Some of the most important turning points in my life have occurred in rituals. I have also been at many rituals where I merely attended, present in body but not much more. Certainly there were times when I could fault the design of the ritual or its enactment for a lack of impact, but just as often I was unprepared to step into the mystery. Over the years, I have developed ways of increasing my openness and appreciation of group and solo rituals. Here is a short list of actions and perspectives that reliably open the way to getting the most out of rituals.
The work begins long before the rituals.
The regular practice of meditation, contemplation, devotional acts, chakra work, and similar activities clarify and strengthen your psyche and your psychism. Developing your capacity to perceive and experience rituals more fully is the most important step.
In many systems there is some form of purification before entering into a ritual.
These purifications are not absolute nor an absolution. Make a promise to yourself to be aware of who you are in that moment and what you are bringing into the ritual. Honor your limitations and also remember how much larger you are than the troubles and distractions of the moment.
Actively call upon your Higher Self, your God/dess Self, Divine Spark, etc. before during, and after the ritual.
Make this an overt, volitional act whether it is silent or aloud. Although this part of you may be always present, its capacity to act is sometimes hampered unless invited. This also helps to remind us that we are worthy of the mysteries.
Commit to the full experience of the ritual.
Guard against distancing yourself for the ritual to protect yourself from the potential of emotional discomfort. If you find that you are a spectator in a ritual, work to become a participant. You do not need a role in a ritual to engage in the inner alchemy of participation. True change often requires discomfort. Sacred vulnerability is one of the keys to open the mysteries. Take care of yourself by finding your proper balance between control and surrender.
Make peace with your perceptions of yourself and of others.
When we focus on the petty details, on the minor mistakes, on how we are seen, and on ephemeral drama we are distancing ourselves from the mysteries. This is true whether we are by ourselves or in a group ritual.
Take time to process and make sense of the experience of ritual; there is no need to rush.
Be mindful that the effects of the ritual often start before the ritual, and continue afterwards for hours, days, weeks, or more. Don’t forget to watch your dreams, daydreams, and the thoughts and feelings that bubble up as a part of this process. It takes time for seeds to germinate in the dark of the soul, be patient and the mysteries will emerge on their own if you allow it.
I hope that you find these helpful, and at the very least I hope that they encourage you to create your own stepping-stones into the mysteries of ritual. Lastly, I’d like to reassure you that we all cycle through times of greater or lesser openness to experience regardless of our efforts. Perseverance is one of the great powers to be invoked as you walk your path
Ivo Domínguez, Jr. has been active in the Wiccan and the pagan community since 1978 and has been teaching since 1982. He was a founding member, and past High Priest, of Keepers of the Holly Chalice, the first coven of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel a Wiccan Tradition. Ivo is also one of the organizers for the New Alexandrian Library. You can find him at www.ivodominguezjr.com.