The Book of Ceremony: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life - Sandra Ingerman MA 2018
Additional Guidelines for Your Ceremonial Work
The Power of Ceremony
We have to let a part of ourselves be willing to die if we are going to emerge from ceremonies renewed and reborn. Ceremonies can also awaken a natural detoxification process, releasing impurities from our body, emotions, and spirit.
There is the big death you go through at the end of your life, but throughout life, there are little deaths that happen whenever something is taken from you—whether you lose a job, become ill, break up with a partner, or lose your home in a catastrophic event. These losses are a form of initiation—a part of you lets go, and something new is born.
Any change we experience in life is an initiation.
Whenever we perform a ceremony—whether it is a small one or a big one—we come out feeling different, but in a good way. Even if we can’t verbalize what feels different, our ego starts to be sculpted away, allowing our spiritual light to shine through. Divine forces partner with our inner divine to reshape, reform, and resculpt our life and our lifestyle, bringing us to a deeper spiritual place where our spirit can carry us through and provide solutions to challenges that seem impossible to work with and heal. We feel filled with spiritual energies and connected to our authentic identity as we shed qualities others projected onto us.
Sometimes these initiatory experiences can awaken our invisible senses. A practitioner might become clairvoyant, opening their invisible eyes that see visions in the unseen realms. Or a practitioner might awaken their invisible ears and become clairaudient, getting verbal messages from the helping spirits. A practitioner might tap into the power of clairsentience, where they feel the information on a body level of awareness—we often refer to this as “feeling it in our bones.”
Whatever occurs, we must learn how to surrender and accept what life brings for us. This is what initiation is about. When you are in the middle of a firewalk, you cannot think about whether you want to complete your firewalk while you’re actually walking on red-hot coals. You will get burned. It is your inner spirit that carries you through an initiation such as a firewalk and all the challenging initiations we experience in life.
We have to let go of expectations when experiencing an initiation brought on by any ceremony. There is a process where we just have to let spirit carry us through. That’s not always easy, especially when we do not rationally understand the big picture.
Surrender and acceptance are two important aspects of being able to fully participate in the changes of life, initiation, dismemberment, and rememberment, leaving us feeling renewed and refreshed, with our spiritual light shining through. We go through a process of dissolution that leads to illumination.
Whether or not you experience your desired outcome after performing a ceremony, it is still important to state your intention, do your preparation work, create sacred space, and perform your ceremonial work.
With ceremony, you take the opportunity to ask for healing to happen and for a particular intention to manifest—and then you also have to accept that there is a bigger picture that you might not be aware of.
I can tell you that after performing ceremonies alone and with groups for more than thirty-five years, wonderful manifestations of healing, blessing, and change do happen.
Performing ceremonies can become habit-forming in the most positive sense.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WILLPOWER AND STRENGTH OF SPIRIT
When we face a difficult situation, we tend to rely on our willpower and our thinking mind to help us step up to the challenge. But in reality, it is the strength of our inner spirit that carries us through initiations.
Many years ago, one of my helping spirits shared with me that using willpower does not show strength. Real strength is when one can surrender to the powers that be.
In our modern culture, we focus on using our willpower and improving our rational mind. In shamanic cultures, spiritual strength—meaning living a shamanic way of life—is what helps the people survive. Community members learn to transform their negative thinking, let the goodness of life unfold, be compassionate, honor their interconnectedness, respect the web of life, and live in harmony with nature.
They understand that what we see in the outside world is a reflection of our inner landscape. They do their inner gardening work to develop a sense of beauty, and they nurture their spiritual light so that it shines into the world and is reflected back to them.
In shamanic cultures, the power of will and spirit intertwine. In our culture, “powering through” with our will is our typical behavior. Powering through a ceremony will not lead to success. Only by standing in our spiritual strength will our ceremony provide us with our desired results.
While I was writing The Book of Ceremony, my spiritual teacher Isis and other compassionate spirits shared with me that the entire planet is going through an initiation. We all need to be resculpted so that we can live on this Earth in a healthier way and learn about the power of love, light, honor, and respect. My helping spirits shared that the most important way to thrive through the coming times is by strengthening our spirit.
Living a healthy life means integrating practices that nurture and strengthen all aspects of body, mind, and spirit. In the Western world, we focus on strengthening our body and mind. We allow ourselves to become distracted by nurturing our rational mind through collecting more intellectual material. And many of us focus on building strong muscles through exercise.
By adding spiritual practices and performing ceremonial work, we learn to surrender to the natural flow and process of death and rebirth. These are not separate processes—they are a flow. Life is a flow.
The initiation we are going through is a classic shamanic initiation in which we can’t “think” our way through or physically “power through” with our muscles.
Initiations can be perilous. When you can’t think your way out, and physical strength does not help, an initiation wears you down to a place where your mind gives up in complete despair with no road map out of the challenge you are facing. Your body gives in also, as you are too worn down to continue. Then your inner spiritual fire awakens, and you surrender to the true strength of inner spiritual power that knows no obstacles, pain, or suffering on any level.
I do not publicly broadcast the initiations I have been through. I’ve written about my near-death experiences, but frankly, they pale in comparison to the lifelong initiations I have been through, when I felt as if I had been dropped blindfolded out of an airplane with no road map to help me walk through the foreign terrain. So far in my sixty-five years of initiations, my inner spirit has carried me even when it looked like I could not muster enough strength to make it through.
I am writing about initiations from my knowledge of shamanism but also from my own life experience. In today’s world, the divine forces are asking us to awaken our inner spirit, to develop the spiritual muscles needed to swim through the deep, dark waters until we eventually emerge into pure luminescence, in touch with our authentic spiritual identity and light.
There is certainly a great power in performing ceremonies in a sacred room in your house or in nature. You design the ceremony, gather the necessary materials, and work with the elements. And when working with a group, everyone can talk together, hold hands, dance and sing, bond in a deep way, and celebrate at the end of the ceremony.
At the same time, we live in an age where technology can assist us in gathering people from around the world to perform ceremonies for personal healing, blessings, and healing the Earth. I have had the opportunity through teleconferencing courses and webinars to lead virtual ceremonies in which hundreds or thousands of people from around the world are working together in support of each other, all of life, and the Earth.
Imagine the exponential energy that is created in working in this way. These virtual ceremonies are usually recorded, so people who could not participate during the live ceremony can perform the ceremony later. In shamanism, we work outside of time, so it does not matter when people join in on a virtual ceremony—the power just keeps building as people do the work over time.
In today’s world, peers, friends, and family might live in different states or countries. A wonderful exercise is to create a ceremony that establishes a sacred altar in the unseen realms where people can meet, pray, and perform ceremonial work together. Such an altar can also serve the needs of a group that meets on a regular basis by giving them a place to connect and perform ceremonies in the unseen world when meeting physically isn’t possible.
You might find that there are friends and family who do not live near you but want to join together to create a ceremony for healing or blessings. Working virtually is a powerful way of joining together no matter where everyone lives.
SETTING UP AN ALTAR IN NONORDINARY REALITY
Here is an example of a shamanic meditation to create an altar in the nonordinary realms.
Start with your preparation work to step away from your daily concerns and call in your unseen allies to support your ceremony. Again, you can call in God, the goddess, or any divine being you work with.
When performing ceremonies with people living in different locales or who might choose to work virtually, set up a virtual sacred place where you can all meet and work together. This altar is a place where you are going to return from time to time. It is a place where you can go between spiritual meetings with your group or to perform your ceremony there. You can visit this space to pray and to receive comfort.
While journeying or meditating, use your imagination to place special objects that can empower your circle, and place prayers for yourself, others, and the planet. This altar remains spiritually cleansed by helping guardian spirits.
The meditation I will now share is an example of how to set up an altar in the invisible realms. Always feel the freedom to adapt this meditation to include landscapes you wish to walk in and objects that you wish to place on your altar in the unseen realms. This example will guide you to a sacred space in a meadow. You might want to create your altar by a river or ocean. Your decision will be based on where you live as well as the spiritual guidance you receive. In my trainings, I lead people to a sacred room in nonordinary reality, and we call it our altar room.
Guided Meditation to Create an Altar in the Unseen Realms
Listen to drumming or other shamanic music. Or play your favorite meditation or spiritually expansive music. Set an intention that you want to lift the veils between the seen and unseen realms. Your starting place will be the room you are journeying or meditating in.
Take some deep breaths. Close your eyes and breathe deeply as you move into a peaceful and centered place. Imagine walking up to the door of your apartment or house; then open your door and step through a veil onto a path in nature.
Walk down the path, opening your senses. Observe the beauty of nature. You might be surrounded by trees or other greenery. Gaze at the sky. Feel your feet connecting with the earth as you walk on the path. Feel the texture of the earth. Listen with awe and wonder to the surrounding sounds of nature. Take a deep breath and smell the fragrances of the earth, the plants, and the trees as you walk this path of exquisite beauty. Feel the gentle breeze caressing your face. Observe the rocks, birds, insects, animals, flowers, and other beings of nature. There are so many remarkable nature beings that we often miss, as we do not take the time to recognize the smallest of beings. There are wondrous beings such as mosses, fungi, and insects that are so small we must walk slowly to discover them.
As you continue walking on the path, notice a building in a meadow in the distance that seems to glow. Once you approach, enter the door of the building, where a guardian spirit is waiting to cleanse you. Let this guardian spirit cleanse you so that you are only bringing peace, love, and light into your new altar room. The guardian spirit might use a feather to cleanse your field of energy or maybe some incense. Or the compassionate spirit might put a drop of water on your third eye or your crown as you let go of any burdens and any energy that needs to be released. The guardian spirit might whisper a message into your ear. Stay open to a unique cleansing method that this helping spirit might perform. Remember that this is being done so that you create a clear field of energy in the altar room where everyone is safe to fully open to the power of working in the unseen realms.
Once you are cleansed, enter the room. Notice that there is a gorgeous altar cloth on the floor. It is right in the middle of the room, big enough for your community to be able to stand or sit around. This altar cloth is woven with many vibrant colors. Some of them are ordinary colors, while some might be translucent nonordinary colors. You can feel the magic of the energy that they exude. There are threads of all different colors and textures woven together. This weaving of threads might remind you of the web of life. Gaze upon the lovely altar cloth. As you do this, notice the large crystal sculpture of the Earth on the altar.
There is incense burning, as well as candles of vibrant colors: green, red, yellow, blue, purple, lavender, silver, and gold. The burning candles remind you of the beauty of your spirit. There are offering bowls that have been filled with cornmeal, different healing herbs, rose petals, and lavender; and there are power objects of stones, branches, flowers, crystals, and exquisite offerings that honor nature as well as your connection with all that is alive. Some are in different bowls, and some are spread on top of the altar cloth.
As you continue to visit your altar room over the weeks or years to come (for this altar room will always exist outside of time), you can bring your own gifts. Some people leave on the altar special jewelry, flowers, stones, and crystals.
This is an altar room you can visit on your own at any time without the need to tell your friends, family, or community. It is a place you can visit alone by taking a shamanic journey or through meditation, to go and sit there for comfort, to pray, or to perform your own ceremonies in the invisible realms. There will also be times when your group visits the altar together to perform ceremonies when the need or desire exists.
You might even decide to send instructions for a ceremony that people in your family or community perform in the altar room in their own time when it is impossible to coordinate timing for everyone to join in the ceremony.
Experience your heartbeat and focus on blessing words. This is a blessing of love for yourself, your community, and all of life. You can say out loud words of gratitude, words of power to empower your circle. Or you can write the blessing words such as “grace,” “peace,” “love,” “trust,” and “gratitude” on paper and leave them in offering bowls on the altar.
You have begun creating your altar room, and it is now time to take your leave. Just before you leave, gaze at the stunning altar. Embrace and absorb the light of your circle if you came together as a group. This altar room is now a spiritual home and sanctuary for all of you.
It is now time to return. Leave through the entrance of the room. You might notice a guardian spirit blessing you as you leave.
Walk back down the path that you took to get to this glowing building. Notice your surroundings, the textures, the fragrances, the feelings, and the sounds. Return to the veil that you stepped through to enter into the unseen realms and step through it into your home and the room you are working in. Take some deep grounding breaths. Open your eyes. Feel yourself present.
As you feel yourself becoming present, notice if you have an inner smile from being in your special altar room and being in a glorious circle together with your group. Feel gratitude. You know in your heart and soul that as you continue to share with your circle, you will experience a wealth of love, power, and healing. You will receive this healing personally, and you can share it with the Earth and all of life. Let the helping spirits you called in know that your work is done for now. It is simply courtesy to let the compassionate spirits know that they can also take their leave.