Ceremony and ritual gives life to a moment, bringing meaning and purpose to our work. It takes us away from our thinking mind, and brings us into our feeling body, where we’re best able to channel creativity. Here, in our second collaborative blog, the Earthly community lets us into their favourite rituals and explains what ceremony means to them.
SET AND SETTING
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” ― John Muir, The Mountains of California
Changing your physical surroundings and habits has a profound effect on conscious state. Get up at dawn or at the moment that suits, go into nature and do your imagining, planning and dreaming as the sun comes up, the rains fall or as the moon travels across the sky. Have your meetings up trees or on riverbanks. If you're in a city, seek out ancient trees and have conversations around them - there isn't much an 800 year old Oak hasn't seen and heard.
Visioning work is best done somewhere that puts you outside your normal headspace: it’s much easier to imagine when you’re able to think (and look) beyond usual horizons.
BEING BEFORE DOING
“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” - Lao Tzu
If only we were taught at school about the profound role of stillness and silence in the nurturing of our creative spirits. How is it to be still long enough to notice the beingness we inhabit before doing anything else?! Starting with stillness, making room for being. This can be such a rich part of creative practice that bears fruit in any season. Even just sitting for a moment now. What do we notice when we sit still with our hands on our bellies? Our breath? Maybe our shared breath? Our heart beats? Our bodies? Our busy minds? In a world that’s in the midst of informational overwhelm, how can we begin each new creative project with the presence of being to know in our bellies that our creative acts are meaningful.
There are so many ways to press pause for a moment on the habitual frenetics of modern life but here are a few favourites: 1) Place your palms together somewhere in line with the centre of your body and closing your eyes feel the warmth and connection in your hands as you take a few deep breaths. Enjoy having a centre and being alive. 2) Close your eyes, soften your face, open your ears and listen. Starting with what you can hear from your own body let the senses widen out beyond you. When you are done listening, come back to the sound of your own breath. When we are listening, softening and breathing, the mind gets quiet and our creative spirit comes alive. 3) Take an idea/intention/dream and imagine it cupped in your hands like a baby bird. Close your eyes and hold it up to your forehead for a few moments, then to your heart for a minute and finally to your belly for a few more minutes. What does your body have to say about it?
RITUALS FOR MEETINGS
“Ceremony focuses attention so that attention becomes intention. If you stand together and profess a thing before your community, it holds you accountable. Ceremonies transcend the boundaries of the individual and resonate beyond the human realm.” - Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
Rituals and moments of ceremony bring structure to meetings and hold space that meaningful practices can sit within.
One contributor to this journal starts and ends all meetings (including in the Zoom room) with a moment of gratitude, or a shared silence (sometimes framed with a powerful question, followed by what comes out of the silence); lighting a candle; reading of a poem - all these things are examples of 'setting apart' the space, the root of sacred / sacre.
At one forest school, the teachers were invited to write down something they were going to give to themselves in the coming year. Notes were tied to pine cones to put on display, so they could keep remembering what they had promised themselves throughout the year. They also use oils that reflect the nature of the meeting, with peppermint poured in their hands for its awakening properties or lavender for gentle thoughtfulness.
It might be as simple as making tea or sharing food, or another contributor’s favourite ritual (and arguably an excuse to procrastinate) is watering her house and desk plants. In home working situations, nurturing them while they clean air and break our gaze away from screens, is a great way to practice simple reciprocity with nature.
LIVING IN CYCLES
"Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth." — Henry David Thoreau (Walden)
We are ruled by the seasons. Whether we like it or not, the waxing and waning of the light and warmth has a huge physical effect on us and our creative lives. By embracing them instead of resisting them, we can live in a better-rounded way, resting when our bodies naturally want to and charging up for good work.
Autumn moving into winter is a time to embrace darkness and rest: lighting candles, warming yourself with fires, cooking hearty food and taking the time to dream. To let productivity fall away for a different, slower sort of time that exists in the here and now.
Spring moving into summer, is time to be awoken and revitalised by the renewed energy given to us by the sun and enjoy the bounty of produce and flowers that the earth offers up.
“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again.” - Joseph Campbell
A vast number of us work flexibly, away from a formal workspace or desk these days, but many of us still need a space that is kept “sacred” for our creative sprawl. After every work day, clear and arrange your workspace ready for the next day. This helps to clear the head and psychologically let go of the work-focused mind.
The next day, sit for a moment and set an intention for your workday. Come to the space clear of clutter, ready for the weird and wonderful permutations of creative emergence.
And talking of keeping some things sacred: avoid working in the bedroom.
WITH THANKS TO OUR COLLABORATORS:
Kara de los Reyes, Regenerative Masterplanner & Trustee at Land is Life
Yvie Mason-Gotel, Forest School Teacher
Jack Bevan, Creative Partner @ Earthly
Nick Hand, printer and designer at The Letterpress Collective
Simon Cohen, peace activist, broadcaster, comms specialist
Jamie Pike, Bio-leadership partner, mentor, guide
Sophie Chatz, Creative Partner @ Earthly
📸Photograph by Jenna Foxton.