Releasing Blocking Energies - Ceremonies to Create Energetic Balance

The Book of Ceremony: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life - Sandra Ingerman MA 2018

Releasing Blocking Energies
Ceremonies to Create Energetic Balance

We have the opportunity to bring the sacred to all areas of our lives. Sometimes we need to find the right time and place to perform a ceremony that honors a transition, whether it is joyful or challenging. When we integrate the sacredness of ceremony into our daily activities, we create true change in our personal lives as well as for all of life.

As I have already shared, all beings contribute an energetic signature to the web of life. We can think of this as just a mental concept, but we can only truly experience this connection when we open ourselves to the felt sense of connection, a shared frequency of energy with all of existence.

The web of life is an organism that contains the energy you bring to it. Whenever you engage in healing, feeling the bliss and preciousness of life, or maintaining a discipline of being mindful with the energy of your words and thoughts, you shift the vibration of the web. It is amazing to take some time to journey and meditate, so you can feel this connection at a level deeper than rational understanding.


Exercise to Feel the Vibration in the Web of Life

Imagine traveling within your body and experiencing a shimmering web connecting all of your cells, organs, and body parts. The silklike threads of the web are finely tuned, like those of an exquisitely made stringed instrument. Let the frequency of your favorite word vibrate throughout this inner web. Notice how it feels. Let a joyful thought vibrate through this web and observe how it impacts your cells.

The web that lives inside you is the same web that connects all of life in the outer world. Continue to explore how your thoughts and words affect yourself and the web of life.

We tend to separate spiritual practices from our ordinary daily activities. We might meditate in the morning and do exercises to strengthen our body, mind, and spirit—walking, jogging, yoga, tai chi, qigong, and so on. Then we leave behind all the wonderful energy generated and dive in to the stress and distractions of ordinary living. By integrating spiritual energies, we can become a source of light for ourselves, our loved ones, the community we interact with, and the planet.


There are engaging ceremonies we can perform to bless our home, garden, land, loved ones, and all of life. Yet since the outer world is a reflection of our inner state of consciousness, our work to honor and bless our outer environment will only succeed if we release destructive patterns, such as these:

•Sabotaging thoughts

•Old hurts

•Negativity and despair



•Feelings of unworthiness

•Feelings of being cursed

•Blaming ourselves for past actions

•Resenting people who have caused us pain

Many shamanic cultures believe that we agree to incarnate in this lifetime in order to work out old karma and challenging issues. These are called sacred contracts. Some people might use the word “destiny.” If fulfilling these contracts has lowered your quality of life, created abusive relationships, or created other unhealthy patterns, you can perform a ceremony to release or modify a contract that is no longer serving you. These contracts contain essential soul lessons, and they are not always easy to learn. Even a successful ceremony might not break a contract completely, but it can create gentler life situations to give you the same lesson. I have witnessed many miraculous changes from ceremonies with the intention to lighten or modify a soul contract.

Carrying old wounds is an emotional and physical burden. Dissolving anchors to a past that no longer serves you can allow you to create the life you dream of for yourself and the Earth.

Before performing any releasing ceremony, remember to call in the help of your compassionate spirits, ancestors, and the ancestors of the land who always “have your back.”


In the practice of shamanism, it is understood that thoughts are things. As I explained in the introduction, there is a difference between expressing energy and sending energy. When we do not recognize and honor the unseen impact of the energy of our thoughts, we are often unaware that we are sending anger to another or into the collective. The effect of this negative energy is that many people today feel like they have been cursed. Others might feel cursed if they believe they are carrying a generational curse from their ancestral line.

We are all one. Whatever energy we send to another, we also send to ourselves and loved ones. To protect ourselves, our loved ones, and all of life from toxic energies, we must use discipline to express our feelings and then transform the energy. The ceremonies I share in this chapter are about releasing our own negative energy as well as energy we might have received from others. This important healing ceremonial work will free you to live out your destiny.


To prepare for your ceremony, review “Setting Your Intention” in chapter 4 and decide whether you wish to work alone or in a group.

Sacred healing can happen when you hold your attention, intention, and focus on what needs to be healed. Setting an intention alone has the power to heal. Adding action to intention by performing a releasing ceremony greatly magnifies that power.

If you practice shamanic journeying, you can consult with your helping spirits. The advantage of working through the intermediary helping spirits is that they can help you identify when you are framing an intention that might not be in your best interest or that might be simply reinforcing old childhood patterns. For example, your helping spirits will be honest with you and encourage you to delve into issues around forgiveness that you might not want to look at. The helping spirits are your buddies and want to see you succeed.

If you don’t have a journeying practice, there are many ways to tap into your deep intuitive wisdom to discover what you need to release. Meditate, pray, journal, draw, or reflect as you sit or walk in nature, or just sit quietly with a cup of tea. Some people tap into their deeper wisdom through listening to music and dancing. Use whatever practice works for you to help you learn what you need to release in order to find inner freedom and move forward to a more creative and healthier phase of life.

There is something special and supportive in performing healing ceremonies with friends or family. In performing releasing ceremonies, I am so touched as I drum and rattle and join the group in cheering people on as they release a pain, wound, or blocking belief. The level of support is so loving. For many people, including myself, being witnessed performing a ceremony for releasing a past wound or belief is transformative and healing in itself. If you feel ready, invite members in your local community to create a bonfire where each person burns an effigy or paper that symbolizes a personal hurt.

Yet there are also times when I like to be alone as I light a fire in my fireplace to release a prayer stick that represents my pain or a piece of paper with words written to the Creator or to those I need to forgive. Or I write beliefs that need to be released on paper and burn it with herbs or wood chips in a sacred bowl while I have candles and incense burning. I like to do the preparation alone, work with the fire, chant while my effigy burns, and then sit for hours while communicating with my helping spirits and the fire itself. The feeling that comes from hearing the vibration of my chanting with the burning flames is sacred.

I use dissolving paper for many of my personal releasing ceremonies. Sitting by my altar with a candle lit and my bowl of warm water in front of me, I write on a piece of dissolving paper a belief, hurt, or issue I am ready to release. I chant as I watch it dissolve fully. Then I ceremonially take the bowl outside and feed it to the earth in gratitude for taking my pain and composting it into love and light that will support new life to grow within me and in nature. Sometimes I rattle and sing as the words flow through me while addressing the power of the universe, the spirit of Santa Fe, and the helping ancestors of the land.

I have collected stories from people who build very small altars with stones in parks near their homes. They go to these altars in the morning to perform their daily ceremony of singing their prayers for peace, for healing, and for the world. During this time, they release any issues that prevent a feeling of hope for a good day. It is a lovely way to start the day.

Over time you will learn to trust your feelings about whether you wish privacy in performing your ceremony or if you want a supportive community witnessing and celebrating your transformational work.

Always remember to imagine the energy you are releasing being transformed into an energy of love and light that nurtures the elements and the collective at large.


Fire ceremonies are wonderful to perform, and they create an ecstatic state for participants. The nature of fire is energetic and transformative. It is easy to feel the power of the fire enlivening us. Fire ceremonies have been used and are still used in shamanic cultures worldwide. In many shamanic cultures, fire ceremonies go on all night, and the celebration of the work performed continues with watching the rising sun and sharing food together.

In performing a fire ceremony with a group, review the directions in “Gathering Your Materials” in chapter 2. Invite participants to create an effigy or power object from items in nature. Advise everyone to do spiritual work to draw out the energy they wish to put in the fire and place it into the effigy or power object so that it embodies the issue being released.

Join with others to decorate the space. Whether the fire ceremony is inside or outside, you want to have volunteers who create sacred space, greet each person to spiritually cleanse them, and welcome them into the circle. One or more people can perform an invocation. You can take turns greeting the compassionate spirits.

Although I ask people to stand during the ceremony, I have chairs for those who are not able to stand for a long time. I ask the fire keepers to clean and rake the area of objects on the ground that people can trip on. If the moon is dark, I ask people to bring flashlights to place in the circle around the fire so that people can see their paths.

Everyone can drum and rattle, supporting the person performing the releasing work as they place their power object or effigy in the fire. I bring some cedar or sacred herbs, so each person can give it as an offering to the fire. I instruct participants not to leave the ceremony (unless there is an emergency) until the ceremony is completed. To leave in the middle of a ceremony would be disrespectful to the group and the helping spirits.

Instead of having participants go in a specific order, let people choose when it feels right to step up to the fire to release their effigy. I ask people to work one by one instead of having multiple people releasing at the same time. When too many people go to the fire simultaneously, an uncontained energy is created, and there is not as much power in the ceremony.

I invite people to dance the energy of what they are releasing. They can also dance as they finish their work in celebration and as they step back into the circle. Many people do not feel comfortable dancing in front of a group or are physically unable to do so. I let people know they can simply walk up to the fire and place in what they need to release. Some people need an escort to help them get to the fire if they can’t do it on their own. The group cheers on each person as they release their blocking belief into the fire.

Keep people moving along with their releasing work. I have attended fire ceremonies where there was a space of 15 minutes before the next person stepped up to the fire to place in their talisman. There is no way for people to stay focused when a ceremony is so slow and somber. Although this ceremony involves the releasing of pain, it is a joyful act of healing.

Always practice basic safety when using fire. Fire keepers create sacred space, build the fire, welcome the group, keep feeding wood to the fire, and deal with any stray embers. Their final role after the ceremony has ended is to make sure the fire is entirely out.

I end ceremonies with people dancing and singing around the fire, watching as it burns our effigies. Once the spirits, fire keepers, and participants have been thanked, and it is stated that the work is done, some people wish to stay and continue singing or praying, while those ready to leave can do so.


There are times when it is not appropriate to work with fire. The energy generated with working with water is feminine in nature. There is a different quality of the ceremony when working with placing paper in water.

There are more places on the planet experiencing drought where fire danger is high. Working with dissolving paper and water is a safe, magical practice for adults and children.

You can set up bowls of warm water and decorate your space. Greet the helping spirits and divine forces in your preparation work. You can play music in the background, or people can drum or rattle. Each participant can share the story of what they are releasing into the water. It creates deep bonding for any group to hear and witness the pain being released. I find it is more powerful when participants share their story after they’ve put their paper in the water. This allows the power to build in the body instead of being discharged too early.

Once the ceremony is closed and the work is done, the group can bring the bowls of water out to the land together, feeding the earth with love.



This is an example of a ceremony that combines releasing wounds and asking for positive dreams to be blessed.

Patricia was dealing with a health challenge. She decided to create a ceremony in which her friends could support her. She asked friends to drum and rattle as she worked. She placed slips of prepared dissolving paper in the water and then spoke of each fear or issue she was releasing.

The ceremony soon took off on its own because Patricia’s friends also wanted to release some of their burdens and challenges. One by one, each friend in the circle wrote or drew images on the dissolving paper, placed the paper in the water, and then shared a brief story of a sabotaging belief, someone who had to be forgiven, or an old haunting trauma. The group drummed, rattled, and chanted in support.

Once everyone had a chance to dissolve an issue, they repeated the process around the circle until each person felt they had emptied their list of things that were holding them back or contributing to challenging emotional or physical issues.

Next, it was time to fill the space inside each person with something positive. First, they emptied the bowls of water holding their pain and suffering onto the earth outside while perceiving the water feeding the earth with light and love. With fresh water, they continued the ceremony, with each person writing a blessing on paper and then stating it aloud as they placed it in the water. With each blessing, the group stopped and took a deep breath while imagining the vibration of the blessing filling them up with good health, joy, and peaceful thoughts. Finally, they emptied the bowls again onto the earth.

Each person felt energized, and no one wanted the ceremony to end. The group celebrated by drumming, rattling, and dancing. The long evening ended with songs. Patricia thanked the helping spirits and declared that the work was done as everyone cheered.

Some of the group members noticed they were feeling a bit ungrounded, so Donna, one of the participants, led a beautiful grounding meditation so that everyone left filled with good, positive energy and with deep roots connecting them to the earth.


Use the creative talents of the group you are working with to create a rich, fresh, and unique ceremony. There are so many ways to bring unlimited power into working with water. Effigies that won’t pollute water can be made and given to a river, lake, or ocean.

Some of my students draw mandalas on the sand by the ocean. These mandalas are created with symbols representing what needs to be released or blessed. The tide washes the images and symbols away and takes the light-filled energies into the sea to be transformed or blessed. This ceremony is spectacular as it also reminds us that everything in life is impermanent. Imagine performing such a ceremony, chanting, and gazing at the beauty of the full moon radiating shimmering light on the sea, adding exponential energy to your ceremony.

Use your imagination and allow your heart and intention to be your guide.


You can use your breath to blow your hurt or old beliefs into objects you find in nature. Stones can be used in a burial ceremony. Enter into a meditative state and ask the stone for permission to use it in ceremony, as shamans have done for thousands of years.

Instead of burying it, you can perform a releasing ceremony placing a stone or other natural object into the sea, a lake, a river, or even a waterfall. The beach mandala ceremony described above acts as an exquisite way to bury old hurts while calling in the best that life has to offer.


Some people love to work with fire. Others are drawn to working with earth, water, or air. There are many people who have a deep relationship with the wind. I know people who love to stand in strong winds to be cleansed of their hurts and old beliefs. Wind is a naturally cleansing force and a powerful ally to many. Remarkable wind stories have been shared cross-culturally since the beginning of time. Wind is my ally, and I depend on it for my most important guidance.



Sam taught second grade. One day he brought in bottles of bubbles for the class. Sam asked all the children to think about something bothering them and then led them outside. The sun was shining, and the air was very still. As each child started to release their hurts by blowing bubbles, the wind picked up, carrying the bubbles quickly away. They were instructed to see the energy sent into the air as love and light. The children were energized, and they giggled throughout the entire ceremony. Sam taught songs about the elements and how they can heal us and how they bring us all we need to survive. The children loved singing and would spontaneously break into dance from time to time.

Sam received great feedback from some of the children’s parents when their children arrived home laughing, happy, centered, and at peace.



Creating Prayer Trees is a wonderful way to work alone, with your family, with coworkers, or in your community.

I became fascinated with Prayer Trees after learning about the practice in Central Asia. Typically, a juniper tree is chosen by a shaman. The shaman and the community engage in days of invocations and leave offerings to the tree. They tie prayer ribbons loosely on the branches, so the wind and the tree will share the prayers with the creative forces of the universe.

In many cultures, trees are seen as sacred beings bridging Heaven and Earth. Photos of Prayer Trees in Central Asia show branches almost touching the ground due to the weight of all the colorful ribbons tied on. Prayer Trees also represent the World Tree, which in shamanism connects the Lower World, the Middle World, and the Upper World. There are Prayer, Blessing, and Wishing Trees around the world that have existed for generations.

Imagine the power of creating a Prayer Tree for your family, in your community, or even in the workplace, where everyone comes together to support each other’s healing and wishes with each ribbon or piece of yarn attached to the tree.

First, find a tree in nature that is willing to carry your prayers to the divine forces. Perform your invocation and leave offerings alone or with a group. Once the Prayer Tree has been honored, you can invite people to tie colored ribbons or pieces of yarn that hold their healing prayer or wish onto a branch of the tree. As you can imagine, children love working with Prayer Trees.

It is important to honor the tree with offerings of water, flowers, sacred herbs, or whatever you feel is a good offering to leave. Please tie the ribbon or yarn loosely on the branch so as not to choke it, for the branches will continue to grow over time.



I received a wonderful email from Ann, who had miraculous results working with a Prayer Tree. I wrote about creating Prayer Trees in my books Walking in Light and Speaking with Nature (coauthored with Llyn Roberts).

Ann created a Prayer Tree to help her cousin who had developed painful and life-threatening sacral spine wounds as a result of being wheelchair-bound. Ann empowered many pieces of yarn with focused intention to heal the wounds and tied each one on her tree.

In less than two weeks, her cousin’s wounds first diminished in size, then completely vanished. His visiting nurse was amazed, as no conventional treatment had worked in the six months of trying to heal the wounds.

In the world of medicine, this rapid wound closure would be considered “impossible.”

The healing seemed to extend beyond Ann’s cousin’s physical disability. It affected his attitude. He no longer thinks of himself as a victim of his disability and has now started his own practice of praying on behalf of friends and family.

As you can imagine, Ann and her cousin are so grateful!




Kyle wandered in a park and found a tree that was honored to be a Prayer Tree. Some of his friends joined him in invoking the intention, asking the tree to carry prayers up to the creative forces of the universe. They inaugurated the tree with offerings and tied their own strips of fabric imbued with prayers onto branches of the Prayer Tree.

Kyle left fabric strips near the tree for others to use. He and his friends spread the word about the tree and how to tie on the prayer strips. Over time, Kyle found he had to keep replenishing the fabric strips as the ceremony caught on in his community, and the tree became filled with prayers.


I love having a Prayer Tree outside my house where I can leave healing prayers for myself, my family, friends, and other loved ones. It is a place where I can leave prayers for forgiveness and release old hurts, blocking beliefs, despair, feelings of hopelessness, and issues around my physical health, to be entrusted to the power of the universe. I also tie on prayers to bless others, all of life, and the Earth.

I use my spinning wheel to spin fiber into yarn holding the intention of my prayer. I continue to leave beads, herbs, corn meal, water, and other gifts for the tree. I rattle and let songs flow through me as I pray for myself and others. Singing and rattling is also how I share my gratitude for answered prayers.

An incredible force of healing and love is generated in communities where residents can gather together to create a Prayer Tree and tie on prayers and blessings for themselves, each other, and the planet.