When I lived in San Francisco in 1980, I was introduced to shamanic ceremonies. I loved this practice, which taught me how to receive my own spiritual guidance by traveling outside of time and space to meet with helping and compassionate spirits.
Using the ancient power of ceremony, shamans move beyond ordinary thinking into unseen realms, which are filled with great beauty and spiritual healing energies that can empower our lives. In these realms, shamans can see disharmonious energy patterns that need to be rebalanced in order to improve the health of people and the planet. And it is also through ceremony that shamans receive guidance on how to restore harmonious energies—from the natural world, helping spirits, and their own inner wisdom.
In shamanic teachings, every spiritual act we perform is a ceremony. When we recognize the sacredness of each moment, miracles happen. During the early 1980s, as I explored the many facets of shamanism, I was drawn to creating shamanic ceremonies to heal my past and to manifest what my soul desired.
Creating sacred ceremonies during seasonal and lunar transitions helps us navigate changes within and without. It is important to celebrate the sunrise, sunset, new and full moon, and seasonal changes as connected rather than separate. When we observe changes in the quality of light between the sunrise and sunset, or the changing phases of the moon and seasons, we reconnect to a sense of organic flow—how all life experiences are woven together. Here are some simple practices to get you started:
Connect with Nature’s Flow
Stand in nature. Close your eyes, and notice in your body how everything is moving and flowing.
When I was growing up, I used to watch cartoons of the sun, trees, and plants singing and dancing gracefully. This is actually what occurs in nature. Every season, lunar cycle, and transition is part of a great flow. Feel this flow as you rock back and forth and from side to side.
Once you enter this state, you can join the flow of life rather than trying to control it. Nature’s flow cannot be controlled. Once you learn how to surrender and move with it—when you walk with the flow of life instead of against it—health returns on all levels. Bringing a ceremonial frame of mind to your time in nature infuses the simplest acts with sacredness.
Observe the Seasons
No matter where you live, you experience the four phases of the changing seasons. You can observe alterations in the landscape, migration patterns of birds, and appearances of certain animals. Witness the death of older life forms in autumn and winter giving rise to new plants, trees, flowers, and baby beings in spring and summer.
Become attuned to times of the year when nature is more expansive and expressive and times when growth around us slows down—when nature lets go of the old and turns within for regeneration. Discover how the light changes at these different times of the year. Notice how the texture and quality of the air feel different as the seasons flow into one another. This will help you to reflect on your personal cycles so you can align with seasonal changes, within and without.
During seasonal changes, bring your ceremonial work to your favorite place, and sing, write letters to the earth, and receive messages of deep wisdom. For example, if you live near an ocean, try performing a ceremony on the shore. The ocean is a powerful source of love and wisdom. There is so much to learn by watching the ocean, listening to the sound of the waves, smelling the salt in the air, and feeling the humidity. Standing with bare feet on the sand while performing a ceremony in which people sing to the ocean, talk to it, and listen for messages is heartwarming and inspiring.
Honor the Cycles of the Moon
As the moon transitions from newness to fullness, become aware of how this cycle deeply affects you physically and emotionally. Our bodies are mostly water. Just as the lunar phases change the tides, you can feel changes happening inside of you.
When you tune in to the phases of the moon, you may notice that during certain times your creativity and activities are better supported. We are all unique beings, and your cycles may be different from anyone else’s. Be open to discovery as you explore how the phases of the moon support your needs.
The new moon is a time of beginnings. It is a time to experience rebirth and begin working on new endeavors such as welcoming a new relationship, starting a project or job, or moving into a new home. Imagine yourself looking up at the night sky and seeing the sliver of the new moon. Feel the strength of rebirth.
As the moon waxes, nurture what you began during the new moon. For many, the full moon is a powerful time to perform ceremonies and healing work. This is when the moon’s energy is strongest. During the full moon, people’s moods change; hospitals and police stations get busier. People do not know what to do with their energy.
A wonderful way to channel this energy is to perform a ceremony to honor the full moon with healing and blessing work. The abundance of power makes the full moon a potent time to gather groups through virtual ceremonies and work together in service to the earth.
Once we move into the phase of the waning moon, we can take a breath and relax before a new cycle begins.
Many shamanic and spiritual practitioners choose to perform their releasing and blessing ceremonies during new and full moons and on the equinoxes and solstices. Spiritual energies are abundant to support ceremonies as we release challenges, ask for blessings in starting new projects, or face life transitions.
As we ask for assistance, we also celebrate the phase of the moon, equinox, or solstice through our invocations, songs, and dances.
Most of us live fast-paced lives and are not aware of how our physical energies and moods change with the seasons and lunar cycles. When we slow down and perform ceremonies to honor the flow of life within and without, we learn how to follow the cycles of nature. When we reconnect to the lunar cycles and changes in the seasons, we feel more embodied and attuned to our connection to the earth.
Just as you honor the land and all of life during seasonal changes and lunar phases, realize that every day is a natural cycle. Each day, you can integrate simple ceremonies to express gratitude and respect for the land where you live; all living beings; the elements of earth, air, water, and fire; and your own life.
Adapted from The Book of Ceremony by Sandra Ingerman. Copyright © 2018. Published by Sounds True in October 2018.