If you find your meditation practice isn’t really catching fire, it’s probably because it lacks some sort of ceremony.
What comes to mind when you think ceremony? A wedding or church service? A formality or a rote routine that doesn’t mean much? Does it sound formal or intimidating or too much like an outdated religious practice?
If you find your meditation practice isn’t really catching fire, it’s probably because it lacks some sort of ceremony. And if you find your meditation practice is precious and helpful to you, chances are, you have a ceremony that’s alive and vibrant and helpful to you.
Ceremony can act as foreplay for your meditation. It prepares you to settle down, to surrender into a healthy and powerful trance state, to focus, to ask your deepest questions and be able to hear the answers, and to know when your practice is over. Ceremony is punctuation. Ceremony is clarity.
Here’s a simple meditation ceremony I find useful:
Probably one of the most powerful aspects of my ceremony is to shoo out animals and children and shut the door. I silence my cell ringer, too. This is my time to be on my own with no outside distractions.
Assume the position.
I like to meditate sitting up, with my legs out and my back supported. This tells my psyche we are about to begin.
There’s something special about striking a match and creating fire. I light two candles, one on my left and one on my right to create a sense of temple in my meditation. I also put them there because my only other shelf is a bookshelf, and that would create a burn mark on the shelf above it, which goes to show that ceremony has to be practical. I used to light sage, but in my tiny bedroom, the odor lingers unpleasantly, so I skip that. When I’m distracted in meditation and need to open my eyes, the burning candles comfort me that I am indeed still in ceremony, and they send that gentle cue to go back, Leah, go back.
Tantra practitioners experience Oneness with All That Is and they take advantage of it in ceremony with an invocation. In reality, we aren’t calling anything or anyone to come into our ceremony, but this technique allows me to be aware of their presence. I recognize the spirits of the four directions, the earth and the sky, as well as my spirit guides, who include my deceased grandfather, my Future Self, my Future Beloved, the Consciousnesses who created me, the archetypes of Brahma and Saraswati, my future life partner, and Shiva. Sometimes I also mention Terra, a guardian who appears as a blue tiger. Each of them greets me warmly, many times with a hug and smile.
The invocation is a deeply personal practice, and don’t let anyone tell you Who to name or Who shouldn’t be there. I have a student who calls in dragons and extra-terrestrial beings. Another has a dolphin and a buffalo. And other taps into the spirits of ancient cedar trees. If they are real to you, they are real. Welcome your awareness of them, whoever they are.
Everyone knows about this one, and it works. My favorite breath is to focus on my sexual energy and draw it up to nourish every cell in my body. I can take three breaths like that and feel almost completely relaxed and energized, but I take all the time I need to feel my state of mind settle from the fight-or-flight into what I call the 4th dimension: everything feels slower and calmer and possessed with beauty. Then I know I’m ready to listen.
Now I ask my guides my burning questions, or spend time with my Future Beloved (I call him Jack), or ask my guides if there’s anything they want to tell me. Perhaps I will practice a new meditation technique. (Some people chant or just sit in silence. That’s not me.) This is easily the longest part of the ceremony, and I’ll let it go on for as long as the energy is running. For daily meditation, about twelve minutes. For my weekly ceremony, it can last an hour or even longer.
This is my least favorite part of the ceremony but one I have come to value deeply, and that’s making an audio recording of epiphanies, impressions, and what my guides said. I’ll go back later and review my entries and be feckin’ amazed at what was said that I’d forgotten or didn’t take to heart. I used to write, but that took too long, so now I use a free voice recorder app on my phone and store everything in the cloud.
The Close Out
Finally, I thank everyone for their love and wisdom and presence, blow out my candles, and turn my ringer back on. I feel refreshed and ready to open the door. Bring it on, day.