The Healing Power of Ritual - Part 1

Today, religion and ritual reside in the margins of our daily life, and the Western soul yearns for a deeper relationship with life. Despite the rise in secular and scientific attitudes, on a personal level, we crave something more than what the mechanics of a non-spiritual life can offer. The conscious mind, despite common presumptions otherwise, is only a part of who we are or how we think. Rituals offer us ways to go beyond the abilities of the conscious mind in order to release, cleanse, nourish, and balance our psyche, soul, and relationships. As with Carl Jung’s use of active imagination, through Ritual, we bypass our conscious, rational minds to access our intuitive heart and soul intelligence.

The modern West needs rituals. Even more than the occasional cultural rituals, such as Thanksgiving or Prom Night, the West needs and craves embodied moments that allow us to open the doors and windows of our inner being to ventilate, sweep out, organize, and beautify. With spiritual or mythic Ritual (with a capital “r”), our body, mind, and heart are brought in alignment, allowing us to gain insight from and create influence upon the subtle dimensions of reality—where we access higher wisdom. Ritual takes us closer to the source of our being, where we can clear and shift things more easily to change the material reality. Like swimming upstream to discover what’s causing a barrage of debris to pollute a river, we can access our being at the subtle energy level to make “upstream” changes to improve our lives at all levels, including the emotional and physical domains.

Peruvian shamans understand that Ritual is not about having power over, but rather, becoming empower through or with the Sacred. Through an attitude of reciprocation and balance (Ayni), we access our spiritual power, and our own channel to the divine forces that can inform, enrich, and heal our lives. This is about reclaiming our personal and direct relationship with the power of creation, and joining many others in becoming a co-creator of our reality. Ritual is a creative experience. In earnest ritual, we let the world and its judgments slip to our peripheral vision and our focus slip into a place of connection to the universe, the Divine, or our truest selves—becoming co-creative partners with the Sacred. Sacred Ritual engages our mind, body, and soul for our greater well-being.

     In simple terms, Ritual is a personal act with transpersonal intent. This means that we use our body in a way that is infused with an intention to reach beyond the mundane space/time of the material world. We seek guidance, connection, healing, power, or inspiration from a source deeper or higher than that of our conscious minds. Ritual works at multiple levels, including the level of our energy bodies. It is part of the material world, but at a very subtle level. The concept of an energy body and the Sanskrit term chakra (wheel) are widely known today throughout the West, but many people don’t realize that the concept of a light body, including meridians and spiraling centers of light can be found throughout shamanic and mystical traditions across the globe.

Working with this luminous body is at the heart of shamanism, and Ritual. Thus, in addition to the emotional and psychological value found in performing Rites, Ritual is one means of gaining direct access to the flow of creative energy that is universally recognized and accessed by mysticism. We know this living energy by many names, including Qi, Chi, Tao, Reiki, Prana, Mana, the Holy Spirit, and in Peruvian shamanism, Kawsay. The soul is even more subtle than the light body, but by working at the light body level, we are working more upstream, or reaching beyond the patterns of our physical body, mind, and energetic pool. Through Ritual, we can access the subtle world of living energy to clear and shift imprints that are restricting or distorting our lives. When we do what we call soul work, we are working at this deeper energetic level.  Gay Wolff ph.d.