Do you long for a more meaningful life, for a sense of connection to something bigger than yourself? Do you feel this longing in your heart, in your bones? Like something is missing but you don’t know what? Do you have this deep knowing inside that life is meant to feel bigger than it does for you now?
I used to feel the same. I can still see myself witnessing my first closing the bones ceremony and wishing it was me on the floor receiving the ritual. I can still feel the excitement, as I attended my first doula retreat in 2013, how beautiful and sacred it all felt, and then how much returning to my normal life, especially with 2 young children to care for, felt so bland, so lacking in connection and full of drudgery. I longed to go back to the feeling that this amazing, spiritual retreat gave me.
Now I know that the issue was that I was looking elsewhere, outside of myself, for the sacred. The issue wasn’t’ with the lack of sacred in my life, but with my narrow view of what constituted sacredness.
When I attended women’s circles, red tents, retreats and such like, something in me believed that the ‘sacred’ only happened in this limited container. What took me a long time was to learn to weave the sacred in my everyday life.
I had the same issue when I started to learn to meditation because I believed that meditation only happened sitting on a special pose on a special cushion in a special room. I was unconsciously victim of a culture that puts form over substance.
I was missing and longing for more sacredness partly because it IS missing from most of our culture, but also partly because of my own unconscious and narrow definition of what the sacred was.
It has taken me a long time to create a sense of sacredness in my daily life, in a way where it feels natural and normal and simple. There is a saying I love : “Before enlightenment, chop the wood, fetch the water, after enlightenment, chop the wood, fetch the water” which illustrates this beautifully.
As I explained in my previous blog about mother blessings, I started offering such ceremonies to meet my own, and my community’s needs for more rituals and sacred celebrations.
I also pursued my own energy healing training, as a Reiki , then Reiki Drum practitioner, then teacher, first and foremost to fulfil my own longing, and for my own development. What came from it though was a lot more than I had hoped for, as it started to reconnect me to my own sense of the sacred.
I wanted to be part of a shamanic drum circle. There wasn’t one locally so I started my own early in 2020. I had assumed I would gather a handful of friends who already had a drum, so it was a surprise to see that most people who attended didn’t own a drum nor had taken part in a drum circle before. And it was also a surprise to find a lot more people attending than I had expected. Clearly those people also experienced my longing for spiritual connection in community. The pandemic meant that I ended up running circles in a physical venue, then online, then outdoors in the woods, then in a friend’s garden, all of which were diverse and rich experiences which deepened my practise. Now I’m planning to run them in a new venue in the woods, near Cambridge, in a private woodland. We will drum around a fire and maybe even in the beautiful geodome built by a dear friend of mine. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to join us.
In 2020, I started a practice of drumming in the woods at dawn weekly or more with 2 other women. We have drummed in all weather, including in driving rain and in the cold and dark before dawn in winter. I am grateful for owning a synthetic drum which can cope with the changing weather! We are still doing it 2 years on. We make an altar, set intentions, smudge, drum, and then we sit down with a flask of tea to chat about more mundane things. I love it.
The other 2 practises that have transformed my life in terms of sense of connection are year round wild swimming in the local river (read about how I started that here) and 5rhythms dancing.
Since the Autumn of 2019, every Friday night, I have danced with the Cambsdance community. We dance 5rhythms, ecstatic dance, freedom dance, open floor and other forms of conscious movement. There are no steps, or ‘right’ way to dance. Teachers bring a playlist they have created, which moves from slow and flowy music to fast, strong paced music and back again. They hold the space gently, providing limited guidance, a few words here and there to remind you to pay attention to your breath, or your feet, or another body part, or to each other. All that is required is to dance according to what is moving inside of you. It is a moving meditation, in community with others people who also love to dance. It lasts a couple of hours. It is the antithesis of clubbing. There is a wise range of ages and genders, a range of cultures and styles. Everybody dances in their own unique way, and nobody gives a fuck about what you look like when you dance. It is one of the most liberating practices I have taken part in. It is joyful and beautiful and oh so transformative. You can dance your joy, your grief, everything is welcome. It was a big part of my recovery when I suffered from depression in 2019.
Some of the dancers have become close friends, with whom I take part in regular community gatherings, celebrating the wheel of the year, and generally connecting as humans in a simple, fun and loving way. I especially love that all the gatherings are drug and alcohol free. We are high on connection, feel good hormones and love. There is often some dancing involved, and singing and drumming too.
I have been reflecting on the fact that all cultures around the world used to have 3 practices that belonged both to everyday life and to the sacred. But here, today in the modern world, we think that only special people, gifted people can do them. These practices are singing, drumming and dancing.
Having taught workshops that involve a big element of spirituality since 2014, I have witnessed the same longing in others again and again, especially when leading people throw circles and ceremonies.
This longing I sense in others is why I want to offer more ceremonies, more mother blessings, more drum circles, more intuitive healing, and teach more rituals (such as the postnatal closing ritual). We need to create new rituals for our modern times. A sense of spirituality is as important to wellbeing as eating and drinking.
As I explore what sacredness means to me in my everyday life, I encourage others to follow their own journey of reintroducing sacredness to their own lives.
If you feel the same longing in your heart and you want to create a more beautiful life for yourself, listen carefully to what your heart is telling you. We aren’t meant to live such disconnected lives. You deserve a life where you feel more connected to yourself, to your community and to the world around you. Start small. Be gentle. Try things and see what works for you.
“The worst thing we ever did
was put God in the sky
out of reach
pulling the divinity
from the leaf,
sifting out the holy from our bones,
insisting God isn’t bursting dazzlement
through everything we’ve made
a hard commitment to see as ordinary,
stripping the sacred from everywhere
to put in a cloud man elsewhere,
prying closeness from your heart.
The worst thing we ever did
was take the dance and the song
out of prayer
made it sit up straight
and cross its legs
removed it of rejoicing
wiped clean its hip sway,
its ecstatic yowl,
The worst thing we ever did is pretend
God isn’t the easiest thing
in this Universe
available to every soul
in every breath”
~ Chelan Harkin, in poetry book ‘Susceptible to Light’