Design your own ritual space

With our lives so compressed, I’ve had many discussions lately among my female friends of the vital importance of establishing or maintaining a “room of one’s own” in order to create. Of course, this phrase was coined by Virginia Woolf, who also acknowledged the critical role of “money” in the creative process, at a time when women were denied both the physical and abstract spaces in which to pursue their own thoughts.

During this Pandemic, as women experience the triple burden of domestic chores compounded by work duties and distractions (the constant stream of email and social media) compounded by home-schooling, this kind of space has been difficult to carve out, to say the least.

Whether or not you are an artist, we all crave a space to ponder, mull, play, rest and tinker with ideas or our craft. As an anthropologist, I remember reading how women in many cultures took advantage of the “pollution” and stigma associated with their menstruation as they were “banished” to “menstrual huts”, where they essentially enjoyed, in the company of other women, a break from the drudgery of daily domestic chores and family responsibilities. Brilliant!

In recent years there has been a revival of the “she-shed” as the “man-cave” corollary for the purpose of retreat, a place that is private where one can rest. Under current circumstances, I believe such a space is indispensable and a pre-condition for wellbeing.

So look around your home environment. If you do not have a room, what about a closet, nook, basement, attic, patio or tiny house? Once you find your space, claim it. If you have a partner, remind them of what Rilke said.

“The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Then begin to design your space. Here are some suggestions for creating a sacred space for intentional life rituals. Creating a home altar or space devoted to your practice allows you to enter your ritual with total presence. Your space can be devoted exclusively to suit the expression of your ritual whether it be meditation or prayer, reflection, journaling, dance/movement or creative arts. Consider what you’ll be doing and how much space and privacy you will desire as you contemplate its design.

Choose your talisman, an object(s) that symbolizes what matters to you. Your altar of inspiration may contain offerings of gratitude (flowers, seeds, honey), talismans or objects that symbolize qualities you admire or wish to cultivate, nature elements that represent fire, earth, water, air and an object or image that represents your an element from your Shadow (something you are seeking to bring into the light).

You may also want to include framed photos or drawings of your Wise Guides. These are inspirational mentors or spiritual leaders, present in your life or alive in your memory or through their teachings, who you perceive as embodying the qualities you which to grow and nurture in

Finally, clear your space of negative energy and ‘smudge’ your body or smooth your magnetic field with a cleansing, purifying medium. In many cultures it is quite common to purify or cleanse the body and environment as a way to prepare and protect the ritual space and your body. Cleansing may be through smoke from burning sweetgrass or white sage. It could be through crystals such as amethyst, obsidian, golden tiger’s eye, and hematite. Or via healing hands through Qi-gong massage, sliding the hands down your Yin and Yang meridians.

Now you are ready to practice your daily or weekly devotional, a ritual that will help anchor you. So you may be responsive, rather than reactive, to the challenges and relationships in your life.

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