What do you think when you hear the word ritual? You may think of grand ceremonies with nude people dancing around a large flame. You may think of something smaller, like sitting around a few candles on your bedroom floor with crystals scattered around on the night of a full moon. While those are some ways people go about their ritualistic practice, a ritual in itself is not about aesthetics; it’s about intention.
A ritual is something done consistently to gain a desired outcome. Rituals don’t have to be some grand ordeal; they can be as simple as having a cup of tea every morning. While rituals can include worship of higher powers or wealth increase, I’m going to introduce you to the ways you can use rituals in your own self-care practice.
Every day, I am learning that my spiritual well-being is as important as my physical well-being. I believe social media may have taught us that a face mask and a bubble bath is the one and only way to do self-care, but true self-care goes beyond the physical. I use rituals to enhance my view of myself, the world, and others, so that I can go about my day feeling comfortable living in my truth. My truth will look different from the next person’s, but for the sake of this article, I’ll give you an example.
I know that I am a creative being that expresses herself through writing, fashion, and adventure. I may meet a person down the line who thinks my writing or fashion sucks, which is their own valid opinion. Another day, I may have writer’s block, or only wear sweatpants and a stained t-shirt for a week. If I am neglecting my spiritual practice or rituals, I may fall into believing that I am not a creative being, just a boring, dull person. To work through this I start my ritual with a cleanse. I smoke cleanse my space with whatever I have on hand, sometimes I crush dried lavender and rosemary. (I do have to add, if you are smoke cleansing please use materials that are ethically sourced and appropriate to your culture and practice.) After I cleanse my space I light my anointed black or white candles for protection and call the presence of my ancestors. Once I can feel that my space is protected, it’s time to cleanse myself by taking a shower or bath and visualizing all stagnant energy leaving my energy space to free up my creative block. After that I hydrate, put on clothes that make me feel good, and dance around my room. I’ve found that dancing to my native music like bachata or twerking it out truly releases any blocks within me. If I continue to practice my rituals, I will be strong enough to not let those things blind me from the truth. Your own personal truths are still true, even if someone else doesn’t think so; it is up to you to decide what kind of life to live.
I am on a journey of self, which means that I am not looking for ascension or trying to become my “best self,” but am looking to honor each phase of life I am in, even if that doesn’t look pretty. My main goal is to be able to flow like water through life without letting intrusive thoughts tell me I am unworthy of my desired reality. It’s easier said than done, but it’s the small actions that create a massive impact. While I am a fan of extravagant rituals that take hours to complete, I know that the real work starts from within. Let me share ways you can turn small, everyday tasks into magic, and how to bring rituals into your everyday life.
Discover Your Desired Reality
The first step to any lifestyle change or transformation is asking yourself what it is you truly want. You will need to go deeper than what you see on the surface. For example, if you want to be a more compassionate person, why do you want that? If you want to be a morning person, what will that bring you? Why do you want to be the person you desire? Is it out of love for yourself, or are you trying to become someone others will like more? Be as honest as possible. At the end of the day, it is your life.I am not here to tell you what kind of life you should be living, but I will tell you to be true to you.
It is okay if you don’t know what you want or who you want to be; the beauty of self discovery is that there's no “starting point.” We are constantly living in a state of self discovery. We learn what we do and don’t like in everyday life. Put yourself out there and try new things; see what feels good and what doesn’t! When starting your ritual planning, write down this reality in the present, as if you already have it.
Ask Yourself “Why?”
The next step is asking yourself why you think you haven’t reached such a reality yet. Is there a blockage physically, emotionally, or mentally? You need to become aware of what is setting you back in order to move forward. When prepping for your ritual, state how you will release these blockages and actively work towards releasing them everyday.
Let’s use the example of wanting to love yourself more, but you have an emotional and mental blockage that tells you that you aren’t worthy of love. First of all, that’s not true--fuck that voice in your head. Second, you will need to realize that this is a conditioned belief that probably started ages ago. You have two options from here: you can do your shadow work, or you can go straight into change.
Shadow work is where you look into your past to find the root of the issue, and then work towards changing or accepting that. It’s done best with the help of a mental health professional or spiritual counselor; going back into past trauma alone can be traumatic in itself. I personally started my shadow work alone, but that does not work for everybody. Now, I work with my therapist, and it has been a lot better for me along with my spiritual practice.
The second option is to just skip the shadow work and jump into change. There is nothing wrong with this option because shadow work isn’t for everyone. Once you’ve decided you want to love yourself more, it’s now time to create a plan to prove it to yourself. You’ll need to identify the ways you self sabotage and counteract that. If you tend to neglect your emotions and/or ignore them with distractions such as social media, sex, substance abuse etc. You’ll need to find ways that help you express those emotions. Whether you allow yourself the space to cry, journal, or see a mental health professional, it’ll all be a step in the right direction. Everyday will be a challenge but as time goes on the challenge will get easier and soon be seen as an enjoyable act of self love.
Now that we are ready for change, it’s time to explore our options. My favorite way of loving myself more is dating myself! Find out the ways you want to be loved and give it to yourself. Personally, I need words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, and I always love a good gift. Knowing this, I make time to take myself on dates, speak nice words to myself, hug myself, and get myself random treats. You don’t have to be single to date yourself because this act is an act of prioritizing yourself and putting your wellbeing into your own hands.
One of the most important steps is to take accountability for the ways you have strayed yourself from this desired reality, and forgive the person you have been in the past. If there is anyone worthy of forgiveness in your life, it’s you. You have the option to do this verbally, or just think it for as long as you need. You could say something along the lines of this: “I forgive myself for all the ways I have let myself down in the past.” Another powerful way I love to do this is writing a letter to my past self and writing all the ways I am sorry, along with all I am proud of her for.
Figure Out Your Intention
Intention is everything! Your intention for your ritual needs to be as clear as possible. Get very specific; the last thing you want is to manifest something you don’t actually want. For example if you want peace of mind, write down something like, “I live in peace and clarity. I attract all that brings me peace of mind and release all that doesn’t.”
Now here is the hard part: don’t worry about the how, because once you start putting up those expectations, the harder it will be to attract. You want to leave room for the universe to work its magic, because this universe isn’t binary, and the possibilities are endless. One of the first things I’ve learned during my practice is to cast that spell, then forget about it. In this case, it may be to manifest that thing and then forget about it. This doesn’t mean to completely forget about what you want, but it means not to dwell on it. You don’t want to place your happiness on the thing you want to attract, because happiness is fleeting. You don’t want to come from a place of lack, or a place where you believe you will never be happy without that thing. Work towards your goal, but don’t give up all your power in the pursuit of happiness.
Create a routine and/or plan that ritual
Now it is time to put in the work. The way I choose to go about this is to start with a ritual ceremony I’ve catered to my way of doing things. Then, I have a routine that benefits my intention after said ritual. This doesn’t have to be complicated; as I’ve said , these tips are for everyday people. Make time everyday or every week dedicated to your intention. Here are some examples:
How I incorporate rituals into my life
I’m going to be honest: I am terrible at consistency. I find it hard to stick to a routine, especially with Bipolar II disorder, and just being an ever-changing Gemini. But it’s comforting to know that I will always have my practice to come back to. It’s not always about doing these things everyday, but knowing you have tools, and using them when needed. For instance, I have incorporated rituals into my hygiene routine. Whenever I feel like I need it, as I shower or wash my face, I visualize all stagnant energy washing away from my aura. Then, as I moisturize, I send the energy of nourishment into my body and to my heart's center. When I drink tea, I speak whatever intention I am feeling into it, and I walk with that intention throughout my day. And, most importantly for me, I come back to my grounding yoga practice that allows my body, mind, and soul to just free flow.
Among these things, I also journal…a lot. I always have so much to say, but I don’t always say it. I give myself tarot readings, surrounded by candle light and frankincense. I dance wildly after my moon rituals for the simple fact that it feels good. My rituals allow me to feel free, even when I am so consumed by society. My rituals remind me that there is so much more to life than what we see. My rituals remind me that I am my home, no matter where I go.
I hope that incorporating rituals into your everyday lives makes you feel as free as I do. Prioritizing yourself is the ultimate form of self love, and I am so proud of how far you’ve come. If no one has told you today, I love you, I see your progress, and I hope you keep living life radically free.
About the Author
Ariel is a nineteen-year-old, latinx second generation American journalist/writer. As a witchcraft practitioner and spiritualist she focuses on diving into the world of the occult and sharing their stories. Along with that, she enjoys writing personal essays and short story fiction. Ariel is a certified bookworm, tree-hugger, and anime lover.
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