With the arrival of November, we move into a time of the greatest darkness. Throughout the ages the darkness was celebrated and balanced by bringing in light with a myriad of familiar holidays and rituals extending through the new year. This year we have new challenges – how to safely celebrate, avoiding travel and large gatherings, while weaving in traditions we know and love. We can spare only a moment to grieve for times passed, then, though weary of living with restrictions, courageously step forward finding new and creative ways to thrive in this new reality.
At the physical level, the level of the limbic brain, we might decide that this year is about surviving. We opt for small gatherings of those in our quarantine bubble, dropping off favorite foods and treats to older relatives at home or visiting them through the windows of their nursing homes. We organize friends or families to gather on Zoom to celebrate special days, share recipes and lift a glass of champagne. We connect by watching favorite movies while chatting online. These strategies can feel more like coping and less than satisfying. Missing past celebrations, we manage to get through the days feeling lost, alone and empty.
As shamans we know that merely surviving is not enough. Instead we must HOLD THE LIGHT, the primordial Ti, stay centered and grounded through ritual, meditation, prayers and positive thoughts. More than ever we need the defining comfort of ceremony in our lives and the lives of those around us. Engaging in ceremony inspires us to actively participate and fully experience our journey through the months to come.
Remembering that we were made for these times, we accept the challenge of leading ourselves and those around us through these dark times by embodying the light. We answer the call to create and lead rituals that help to release anger, remorse and sadness and bring in joy, gratitude and thankfulness. Active involvement in ceremony helps us to step beyond our own emotions and self-awareness to experience oneness. As we step into bliss, time seems to stand still, and we access our god-brains and help heal the world.
Perhaps you might create a seasonal altar for your family, friends or community. Begin by opening sacred space and encourage each person to place an object or word on one side of the altar that reminds them of times past. Then allow each person to name something they are grateful for and place that on the other side of altar. Leave the altar out so that more memories and gratitude can be added. This can be done on Zoom by having the altar-keeper place the items for each person.
Creating despachos is another beautiful way to infuse meaning and ritual into the day to day. Considering bringing in the Winter Solstice with a bang – create a forum for poetry, art and fire. Celebrate Rites of Passage that often go unattended like job losses, divorce, menopause and moves. Remember to also celebrate new things on the horizon. Celebrate each new moon with great love and attention. Reach out to even just one person and have a special fire ceremony by burning what they want to release and welcome what is coming—even if it’s only with a candle over Zoom, WhatsApp or Facetime. Let your imagination be your guide.
By creating ceremony we help those around us to bypass fear and anxiety from the emotionally laden limbic brain and become still and engage their god-brain. Located in the prefrontal cortex, the god-brain is our link to the future and our key to enlightenment. When engaging in ceremony our god-brain is fully awakened and we have the ability to access our highest forms of intelligence and creativity while remaining grounded and effective. We understand who we are in the world, and how to survive and thrive no matter what life throws at us.
Stepping into service to all, what ceremonies will you create this season?
Alberto Villoldo, PhD