, materials, memorabilia, one to many people, and can be held virtually anywhere in any format. If you don’t know by now, you must realize that the conscious mind is only a part of who we are or how we think. Rituals offer us options to go beyond the abilities of our conscious minds to cleanse, nourish, and heal our spirit and soul. Ritual healing uses rituals to help us heal from different types of pain and difficulties we experience. Healing rituals exist to support, and comfort us during these times. Healing rituals help us find comfort and teach us how to cope when we are falling apart. Healing rituals can take us closer to the source of our pain, where we can begin to understand and see things more clearly. Then we can begin the healing process. During these painful and difficult times, healing rituals can help us find our inner strength. On the less dramatic side, daily healing rituals are a good way to help us cope and deal with daily challenges. Common rituals like yoga and meditation help us achieve a sense of peace during difficult times, so that we may begin to heal ourselves. If practiced on a regular basis, these healing rituals can help us learn to calm ourselves when a difficult time is approaching. Ritual healing is used by religious and spiritual groups, during mystical-type ceremonies, and also more practical people to help the healing process. Our western culture is slow to develop cultural-wide healing rituals compared to the rest of the world. Healing Rituals Around the World Africa Throughout parts of Africa, indigenous people use drums to perform ritual healing. Shamans drum in certain rhythms to bring about meditative states. The theory is that an individual can enter the spirit world once overcome by the meditative state. It is believed that once the spiritual world is reached, individuals can seek wisdom especially about healing and then make great progress through their journey of healing. Argentina, Europe and The United States Activated Charcoal is used to heal general stomach issues, food poisoning, and indigestion. Activated charcoal is included in The World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines for basic care. It has been used as an antidote to poison for centuries. Australia Drumming is also used in Australia. Aboriginal medicine men also use particular drumming rhythms to gain the same type of insight into dreams just as the shaman in Africa. However, unlike the shamans, the medicine men believe that the dreams themselves are the mediums for messages. Medicine men also use crystals to help the healing process, and also to gain insight into dreams they had. Asia Throughout Asia, many healing practices exist. One thing in common is that Asian cultures all recognize the importance of meditation. A few different ways of meditation throughout the countries include Qigong, Tai chi, tea drinking, and sitting silently. For instance, Japanese tea ceremonies are one of the most popular rituals. The ritual is known to have several healing benefits, physical and mental. Now modern science recognizes the nutritional benefits of tea. Canada and The United States Sage smudging is used for energy clearing, protection, and purification. It heals the home and the air after an argument, moving into a new home, beginning something new, and heals and protects your spiritual well-being. This is originally a Native American ritual. Open a window or door and light the sage so it creates a thick smoke. Then offer the sage to the four directions asking for a blessing or protection. Next fan the smoke over yourself or the space you wish to clear, drawing out all the negative energy. Be sure you end your smudging ritual at the door or window inviting all negative energy you just cleared to leave. Caribbean, Coastal Mexico, South America, and West Indies There are common ideals of healing traditions throughout this part of the world. Due to the abundance of fresh fruit available in these parts of the world, rituals to heal the body are able to be carried out frequently. Meditation is also recognized and practiced throughout this part of the world. Mayans were known for rituals that awakened senses in the body. These ritual traditions are still practiced today. In the Amazon, shamans call upon the spirits of native plants during healing rituals. This is a well-respected method that has helped maintain and restore human health for centuries. These indigenous people who live in the rainforests believe that showing respect for each plant and taking care of them is directly related to the healing journey. China, Egypt and Vietnam Fire Cupping Therapy is used in these areas to heal allergies, cold, inflammation, muscle tension, and also for respiratory issues. Cupping is an Eastern medicine form of healing. The practitioner lights a piece of cotton and places it inside a small glass container to remove all the oxygen. The container is applied to your bare skin, where suction is created as the air cools. Egypt, Morocco and Turkey Hammam is used in these countries for purification, relaxation, skin exfoliation, and even socialization. Islamic hammams, (sometimes called Turkish baths), are known for religious purification rituals. A traditional hammam has three connected rooms. There is one large room with windows and a slab of marble with running water, then two other rooms, one warm and one cool. They are separated into men's and women's rooms. First, you get a full body exfoliation. In the second room you are washed-hair and body and have tea and relax in the third room. Hawaii In Hawaii, healers and holy men (called kahunas) use native practices that help heal an individual’s physical and mental being. For example, the native Lomilomi massage is a native healing ritual. It has long, stroking movements which stimulates and drains lymphatic glands, while easing sore muscles. Not only is it a physical healing ritual, but it helps relax and heal the mind, soul, and spirit. Honey is also popular and has long been recognized for its topical healing properties. Not only used in Hawaii, but also used in numerous healing rituals throughout ancient Greece and Rome. India Ayurveda, originating in India, is one of the most well-known types of medical practices practiced today. Ayurveda is so plentiful that the rituals are be immeasurable. More people than ever are seeking the system of Ayurveda and the timeless practice of yoga. Modern studies of the healing qualities of harmonic sound also have resulted in the production of soothing Eastern and other soundtracks for various traditions of massage as well as the use of Tibetan singing bowls during massage and energy treatments. Also, gemstones are used to balance emotions and realign energy patterns. This therapy is not unique to India. Greek, Egyptian and Judaic societies also used gemstones. Indians believe that gemstones emit specific vibrations that promote healing. India, Israel and Thailand Feeding the poor daily is used for spiritual well-being and to heal one’s spirit. Feeding the poor every day is often a religious practice associated with self-purification and selfimprovement. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism all embrace this practice in various ways. Indonesia Jamu is used for Alzheimer's, arthritis, cancer fighting properties, inflammatory issues. Jamu's history has been traced back to the Indonesian island of Java. Influenced by Ayurveda, this mixture of herbal medicine is made from flowers, seeds, bark, leaves, roots, and honey with turmeric and ginger due to their antioxidant benefits and sold hot. Native Americans Native Americans are well-known for their rituals. Native Americans have always looked to their environment for healing. They have found the potential of different plants and other items around them and turned them into valuable resources. In addition to herbal remedies tribes used other ways to purify, cleanse, and continue the body. Some tribes used sweat lodges for this purpose. A sweat lodge is a dark and heated enclosure where a sick individual might be given an herbal remedy, smoke or rub themselves with sacred plants. Also, a healer might use healing practices to drive away angry spirits and invoke the healing powers of others. Other healing rituals involved whole communities. Participants would sing, dance, paint their bodies, and even sometimes use mind-altering substances to persuade the spirits to heal the sick person. Another practice is called burden baskets. Small, woven baskets are used as physical receptacles for worries, concerns and mental burdens. Native Americans would symbolically place their cares and burdens in the basket. The therapist would then remove the basket from the room and empty it. Each native would then enjoy the maximum healing benefit from their therapy. Thailand Releasing of Souls is practiced in Thailand as a way of healing the spirit as well as a type of spiritual merit of sorts. This Thai custom is rooted by way of Buddhism. During the dry season in the rice fields, as the wet areas would dry out, fish, turtles, and other aquatic animals would become trapped. To spare the creature's life and protect the food supply, the animals would be carried to the nearest river and released. In Thailand today, people still purchase fish or other animals and release them back into the river, saving their lives. People who do this are making a vow not to eat that kind of animal the rest of his or her life. Ritual Healing for Grief Our most vulnerable and difficult times in our lives is when we experience a loss. There are many types of loss. This may be the death of a friend or family member, getting a divorce, losing a job, a child getting married or going off to college (or leaving “the nest” in another way), retiring, a friend moving away, etc. During our times of loss, we need to grieve, and during these times we need healing rituals more than ever. Humans are creatures of habit. We tend to like things to stay the same. Even if we embrace change, we often have difficulties with it as it occurs, even if the change is positive. Of course, the death of a loved one is never considered a positive change. Depending on the relationship we have with the person who has died, we experience different levels of pain from unbearable to measurable that we may be able to begin dealing with. Eventually we end up with two choices. We can accept the change and begin to heal, or we can just shrivel up and die. We must realize that grief is normal, and it is part of the overall human experience. Research has shown that rituals have an impact on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Other experiments regarding the relationships between healing rituals and grief showed that people who engaged in a ritual after the death of a loved one or loss of a close relationship, felt less grief about the loss. In western culture, there are a limited number of cultural-wide healing rituals specifically for grieving. The only common rituals are funerals, wakes, and memorial services. Aside from these, there is nothing. Also, these rituals are only one-time ceremonies, and not repeated to continue the healing process. Examples of Grief Healing Rituals Here are some examples of personal healing rituals that might be used after a after a loss. Also, eventually creating your own healing rituals can help you work through times when you need to deal with your own grief. • Planning an activity around the loved one’s birthday or on an anniversary. • Carrying something special that reminds you of your loved one that you can take out and hold when you feel the need • Preparing and eating a special meal in honor of your loved one • Creating a scrapbook filled with photographs, notes, and cards or tangible items representing your relationship • Lighting a candle any time to represent your loved one’s spirit • Watching her or his favorite movie • Planting a tree or sponsoring something in your loved one’s name • Spending time listening to your loved one’s favorite music • Creating a music mix that reminds you of that person • Making a donation to a charity that he or she supported Creating Your Own Grief Ritual Beyond those rituals mentioned above, there are things you can do to help yourself begin the healing process. One of the most helpful things is to develop your own healing rituals. Here are some tips to get started: First, it is important to decide on a way to create and identify a definitive beginning and end of the ritual. Examples might be: • Lighting a special candle or incense used only for your ritual • Make a verbal proclamation announcing the beginning and the end • Singing a particular song or specific chant • Ring bell or beat a drum When you mark the beginning and the end, you will have an easier time entering a different state of mind and consciousness to promote healing. What Should You Do to Get Started? Take deep breaths to center your mind and body. Next, allow whatever comes. This may be crying or shouting. Express whatever you feel. If all you can do during the ritual is cry, that is okay. This healing ritual is for your benefit. This is your time to express your grief however you need to. You can plan one of the activities mentioned above, or you can set the time aside to do nothing. You may want to “communicate” with your loved one. You can talk aloud, write him or her a letter, scream, chant, or just meditate. You Don’t Have to Go It Alone Another approach you may consider is to invite others to your ritual. You could develop a group healing ritual for support from others who care about you. Also, you might create a healing ritual for a group who are all grieving the same loss. If you invite others to join you, you could ask each person to be prepared to share a memory or item to celebrate the loved one. Don’t Stop Healing Your healing rituals can be practiced as long and as often as you want. This is your grief and your time to help yourself begin to heal. You don’t have to practice just one ritual at a time. You can have several each day if that is what it takes for you to continue going forward. Your healing progress may eventually allow you to have these rituals less frequently. However, as you begin healing you may still find that you need the rituals just as much as in the beginning. That is okay. Still making other changes to your rituals may mean that your personal process through grief is progressing, and your rituals are helping you move away from chaos and pain toward wholeness and happiness. Healing Weakness When we feel like life has beaten us down, we live what seems to be a weakened version of ourselves. We think we have failed too many times. We have trouble holding on to a clear picture of our life. We cannot remember or visualize our life purposes and our most important intentions. If you feel as though you are living a weakened version of yourself, enact a ceremony to strengthen yourself. Find or create a symbol of strength. What do you think of when you think of strength? Then figure out something small that is tangible to represent strength. You can carry it keeping it in your pocket or wearing it as jewelry thinking “I am strong” as you remember its presence. Remind yourself to live powerfully. Healing Fear Get two small pillows, blankets, rugs, or anything that you can think of to place side by side on the floor. If you don’t have two of the same items, they don’t have to be identical. Place the items about six inches apart. Stand at the edge of one of the objects facing the second one. Imagine that you are standing at the edge of a cliff, top of a building, or some other high place with a large drop in between you and the second object. Feel the depth of that gorge and how terrifying it would be to fall that far down in between. But as deep and as terrifying as that gorge is, it only takes a small step to cross it. Take that small step across to the second object. Think to yourself that many of your fears are like this after you have arrived safely on the other side. A given fear may run deep and may have run deep for years. Performing this ritual can help remind you that there is no real danger any longer, that you can step right over it by using this ceremonial bridge. This ritual, like many others, is one that you can come back to as many times as you want to heal your existing fears and conquer new ones. Healing Chaos Many of us operate under constant chaos. We hurry along all day from place to place like a tornado, going to work, dropping off and picking up kids, cooking dinner, doing laundry, paying bills, etc. It seems impossible to stay calm and centered during this time. Each day take some time to heal yourself from the chaos. Get a snow globe, or if you can’t get one make one (you can find directions for homemade snow globes on the internet-very easy construction). Shake up the snow globe. Take a deep breath, and then begin to watch the flakes fall and settle. As you are watching this, think about how settled you are becoming or how calm you are. If that doesn’t suit you, pick your own phrase that you can say, even out loud if you wish, that calms you. You can perform this ritual as often as you like. Healing Regrets Everybody is filled with regrets. All of us regret missed opportunities, wasted time, broken relationships, angry words, and other things we all wish we could go back and change. Not only the times we failed ourselves, but also when we failed others or at least their expectations. The regret healing ritual is very powerful and one of the easiest rituals to perform. However, it is a healing ritual that can be very freeing to the soul. Get a piece of paper. Write down one regret on that paper. Fold or crinkle up the paper in your hand, and then rip the paper to shreds. Toss the shreds in the air while saying or thinking that you are through with that regret. Obviously, this is another ceremony you will want to repeat many times. The most effective is to write down one regret per piece of paper. Healing Sadness Sadness can be a simple or more complicated emotion. Sometimes sadness also has hopelessness or another emotion along with it, but it is still sadness. When this is the case, we need to try to separate the emotions and heal each of them contributing to the sadness. For example, if you feel hopeless too, try to heal the hopelessness. Take yourself for a “hope walk” or light some candles and meditate praying for hope. When we are sad, hopelessness often comes along with it. Other feelings that often come along with sadness are anger, worry, and boredom. When these such emotions go together most of the time, you may end up with chronic sadness. You can have rituals for each of these emotions separately, including sadness, and deal with each of them as they come. Healing Rituals on Behalf of Others Healing rituals can be done on behalf of others. An ill family member or friend does not have to be present for you to do this ritual. In many traditions, it is customary to at least ask permission before conducting a healing ritual. However, it is often acceptable to assume you have implied permission. Simply put, if you believe in good faith that the individual would want you to perform a ritual to help them heal, you can probably go ahead and do so without specifically asking for their approval. One exception is that if the person has a terminal illness he or she may not want to live longer. They may just want to die and end the pain. However, someone who is ill but not terminal may want an end to their pain, but not have to die to get there. They may just want to enjoy a faster healing process. Deities Associated With Healing There are specific deities associated with ritual healing. Feel free to incorporate them in your ritual. • Celtic: Airmed, Brighid, Maponus, Sirona • Greek: Artemis, Apollo, Aesclepius, Hygaiea, Panacaea • Norse: Eir • Roman: Bona Dea, Febris, Vejovis • Egyptian: Heka, Isis • Yoruba: Aja, Babalu Aye You May Want to Include Some of These Other Following Items In Your Ritual: • Candles − representing people in the ritual, participants and loved one − maybe tealight or votive, and different colors to represent different participants • − small type that you can have very near you − other candles that may represent deities Healing incense − well-known healing varieties − allspice, apple, lemon, cinnamon • Blankets and Pillows − Help comfort the loved one if he or she is present − Comforting for the participants, especially during longer rituals • Memorabilia − Pictures of your loved one, even if they are still alive and present at ritual − Music your loved one enjoys or enjoyed − Cards, letters, or notes that you or other participants exchanged with loved one Example Short General Healing Ritual There are many options how to assembly everybody. You might begin by having everybody sitting in a circle. If the loved one is alive and present, you might have him or her sit or stand in the middle of the circle. You could also begin by sitting in a “squared circle,” (a circle with four points typically used in Pagan rituals). Take a few moments to go around the circle one at a time talking about your loved one. As you talk about the loved one you and share memorabilia, you can then meditate about what you really wish for your friend or for your own healing. Once you have finished, allow the candles to burn out on their own if possible. Other Signature Healing Rituals Chanting Chanting is known to be used as part of rituals. There are chants in ancient languages, or light languages of power, for instance Sanskrit, that are thought to carry more potency as they are closer to the source. Words can divide and at the same time be a pathway to divinity. Sacred chants alter your physicality and your surroundings. There are many chants to learn and master over time. And over time I started to learn different chants. Once you master a chant it will come naturally to your consciousness in times you need to comfort yourself or others. Also, mantras don’t have to be external. You can chant internally to calm yourself when you are in a particularly explosive or confrontational situational situation. One of the simplest chants is the mantra of repeating “Om Om” for several minutes at least. Continue for as long as you need to. Once you have mastered how and when to chant that mantra, you can move on to other mantras. You may want to pick up a book about chanting or look up some other mantras on the internet. Water Healing Rituals Offering Ceremony The offering ceremony is a very common water healing ritual. The first step is to bring an offering to the water. Bring an offering that means something to you; something natural, such as a stone or a seashell. Regardless of what type of water you are visiting (river, pond, lake, stream, or ocean) you should pray and express gratitude for the healing and abundant flow of the water. You can either throw your object into the water or dig a hole near the edge of the water and bury your object. Offer your prayers for the health of the water and for what healing experience you are trying to have. Feel your prayers being answered by seeping into the water and flowing to wherever the watercourse takes them. Sacred Water Healing Your mission here is to heal water that you think has become polluted. First, you collect rainwater or even melted snow in a glass jar. Use a quartz crystal. Place it in the jar and allow it to sit 10 days. During this time, keep it in a place where it won’t be disturbed. Every day, pray and send your healing thoughts into the water twice per day, preferably morning and evening. At the end of the tenth day, carry the jar to a body of water. If you want, let the crystal flow out of the jar into the water. If you wish to keep your crystal, place a cloth over the jar and pour the water through the cloth. As you pour the water, imagine you are pouring water of compassion into the watercourse. This jar of water became healing medicine and will begin to heal the water. Visualize the blessed water spreading out like a huge cloud, transforming all the water it mixes with. If you want to share this with others or get help, then invite other people. The other people you invite can also bring glass jars with quartz crystals and say prayers. You can say them together aloud or separately alone. This could also be very effective as a healing ritual if the entire community got together. At the same time, you already have the group together, you can hold or participate in other healing rituals for loved ones. The healing power grows when more people are involved. Immersion Healing Find a place where the water seems especially clean and welcoming. You may do this ritual clothed or not. First, pray at the edge of the water for your healing. your perfect vibrations to flow into your blood, your cells, your organs. Imagine as you are stepping into the water and submerging yourself, that the water will flow through you as if you are a net, taking with it all of the impurities that have held back your health. Immerse yourself up to your neck for as long as you can. If the water is too cold, staying in only a minute is fine. In this minute, imagine that your cells have been transformed. Thank the water for the healing and the process that has been allowed. Next, wrap yourself in something warm. Dry yourself and leave an offering (something natural) at the edge of the water to show your appreciation. Conclusion Remember, we often practice small rituals every day without realizing it. As for those rituals we want to change our lives, remember, what the ritual symbolizes is something more important than the actual ritual itself. In other words, don’t get too caught up in the tiny details of the ritual (what color candle, which blanket, pond vs lake, etc.) rather than what you are trying to accomplish. Rituals give a purpose and connect us to something greater than ourselves. We may hold or participate in rituals as we seek to reach a goal or particular outcome as often as we feel it necessary.