Why We Need Ceremony & RitualNov 18, 2023
How do you stay centered and expand into your greatest self, your greater medicine?
How do we as a human collective stay centered and expand into our greater medicine?
And how do we do so, even through times of great pressure or pain?
These have been sacred questions in my life since the early 2000s, largely out of necessity, and I propose that these are key contemplations to prioritize and explore in our work as alchemical leaders and systems healers.
From reckoning with the devastating ecological and cultural consequences of Disconnection Consciousness during my undergrad and masters while also grappling with my beloved dad’s death to navigating a 12-year recovery after my near-fatal accident, these questions were never philosophical curiosities. They were strategic lifelines that continually helped me find my way.
Over and over, these questions brought me to the power of ceremony and ritual.
(But let’s start with some definitions because, omg, we’re confused.)
As Wayfinders who have worked with me since 2020 know, I have a strong opinion that there are meaningful distinctions between the words “ceremony” and “ritual”, which are unhelpfully used interchangeably in the mainstream all the time with little understanding of either. Having attended, designed, and held hundreds of rituals and ceremonies in the past 20 years and having contemplated the power (and lack thereof) behind ceremonies and rituals for decades, here’s how I’ve come to understand and define them.
I regard both ceremony and ritual as intentionally designed, symbolic experiences to evoke energetic states and make meaning.
They are similar in that they are both portals to a vibrational state of being and an associated consciousness, yet the distinction arises in the energetic states and consciousness they help us access. (Did I lose you at “vibrational state of being”? This matters in our leadership, teams, and lives since everything we do and think arises from the states of being and worldviews that we cultivate. Want to change systems in a lasting, meaningful way? To truly do so and not be enacting transformation theater, we need to change and maintain the changes in our embodied states of being, how we conduct power, and our worldviews.)
(Photo of Alchemical Leadership quest altar (2021)
1️⃣ ⚡️I see CEREMONIES as intentionally designed portals for TRANSFORMATION to help us contact and experience a wholly new energetic state for the first time.
Eg: A rite of passage ceremony, a vision fast, a plant medicine ceremony, some weddings are held in this way, etc. At their best, ceremonies prepare us to shed a part of our Shadow Power, clearing space so that we may touch the void/mystery (*the only source of where anything truly new comes from), and access a new embodied state that expands our consciousness and our capacity to conduct Power that Serves the Whole. This is why I’ve been a devoted rites of passage guide since 2008 and why everything I offer at Wayfinding is a rite of passage or ceremony. Ceremony is an incomparable portal to expansion and growth.
Ceremonies require that we let go of our rational minds in order to open to the unknown and experience ourselves, life, and others in fresh, visceral ways. In this way, ceremonies are not just the mechanism by which we transform spiritually, but they are the heart of culture repair aligned with nature’s principles on all scales. And btw, experience design isn’t necessarily ceremony design.
2️⃣ ✨By contrast, I see RITUALS as intentionally designed symbolic experiences to help us return to a KNOWN energetic state (aka one that we’ve already experienced).
Eg: a gratitude ritual, prayers or blessings before eating food, welcome rituals into one’s home, etc. They reinforce that which we hold dear to our center — whether it’s made of Power that Serves the Whole, Shadow Power, or a mix of both. Once we’ve touched something new through an expanded state in a ceremony, rituals help us incorporate (literally bring into the corpus, the body) the state we touched as part of our being in daily life. Sadly, this step to land the learnings in the bones is often overlooked or underutilized after ceremony by many practitioners, coaches, and guides.
Ceremonies and rituals are interrelated and we need both to stoke an invigorating flow of Power that Serves the Whole across all scales of life.
When held well (aka with deep understanding of the mechanics that govern how we connect the seen and unseen realms), they bring untold amounts of clarity, aliveness, love, joy, connection, purpose, inspiration, and the multifaceted beauty of Power that Serves the Whole into the world. They are the lifeblood of culture and creativity in many ways and in my perspective, we can only have true culture repair and regeneration through Ceremony & Ritual Power – including at work. For example, I lead and run my business from the expansion and rooting I source through ceremony and ritual.
Simple Actions & Reflections
- Where are you in need of the invigorating expansion of ceremony and where are in need of the centering support of ritual as you sense into the ecosystem of your life? You can ask this same question at the scale of relationship, family, organization, and community.
- How could you make your holidays more meaningful or nourishing?
- If you want to support designing rituals that are conducive to your aliveness and aligned with nature's principles, learn more about Vital Leadership.
Due to the rising longing in the collective to experience the power of ceremonies and rituals as I’ve defined them and consistent interest in how I understand, hold, and design both ceremonies and rituals, I’m significantly evolving my service offerings in 2024 for you heart-centered, multidimensional leaders. I’m excited to share the evolution in time, but if there’s a Wayfinding offering you’ve been eyeing and haven’t stepped into, now is a good time as things have started to shift and will change in big ways soon.
I hope you found these perspectives on ceremony and ritual helpful and that they spark inspired action as you head into the holidays.
Wishing you well, wholeheartedly,
Join the Wayfinding Community
Sign up for insights about embodying and stewarding Power that Serves the Whole at work