Ritually Speaking

WORDS by Michael Joseph

Published Tuesday 17 May 2016

I remember as a boy sitting in Church listening to the priest ramble on. I would barely remember what he talked about. In between the rumbles we would sing hymns about a god I never met with people I hardly knew. We didn't have smartphones then so I have no idea how we got through it all but I do remember checking my pulse now & then to see that I hadn't died of boredom.

This was my initiation to Ritual & as far as I was concerned it sucked! When I hit my teens all of a sudden the annual Christmas family 'ritual' that I used to get excited about became the most embarrassing thing on the planet. I would groan from beginning to end. Everything seemed so contrived & tacky. Had I changed or the ritual itself?

In my adult life, training as a Yoga Teacher was wonderful until, that is, we had to chant Om or is it UM? What is it?! Why are we doing this?! I would sit with other chanters who LOVED to chant. They would even smile as they did it. I didn't. They smelt like patchouli & a pot plant, I smelt like Armani. I'm supposed to be a yoga Teacher, what's wrong with me?

It was only until recently when I was lamenting about this to Ana Forrest, a well-known & highly regard medicine woman & yoga teacher from the USA, that I realised I got it all wrong. Ritual is crucially important for my wellbeing. To celebrate Ritual is my birthright & should not be reliant on any religion or other people. Her words were, 'See yourself as sacred' I remember those words went through me like a lightning bolt. I was very moved & totally inspired.

So what is Ritual & why is it so important?

Ritual is really all about self-awareness. Ritual invites us to stop, relieve ourselves from our roles temporarily, to focus on the strength & power that lies within us. Whether we simply do a yoga pose, meditate, light a candle or focus on our breath, we are sending a powerful message to the universe that we are ready to experience our strength & power within. Your own breathe can be transformed into a ceremony. In fact I was performing Ritual all the time, we all are, I just wasn't aware of it.

After my wakeup call from Ana & having reclaimed my right to Ritual, I walked up Mount Kosciusko, the tallest mountain in Australia, with my partner, which I turned into a Ritual ...of course!

The Ritual of MovementWhether you do yoga, lift weights or run you can transform this into Ritual by slowing things down & becoming more present in what you are doing. Feeling every muscle as you work them. Focus on the sound of your breath & try to match every movement with your breath. Exhale on effort always & make sure to rest afterwards & ‘feel’ your body melt into healing.

The Ritual of BreathSitting comfortably, close your eyes & bring your attention to your nose. Feel the coolness on the inhale & warmth on the exhale. Notice the gentle rise & fall of your belly. Notice on the exhale how your body seems to melt & soften. Take a few moments to do this everyday. You can even do this standing. It’s a Ritual that pulls you out of reaction & more into responding & creativity.

The Ritual of StillnessConsciousness, a scientific term, sits within every atom in our body, waiting to be witnessed & harnessed for our own good. The Ritual of stillness helps call these parts of us forward. Lying down, close your eyes & try & feel your body as trillions of atoms all oscillating, changing, shifting. Feel waves of this atomic energy cleansing, rinsing & healing the entire body. The body is hardwired to do this. It just requires our stillness.

The Ritual of NatureSometimes walking in nature, slowly, with reverence & mindfulness, is the best way to recharge your whole body. Nature too is made up of trillions of atoms and every inhale we pull in consciousness & potential from the natural world around us. Every exhale we release those atoms back to nature that no longer serve us. Try & ‘taste’ the air or feel the body being supported by water.