I know a girl that constructed a permanent fort over her bed.
When she was little, and for many years, she made tents in the living room, which also meant picnics, story-books and crafts for family and friends. In her magic-cave, she would point to her treasures and then paint my face, or put tiny metallic stars all over my hands, feet, arms and legs.
Decades later, I still experience life through her eyes. When we traveled recently to Big Sur, Ca., she cried for thirty minutes at the majesty of the coastal cove, blue skies far and wide. We discovered a million other little treasures together, before and since; sand-dollars and caterpillars, pigeons and doves (at her insistence, I learned the difference), sea-creatures, bunnies, chickens and goats, rivers, lakes and streams, crystals and rocks. Once she took me on a nature-adventure, the whole point of which is to gather pretty leaves and flowers then press them between the pages of books and journals for safe-keeping.
In her fort these days, we are surrounded by many of these things. Flowers and herbs, cards and books; memories of places and people. It is a dreamy little cave and it reminds me of the tents in our living room from many moons ago.
By now you probably realize that this little gypsy-girl is my daughter, and, yes, she still lives in a fort.
I was in the fort one afternoon earlier this year when she brought out a bowl of sand, a charcoal ring, and herbs for burning and we had a ceremony together. I literally cried when we burned the copal resin. My reaction surprised me. Chaleigh, intuiting how I connected with this, later gifted me everything I needed to have my own ceremonies. I have been practicing ever since.
Because I have found this to be a profoundly healing experience, I researched it in order to share more about the history of ceremonies, as well as the health benefits and then I gathered a list of tools you will need to create your own sacred place. I sincerely hope that some of you in the community will share your own experience with ceremonies or ask questions by leaving a comment below!
Since ancient times, ceremonies and plant medicine have connected us to the world around us; our ancestors, the planets and the stars, the divine, and our respective deity or creator. Ceremonies create space for grieving and celebration, helping us to see the sanctity of own life while reminding us of our place amongst the cosmos.
But ceremonies can also be helpful to our physical health. Studies prove that the inhalation of smoke from burning incense or herbs can be helpful when treating microbial infections. Medicinal smoke clears the air of pathogenic bacteria that can otherwise compromise the respiratory and immune system. Other ways that ceremonies help to support health relate to how they can function to unwind the nervous system. Similar to meditation, prayer or breathwork, ceremonies ground us in the present moment and center the mind and body. When we do this, we shift unconsciously into a more powerfully healing state.
For many, the practice is transformative. When we are using aromatherapy, lighting incense, burning sage, or repeating a mantra, we are are effectively disconnecting from the world and experiencing a sacred pause in our otherwise busy lives.
But do you need a dedicated space for your ceremony? We don’t think so. We want our altars to be travel friendly so that we can move our ceremony from the living room to the backyard or take it on vacation even. With this in mind, we compiled a list of some of our favorite and most portable items for your own travel-friendly sacred space.
Seven travel-ready tools for creating a sacred space:
- Beginning your ceremony: A few of our favorite ways to begin a ceremony are with sage, candles and singing bowls. Sage reminds us to energetically clear the space; mentally, physically and emotionally. It is also used for purification. You can use a candle to light your dried bundle of sage and then place it in a ceramic bowl or abalone shell after you have used the smoke to clear your space. You can buy sage at most health-food stores or order online. Alternatively, you can purchase sage essential oil to diffuse. If you are traveling and do not have a diffuser, you can uncap the bottle and simply move around the room to let the aroma gently disperse. If you are interested in how to work more intentionally with the medicinal smoke, research smudging. Another option for beginning a ceremony is to light a candle or play a Tibetan Singing Bowl. Used traditionally and worldwide, singing bowls produce harmonic overtones creating an effect that is unique to each instrument.
- Bowl, Charcoal, Sand, and Tongs: The bowl, or censer, must be able to withstand heat (ceramic/metal). Add sand to the bowl to create a bed for the charcoal. Using the tongs (google hookah tongs), light your charcoal ring (right now we are loving 3Kings Charcoal) until you see a red glow, then place on top of the sand in your bowl. You are now ready to add your plant medicine!
- Plant Medicine: Some of our favorite plants for burning are Palo Santo, Copal Resin, lavender and rose. Palo Santo offers guidance and support, lavender gently relaxes the body, Copal Resin helps us to connect deeply to our personal truth, and rose remind us of our innate beauty. If you are traveling, you can forego the bowl and take essential oils or incense. Some of our favorite essential oils to use during ceremony are frankincense, sandalwood, lavender and rose. Some of the Well Scent blends that are uniquely suited for ceremonies are Protect, Balance, Under the Stars, Over the Moon and Pause for Peace.
- Nature: Flowers, crystals, stones, seashells, feathers. Need we say more?
- Paper, pen and your voice: On one piece of paper write down what you want to manifest in your life (peace, forgiveness, presence, trust, prosperity, etc.,) and on another piece of paper, write down the things you want to release (anger, loneliness, anxiety, etc.,). Tuck the first piece of paper in your wallet (or other place where it will be close to you) and then throw away or burn the second list. Studies show this simple trick allows you to work more directly with the subconscious. to shift patterns of behavior.
- Mantras: Mantras are specifically designed to use sound waves to promote healing, insight and spiritual growth. Mantras can be repeated aloud or in silence and can be used by people of any religion or spiritual practice. This practice has been passed down to the present from the sages of India, the classical scientists of ancient Greece, and the medieval monks of Europe. See this great article for ideas for special mantras for healing the body.
- Closing your ceremony: Your heart contains it’s own intrinsic nervous system and there is cross-communication between your brain and heart that directly affects your immune, psychological, autonomic and nervous systems. Connect with your heart during practice to tap into that intelligence by placing one or both hands over your heart and having a personal affirmation, such as “I relax into this moment knowing that I am safe and loved.” Then when your practice has concluded ask inwardly for that information to be communicated to your brain.
We hope this list allows you to bring more sacredness to your lives. If you have ideas for our community, please leave a comment below.
With prayers for peace, love and healing, Stacy Shuman