My first weekend at Grow Heathrow consisted of a 2 day workshop on how to make rituals of meaning that matter to those that partake in them. At the time of signing up I was under the impression it was a permaculture workshop…this however was not the case! After having turned up to the community project the night before to a cup of tea, a tour and some heavy conversations with disgruntled residents talking of death threats and thieves on the loose, I had pitched my tent in a secluded spot right next to the M4 and the M25 interchange (peaceful!) and hidden my bike in the trees covering it with and an old tent! As people began arriving for the workshop I began to feel like everybody I met was either a Pagan, a Witch or a Radical Faerie…Not being particularly familiar with the ins and outs of any of these groups and not knowing much at all about Star Hawk the workshop facilitator, I sensed that I was somewhat unprepared for whatever was going to happen over the next 2 days! Let it be said that these were all lovely folk who, while at the same time as flexing my spiritual comfort zone, would also settle any anxiety I had about Grow Heathrow’s integrity and purpose as a place where people come to learn and be inspired to work towards positive change.
The workshop consisted of around 40 people and between us we were going to create a ritual that mattered. The fundamental principle for creating a ritual of significance is to be very clear on what the intention is behind the ritual. To understand the intention you need to understand what is present and pertinent to those involved. For example, if a ritual is held by a community to bless the land and ask for an abundant harvest, but the community, in reality, is riddled with conflict and tension which is preoccupying most peoples’ minds; then the ritual should be aligned to deal with those issues. ‘Intention’ is a fascinating concept and it becomes even more fascinating when a group of people must work towards discovering or uncovering their co-intention. It is probably the most important principle forgotten by most collaborative endeavours, but if a group of people are going to come together and co-create something of meaning, then it is worth understanding why they have all come together and what it is they want to work towards. This is not only true for rituals but for any organisation or group that would like to reach its full potential as the sum of all of its parts (or people!).
And so we spent the day engaged in trying to discover who we all were, what qualities were really present in our lives, what our hopes were for the future. We worked in small discussion groups, had deep conversations, in circle we expressed pain, celebration, anxiety, love, grief and fear. We touched each others’ auras, sang songs and had a wonderful lunch. Some of these activities I had done before and some it had never even crossed my mind to do before. All the while I had this sense of hesitation. How far was I able to go in revealing myself, my full heart and soul? Part of me really wanted to, part of me didn’t really know what that would even mean, and part of me wanted to retain the safe cynical/ intellectual view point. There is a great feeling of relief and ease when you relax your whole self, warts and all, in a safe container with people who you know will not judge you one way or another. More often than not I believe it is my own judgement I fear the mot, but in this environment, after 1 day knowing these people, my hesitation teetered. In the end the ritual was performed as several acts representing key themes that were represented in the group. I was part of the act on inner strength and growth. That part of the ritual included an offering and invitation for people to express and let go of their grief or mourning for someone. At this point I felt the connection strongly in the group. I was part of a circle of people holding a tribal chant of support for others to express their grief in whatever way they needed to. The pain, and the safe container for holding that expression of pain, could not have felt more real.
There is an air of humility in ritual. The rational, scientific world that many of us in the west exist in today tends to make us feel as if we are the architects of life on earth. We can manipulate, mould and synthesise the natural world simply by exerting our rational minds onto the task at hand. This sense of control is an illusion. Even the most distinguished neuroscientist will tell you that a complete explanatory theory of the human mind is not even on the horizon. I am sure there are problems out there that the world of science will indeed one day address, but there are also mysteries so complex that our good selves, as humble parts of the architecture, will never fully understand. This is why people pray, why people look up in wonder at the stars, why they send their heads spinning at the huge expanse of space and time. And it is why, in my opinion, people of all cultures have and will engage in rituals and blessings for a very long time.