For me, leading ceremony is not about making something happen. Yes, there are structural and energetic components to attend to, but the real work is creating a space for people to have a direct spiritual connection inside and outside themselves.
It is the art of un-doing, the space holding, the emptying.
We have been taught to look to someone else to tell us our deepest knowing and show us what spiritual connection means to us. We have given up our own power and because of this, we are eager to place it on others. This is hurting us individually and collectively quite deeply.
For me, leading is as much about disentangling from this dynamic as it is about the creation of the ceremony. If you want to deepen your spiritual practice, learn to listen. If you want to create a ceremony, learn to listen.
It does not matter whether you get a form just right – that your hand moves precisely the right way, that your prayer is spoken perfectly, that you even know exactly what you are doing.
I say this as an artist and someone who deeply honors a well-developed technique, and as an academic who values knowing. These are beautiful embellishments, but not necessities. What is necessary is the unmediated connection with spirit. A connection that is yours and yours alone.
For me, my non-doing speaks louder than my doing. My lack of showmanship is a vehicle for others to see their own brilliance. The emptiness or absence of activities is an opportunity for others to step forward.
Disentangling from the misplaced spiritual power dynamic is complex. As soon as the space is open, it is often filled with all sorts of things that are not in service of direct spiritual connection or upliftment to try and put the familiar dynamic back in place.
Stepping out of the “I have the spiritual truth” game brings up unconscious fears. Fears because suddenly we are faced with our own spiritual nakedness and want desperately for someone to wrap us in the blanket of “you don’t need to know because I do.” These fears can be projected on leaders in the form of “you need to do more so that I feel secure.” The remedy is that we vulnerably step in and ask for our own spiritual connection.
It can also call forward an ego-driven superiority simply because the person experiences that lack of condescension and middle-manning as an indication of limitation. They have bought in, so deeply, to the idea that competence and spiritual connection mean dominance and oppression. The remedy again is to work on our own spiritual connection. Direct contact makes these dynamics untenable.
When I am talking about divine feminine principles, I am not talking about goddess work. There are plenty (and most setting predominantly are) goddess works that support the patriarchal structure that keep us detached from our inner knowing all while having a fabulous goddessy face.
I am talking deep in the bones dismantling of the structures that keep us from ourselves and our deepest spiritual truth. I am talking the remembering of how to steward our own spiritual journey and gather the wisdom from the universe one handful at a time. This requires something totally different.
Yes, it is divine feminine work. It is the work of non-doing. It is the void, the vessel, the opening. And like the feminine, it gets devalued, criticized, feared and condemned. And like the feminine, it has been told that it is nothing and that something needs to go in its place. It forgets its own value. Yet it gives and gives and gives to us because it is the divine mother herself understanding that we, as children, need time to grow up.
So ceremony for me is not about doing something, it is about creating an opening – or in some cases working to create even a small crack so that this wisdom can find its way into the room and hopefully the world. Because I know that people with a direct spiritual connection can heal themselves and heal the world.
Many people are taught, starting in their childhood, that someone else knows better than they do. While learning to recognize external authority and to honor alternate perspectives is important to our social development, flat-out believing what you are told because it comes from an “expert” or someone who appears more advanced than you is something that most of us do at least every once in a while—and many of us do it a lot. This does not mean you need to summarily reject it, either—by developing your own inner wisdom, you can strike a balance. Seek out resources that help you honor your innate wisdom.
Dis-empowering to the core, this belief leaves the person thinking “why bother?” There are many ways to slice it, but we each have power. First, one dedicated person is often what gets a movement started. Second, in each moment, we are having an impact on many people. This impact can be instrumental in lifting a person up so that they may then choose to do the same for someone else. One of the reasons why people feel discouraged is that they look at the impact they do not have rather than at the positive impact that they do have. Try noticing what good things come from your noble efforts.
While not everyone can have a Maserati, abundance in general and wealth specifically is within your reach. The fact of the matter is that we don’t all want the same thing, especially once we get in touch with what we really want instead of what we think we want. When you do the work to get clear on who you are and what is important to you, you will see the abundance you already have and develop ways to bring in more of what you want—whether that means billions to fight the system or a quiet place to read a book.
“If I am suffering, then I have done something wrong.” Karma is based on the idea that for every action, there is a response. This is not a punishment—it is a teaching. It is a way to fully understand our own actions, heal, and ultimately grow. When we experience adversity in life, it does not necessarily mean that we have inflicted suffering on someone else. Sometimes we have; however, sometimes we have just chosen a difficult experience for our own growth and insight. Looking at our lives though the lens of being punished does not help us become more mature and responsible: it makes us more fearful. Focusing on what you have learned from the challenges in your life yields much better results.
Putting the deeper philosophical debate aside, this is meant to address skirting our responsibility by making the argument that “it is all in your head,” or minimizing our own view because it is, well, “just our own view.” If we all had wildly different conceptions of reality, we would likely find it difficult to interact. We believe that most of the time, if our friend shows up to dinner, our friend also believes that they are at dinner. We share so many of these little truths in our life that to proclaim they are not there when it would be convenient for them not to be seems a bit contrived. However, this trick is used more often than you might guess to get you to doubt your perspective or question the facts. We can honor each person’s unique perception by using each person’s subjective truth to gain a deeper understanding of the total picture and to build connections rather than as a covert tactic to undermine our responsibilities.
Throughout time, wisdom schools have developed during periods of spiritual and cultural transition. Wisdom schools emphasize a deep respect for the diverse experience of the individual and offer teachings to help with the natural spiritual unfolding of each student rather than provide a static doctrine to which one must adhere.
It is time for us to take our spiritual and personal growth back into our own hands, which is not to say that there is nothing to be learned from spiritual traditions and personal development theory. These things are rich storehouses of information that can serve us in many ways, and their traditions deserve to be respected and honored. We can benefit greatly from the wisdom of those who have walked before us.
However, any system that demands exclusive loyalty to itself over our personal truth is a corrupt system that, while it might teach us many things, will ultimately fail us.
Unfortunately, the teachings of personal empowerment that we are so in need of are limited in supply. We are taught through many established educational and religious structures—starting when we are very young—that intelligence and spiritual development is something that is endorsed through people and systems that are external to us. We are indoctrinated into giving up our own personal knowledge by the well-meaning caregivers of our childhood—who have also been damaged by the system.
Developing our own wisdom thus becomes a balance between learning from those who have walked before as well as from our own experience. Since many of us have been conditioned to give up our own truth, we benefit from learning how to engage and honor it. This allows us to have an honest and deep personal relationship with any teachings we encounter.
To connect to our own wisdom, we benefit from applying the intelligence of our senses. Even the most esoteric of teachings and the most abstract of theories can be validated in part by the senses. For example, if you were taught that god is love, you will have, if you pay attention, some sensation in your body of the truth or untruth of this proposition. This is a starting place for our own inner wisdom.
Likewise, we may be told that a spiritual guide feels or acts a certain way, a particular approach is healing, or a particular spiritual development tool works in a certain way. If we connect to it, we will sooner or later know the truth of those proposals.
In this way, we can listen, learn, and experiment with what we are taught by validating those lessons with our firsthand knowledge so that we may “know we know” rather than believing in something external to us.
When our own inner wisdom is combined with theoretical perspective and expansive and honed spiritual traditions, we have the ability to advance our own growth and aid in the transformation of others in a profound way. We can maintain respect for all teachings while simultaneously verifying what is taught through our personal experience. This marriage yields the birth of our spiritual empowerment.
This is extremely important as we learn to open ourselves to higher levels of consciousness. If we do not personally verify the information we receive, we can suffer from doubt that limits our effectiveness, we can more easily fall prey to misinformation and manipulation, and we deprive ourselves of our own true inner knowledge