How To Do a Safe, Bullshit-Free Releasing Ritual

Aug 25, 2015

How to Do A Bullshit-Free Releasing Ritual |

The first few times I did a releasing ritual, I just wasn’t really into it. Each time, I was motivated to do the ritual simply because I was taking a personal development course for which I was required to conduct a release; I had never really thought of doing something like this before, and my gut reaction was that it was a little cheesy. Maybe really cheesy.

Needless to say, my heart wasn’t in it, and I didn’t really get much out of it. When hearing others talk about how liberating their releases were, my skepticism remained intact.

During another personal development course (I seem to be rather drawn to these!), I was once again tasked with performing a releasing ritual. This time, I was meant to be releasing all of the things that I was “done with,” or that were not serving me, from the previous year, to pave the way for some new year goal-setting.

Despite the fact that this next release still fell into the category of “homework” to some extent, I felt a little more invested in its purpose. I had had a very difficult year, and despite the fact that those difficult days had mostly passed, I still harboured quite a bit of bitterness and anger about the experience. Now this was the kind of situation that called for some release.

So that’s step one, particularly if you’re feeling a bit skeptical. Start by doing a release when you clearly need one. If you’re having recurring negative thoughts about something or someone that aren’t getting you anywhere – they’re just circling in your mind not doing anyone much good – a releasing ritual might be just the ticket.

Next step: write that shit down. What are those negative patterns that keep plaguing you. What would you like to leave behind so that you can just freakin’ move on? The guilt you’re feeling about not having made it to the gym for the last three months? Anger at a friend or loved one for something they did that they’ve already made amends for, and yet the anger still lingers? Upset about an unfairness or an injustice or something that you couldn’t control? Maybe you have a pretty good idea what you’re ready to get rid of; maybe you don’t. If you fall into the latter category, just do a bit of a channel-writing brain-dump. Without censoring your thoughts, you might be surprised what your subconscious comes up with. Didn’t know you were super pissed at your sister for stealing your thunder growing up? Well, looky there! There it is! Roll with it: it’s as honest as you can get with yourself.

Now, for me, the next logical step was a little different than most releasing rituals I’ve seen. Rather than launching straight into the release, I mulled over those negativities that I wanted to kick to the curb. I asked myself things like what exactly happened here? What are the roots of my feelings about this issue? Maybe you realize that you’re not actually upset about being downsized at work, but rather that the experience brought forth feelings of self-doubt that you had been trying to ignore for years. How would I like to see myself move forward from this? You may realize that along with releasing old negativity, you need to think of some ways to improve your confidence, or find time to communicate better with a loved one. Sometimes a release fails to be powerful for us because we only think about letting go of the negative, not about how to move forward in a more positive way.

Once you’ve felt your feelings about the things you’d like to let go of during this release, you’re ready for the fun part. Go with your gut instincts around how you’d like to release what’s holding you back. Maybe your inner pyro is just dying to cut up the pieces of paper on which you wrote all that negativity and burn them. Maybe you want to write each unwanted piece of baggage on a rock and hurl them into a lake. My favourite option is definitely the former, and I’ve learned over the course of a few releasing rituals how to do this safely and powerfully.

If you’re indoors, put a tiny little bit of water in the bottom of a metal, glass or ceramic bowl. If you’re outdoors, fireproofing is not likely as important; just make sure you’re not near any dry twigs or grasses. Get seated in a comfortable position. One at a time, take each piece of paper and spend as long as you need to with it before you burn that shit. Maybe you need to take a moment and forgive yourself or someone else, out loud. Maybe you need to let some rage bubble up or scream out. When you’re ready to start making peace, light the paper and hold on to it for as long as you can without burning yourself. Then drop it into the bowl and audibly state “I am letting this go. I am moving on” – or whatever feels meaningful to you. Watch it burn. Seriously. Get lost in the flicker of the flames just like you do on a starry night in front of the campfire. Really let yourself take in the fact that you are willing this aspect of your life to get lost.

Once each piece of paper is burned, I really like to do a little smudging ceremony. This is also something I thought was total bullshit for a long time, and then I realized that I didn’t necessarily have to believe the sage itself was the cleansing element (which, with all due respect, some people do; I’m just not there yet in my thinking) but rather the choice to perform a ritual of cleansing was the key. I could be cleansing with a spoon, as long as the ritual had meaning to me. So I take the smoldering sage and pass it clockwise over the Ashes of Crappiness, and then over myself, as a way to seal the deal with my psyche to get on with it and let that shit go.

And, a word to the wise: you might end up feeling the need to release things a few times before you really get rid of them. Just like you need to practice your forward bends a bit before you can touch your toes, be gracious with yourself if those negative thoughts pop up again. You now have a tool – the memory of those thoughts going up in flames – to help you squelch them in your everyday life and get on to bigger and better things.

Have you tried to do a releasing ritual?  What works for you?  If not, do you think it’s something you might try?

The Becoming Podcast has been on a short hiatus while I focus on writing my book, but oh what a comeback episode I have for you!

This month, I spoke to Toko-pa Turner, who many of you may know as the unofficial patron saint of many of my circles and gatherings because of the sheer number of times I’ve quoted from the wisdom of her book, Belonging.

Toko-pa is a Canadian author, teacher, and dreamworker. Blending the mystical teachings of Sufism in which she was raised with a Jungian approach to dreams, she founded The Dream School in 2001, from which thousands of students have graduated. She is the author of the award-winning book, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, which explores the themes of exile and belonging through the lens of dreams, mythology, and nature. This book has resonated for readers worldwide, and has been translated into 10 different languages so far. Her work focuses on the relationship between psyche and nature, and how to follow our inner wisdom to meet with the social, psychological, and ecological challenges of our time.

Here’s some of what Toko-pa and I talk about in this episode:

> The dream that changed Toko-pa’s life, causing her to question her career and, ultimately, her identity

> How we can court our dreams to support us during times of radical transformation – and the reasons so many of us have a hard time remembering and working with what shows up in our dreamscape

> Toko-pa’s perspective on the message of Belonging after the divisiveness our society has experienced in the years since it was published

> What happened for both Toko-pa and I when we fell out of belonging from the ideologies of the “wellness world”

> How to build community when you’re under-resourced

> “The Big Lie” when it comes to belonging, and how we can reclaim a sense of belonging to the greater family of things, as Mary Oliver so famously wrote

Listen to the episode on iTunes


Show Notes

Toko-pa’s Website

Belonging:  Remembering Ourselves Home, Toko-pa’s book

The David Abram video about animism mentioned in the interview

Toko-pa’s self-guided program, Dream Drops

Companion, the program that accompanies Belonging


Also, while you’re at it, if you enjoy The Becoming Podcast, I would be so grateful if you would rate and review, and even subscribe to it on iTunes.  That goes a long way to helping more and more people find and benefit from hearing these interviews!  Thank you so much!