Symbolism and Rituals as Tools to Renew the Mind and Refresh the Spirit

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Peru Post Pt. 2:

As I mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to cover 2 key learnings from my trip to Peru in my blog:

 

  1. The importance of connecting with nature to recharge and cultivate a sense of gratitude and wonder
  2. Using symbolism and rituals as tools to renew the mind and refresh the spirit

 

In my first post of this two part series I covered the importance of connecting with nature and included a few easy ways to incorporate some elements (including a corresponding mindset) into your daily life. In this post, I want to focus on ways you can leverage simple concepts such as symbolism and rituals as powerful tools to get some head-space.

 

While in the Sacred Valley (Valle Sagrada), I was amazed by the symbolism, rituals, and stories that permeated the local culture. Very closely connected to their relationship with nature, the people have a knack for taking abstract concepts and bringing them to life within the physical world. I’ve listed a few examples of how they do this below.

  • Burning smoke to cleanse negative energy: Sage leaves and copal (a resin that comes from the Copal Tree and smells delicious) were frequently used to clear negative energy from a space. Often times, before/during/after a yoga class, it was burned to remove the negative energy that we released during our practice.
  • Connecting stories to natural phenomena and objects to personify them: For almost every naturally occurring phenomenon – from trees to constellations – there were stories behind it which articulated a connection between the Earth and the sky that an audience could easily wrap their head around (almost like a really deep metaphor…but not). They also connected to stories to physical artifacts, such as photos of ancestors – which brought them to life, stating that these ancestors would watch over them bringing them wisdom and guidance. It was really cool to hear.
  • Using various stones and gems to support different physiological functions: Whether the goal was to balance energy, support digestion, or aid blood flow, there was a stone for that. The people believe deeply in the wisdom of the Earth and believe that these stones have harnessed that wisdom over thousands of years. Everyone wore them on their bodies or kept them in key places to bring the desired benefits to the area.
  • Creating a sacred space: In many locations, the people would use the tools above to create a sacred space in their homes where they would pray, give thanks, and seek wisdom. These spaces were held to a different standard than others and carried with them a sense of magic and wonder. It was a place that they always knew they could go to renew their mind and refresh their spirit.

 

So what?

I believe every encounter in life is a lesson, and there is some useful knowledge we can pull from this. I’m not saying that any of these mechanisms have been proven in clinical trials, I don’t even know if they have ever been tested. But I do know something that has been proven in many clinical trials… the placebo effect. While results of placebo in clinical trials can be argued either way, there have been various tests which have proved the efficacy of the placebo effect in many cases. More so, I’ve seen firsthand how these rituals build a strong faith among the people. They truly believe that their spaces are cleansed of negative energy, they are protected and guided, their bodies are functioning optimally – and their sense of confidence and happiness is all the better for it.

 

In our high demand, fast paced world, we are on all of the time. As our demands build up throughout the day, in most cases, our capacity to deal with them starts to diminish. We begin to experience things like decision fatigue which make us more susceptible to revert back to bad habits (such as skipping the gym for Netflix or choosing ice cream over a healthy snack). We also tend to switch to autopilot and are quicker to become stressed or irritable (you can see this effect in action if you check out my earlier post about the inspiration for this blog).

 

The most effective way to combat this diminished capacity is by renewing our mind every day (extra points if you refresh at periods throughout your day).

 

But how?

Since it’s an everyday battle, we need everyday tools. The best part is that there are many ways to renew your mind – so more than anything else, find what works for you. Connecting with nature, which I discussed in my last post, is one way to do this. So is exercise – but for the remainder of this post I am going to discuss how you can use the tools mentioned above to create a sacred space and employ tactics to bring this “space” with you wherever you go.

 

Create your space:

The first step is to devote a physical space that you can go to bring peace and calm into your life – this can be somewhere that you meditate, give thanks, or pray – you could also listen to calming music or read positive words – I won’t be too prescriptive here but make sure it’s something that is bringing positive into your life (death metal won’t cut it). Depending on your living situation, you can devote a corner of your bedroom, or an entire room, just make sure you can keep it set up and will not need to completely dismantle the space anytime soon – consistency is key here.

 

Incorporate the elements:

 

  • Scent: This is arguably the most pragmatic element that you can bring into your space and for the cynics, will likely be the one you connect to most. I mentioned sage leaves and copal resin but it can really be any type of scent that brings you comfort – incense, essential oils such as lavender or eucalyptus, Yankee Candles, whatever. Scent is the sense that is most deeply connected to memory – by associating scent with a sacred place that brings peace in your life, you can start to bring this scent with you anywhere and it can take you back to that place of peace. This is conditioning at its finest…thanks Pavlov.
  • Artifacts: Precious stones, things like dream catchers, and photos or pictures of relatives/ancestors/spiritual figures such as Jesus. Think about the vibe you want to cultivate in the room and bring in artifacts that support that (i.e. quartz is known to store and regulate light energy from the sun, amethyst is said to bring peace and balance, and hematite absorbs negative energy). Some of these artifacts can be big and permanent, but you definitely want to incorporate a few mobile artifacts which you can throw in your purse or pocket when you want to bring these vibes along with you.
  • Stories: Third, and perhaps most difficult, are the stories. Very closely related to the artifacts are the stories that you associate with them. For example, a picture of a relative or spiritual figure in the room will be pleasant, but without a strong story associated with it, it loses some value. Pictures or artifacts (such as a necklace) from ancestors who may have held deep sense of joy in their life can have a strong impact on your space if you believe that a piece of their soul/energy remains in that artifact and contributes to the vibe in your room. Create those stories and bring them to life by talking to them and feeling their presence. Like I said, this one might be a bit out there for some readers, especially my fellow consultants…but have some faith.

 

 

Be consistent:

Consistency is key. This will not happen overnight and will likely come with some mental hurdles where you think to yourself, why am I talking to this picture…but I encourage you to press on anyway.

 

My challenge to you is to commit to a month of an everyday practice with an open mind. Enjoy it! Dare to believe that these ancient cultures and stories were right and connected in a way that we have numbed ourselves to overtime. If you approach it with the right mindset, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by what you find. The best part about it is that these are pretty broad categories, so within them you can find the stories, scents, and artifacts that work for YOU.

 

If you do give it a shot, I want to know how it works for you so please feel free to reach out with any questions or feedback!

 

Cheers!

Matt

 

P.S. If you like this post, consider sharing it via Facebook or LinkedIn

 

 

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