Malidoma Patrice Somé, in his book Ritual: Power, Healing and Community writes that he had trouble explaining to the elders in his tribe in West Africa why Westerners are running after things that are not actively running away from them; why Westerners are always busy, rushing from one thing to another, with a shortage of time (a concept Somé’s elders could not understand). The only way one elder could understand the “running toward” things that aren’t running away from us (work, home, school, etc) was that Westerners are, in fact, running away from something else. That “something else” might be the unresolved emotions in our lives and the pain of shame in our culture.
Many of us don’t have conscious ritual in our daily life because we have not been handed ritual by our culture, but also because it is too painful to slow down during our day to do rituals. If we slow down, our unresolved emotions might catch up with us: in our industrialized world, we can tend to be constantly rushing toward work, home, social situations, meals and emails so that we can move away from our difficult emotions.
Slowing down and being in ritual go hand-in-hand:
- having the tools of ritual offers a safety net when we slow down; and
- we need to slow down in order to set an intention and to savor a ritual.
In order to do our personal work (through meditation, self-compassion practice, therapy, contemplation, etc) we need to be able to slow down and tend to the kinds of rituals that will help us hold and midwife to completion our unresolved emotions. In fact, the only kind way to slow down and tend to our unresolvedness is to have tools of ritual to support us.
Self-compassion rituals can make slowing down bearable. For many of us, the promise of self-compassion makes sitting in meditation with our troubled minds accessible. Self-compassion practices make the journey into the difficult places in our psyches and our bodies one we can feel adequately tooled up to embark on.
Ritual as Emotional First Aid
Self-compassion rituals can replace impulse and habitual reactions to difficult emotions and experiences. When we have done some personal work and we have some understanding of our habitual survival responses, we have the opportunity to travel with self-compassion ritual tools and practices we have prepared in advance. We can pull our tools of self-compassion out of our kit when we need them. We can look to some of these rituals of self-care to tend to us whenever we need to.
Ritual as Healing
Somé writes that the difference between indigenous folks and industrialized folks may well be speed and machines. Indigenous folks often have no concept of time, and they look while industrialized folks, in their haste and speed, overlook. Indigenous folks have no barrier between themselves and the spirits of their ancestors; industrialized folks have a plethora of machines between them and Spirit.
However, many of us in the industrialized world have heard the call of our soul seeking something different, a life with more depth and meaning. Many of us who carry wounds from our story seek ritual. Our body calls out for ritual as a way to address our shame and Spirit calls us forward to release our gifts and strengths in the world. Ritual can be the process by which we become empowered. We seek creative processes to help us grieve and dream. We seek ways to honor our past and midwife our soul into the future, becoming more empowered.
Malidoma Somé suggests that there is an indigenous archetype in many industrialized folks. He writes: “This indigenous archetype within the modern soul is an archetype that is in serious need of acknowledgment within the person. A different set of priorities dwells there, a set of priorities long forgotten in higher cultures. People in touch with this archetype are in search of caring, for their spirit seeks to transcend the stress placed on the body and the mind by the rapid motion of everyday life around them.” Self-compassion practice might be one way we can safely connect with this indigenous archetype.
Self-compassion practices are rituals – the more we can slow down our experience and remember to do self-compassion practices, the more we’ll get in touch with that indigenous archetype. If you’ve ever sensed a hint of the distress awaiting you if you slow down, you have an inroad that leads to the imperative of getting in touch with the self-compassionate part of you. Those places we don’t want to slow down to visit, the places our impulses are chasing us away from, are our portals to the indigenous archetype who cares less for clocks and to-do lists and more for the reclamation of our authenticity and joy. In Somatic Self-Compassion Online we explore our own personal self-compassion rituals. I hope I see you on that path.
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- What is Radical Emergent Self-Wisdom? - November 9, 2019
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- Midwifing Our Emotions: Thawing a Freeze Response with Somatic Self-Compassion - October 30, 2019