The following ritual is a follow-up to the ritual from my previous post, finding strength within our tears. It can be useful when finishing a time of retreat, or before going back to work at the end of your holiday. Or, when you need to go and make a difficult announcement, like a sexual coming-out, or the ending of a relationship. Or, simply, when you have finally mustered the courage to do that one thing you really, really want to do but are so very afraid of at the same time. Now is your time, now is your moment. You can do it. For you are worth it.
If you are using this ritual together with the ritual of tears, be sure to leave sufficient time in between. If you felt a call to the mountaintop, probably that means that you need to spend some time up there, taking advantage of the high vantage point to get some new perspective on life. For instance, you may want to consider working with a different tree first, then come back to Ailm when you feel ready to reintegrate your newfound insights into your everyday life.
Part of the ritual is based on the observation how commercially grown pine tree forests tend to be green deserts, where almost nothing grows. This can serve as a powerful warning agains mono-culture, or the tendency we may sometimes have to impose our own ideas on other people. A society where everybody is forced to be exactly similar, and where diversity is discouraged, cannot possibly be a healthy one. Yet that is what so often happens, when those who are a bit different are forced to be quiet and hide their true colours in order to keep the peace and not upset the majority…
Ritual – returning home
- visualize yourself standing on the mountaintop again.
- Look out towards the view, and feel how the insight is growing within you that you cannot stay here, that it is time to return home. Take one last look at the vista below, drink in the view, and store it inside your memory, realizing that it will always be here to come back to.
- Then, turn to Ailm, the pine tree that is growing next to the place where you stand. As you say your goodbyes, you notice a pine cone lying at your feet. As you pick it up, you hear the tree whispering:
These are the seeds of the rest of your life. Sow them wisely.
- Take a moment to ponder these words. Do you realize what they mean? Hug the tree to thank it, then start making your way down the mountain.
- As you walk down, memories of the world below start flooding in. You may feel resentment, even fear. After all, you came up the mountain because you needed a time-out. Feel the pine-cone you hold in your hand, and remind yourself of what you have learned, about the world you live in, and about truly being the person you are. You are now heading down the mountain, seeking to find a life that will allow you to fully express that person, with all its beauty and imperfections.
- Stop for a moment, and think about what such a world would look like. What would need to change? How much of that is within your control?
- As you walk further down, you find yourself in a part of the forest that was commercially planted to harvest wood. It consists entirely of pine. Ailm is the tree we are working with at the moment, yet being here somehow feels completely and entirely wrong. See how you are standing in a kind of desert, where the trees above obstruct most of the light from reaching through to where you stand. As you look down, see how the forest floor is covered in a thick layer of pine needles, where nothing seems to grow.
- Think back of the lush growth on the mountaintop, where despite the harsher conditions, plant life was abundant.
- What lesson is there in this? Think back to your list of ‘things to change’. How many of the items of your list were about ‘if only other people were more like me, or had the same opinion about things like me’ ? Look around you, and realize that that is not the solution you are looking for.
- Walk around the forest, but now pay attention to the individual trees, rather than the forest as a whole. As you take time to feel the spirit of an individual tree, you feel its spirit stir, and you recognize one of the people in your immediate environment. And you realize that they too, feel lost sometimes, and need to make a mountaintop journey like you just did. Touch the tree, and whisper ‘I love you as the person you are’. You see how it transforms, and takes on a different shape (maybe even a different type of tree, or a flower, or..) A shape that better reflects who that person is. Do you recognize them? Does it maybe teach you something about the person that you aren’t aware about?
- Continue walking through the forest, touching trees, and transforming them. Allow each of them to represent a person, a place, an aspect of your life. Also include people or groups that you have a difficult relationship with. Does this help you to see your life in a different perspective?
- As you are working, notice how the place becomes gradually more beautiful, more ‘alive’, and starts feeling more welcoming, more like home. Eventually, you pass by a spot where it feels like something is missing. You look at the forest floor, and see how there’s a hole there, waiting for a seed to be planted.
- You remember the pine-cone you are still holding. As you open your hand, you see how it has transformed. It has become YOUR seed. And this is where it needs to be planted.
- Carefully put the seed into the waiting hole, cover it with earth, and water it. Look around you to the forest, and to the sun shining above, and ask them for support to allow you to grow, to thrive in this place. Simply asking may be enough, but if you didn’t feel at home before, it might be a good idea to speak to the forest and try to explain them how and why that was. Just this once, allow them to look into your heart, and let them how you really feel about things. Listen to yourself as you are speaking. It might be that some of the things you say come as a surprise, even to yourself.
- You sense how they are supportive of you, and it may be that some of them have a message to share.
- When you are ready, see how all this love and warmth is allowing your seed to grow.
- When the time feels right, step into it, feel yourself transform into the tree, become part of the forest, and enjoy the sunlight on your leaves.
- You are home. Give thanks for the experience, and finish the ritual.
After you have finished, it may be a good idea to take out your journal and write down your experiences. Are there some ideas that have come up that you can implement in real life? What have you learned about the people in your life? And maybe, difficult and scary as that can be, you should have some of the conversations you had with the trees, with the persons who are part of your life?
In this ritual, Ailm reminds us that home is ultimately a place we co-create with the people around us. When we are feeling bad, it can be tempting to get stuck in an attitude of ‘but they don’t understand me’. Remember that they have feelings too. That, although you may have genuine reasons to feel different, or not welcome to show who you really are, that does not give you the automatic right to demand of the people around you that they let go of everything that has meaning to them and switch around to your version of the facts.
What you can, and should, demand, though, is the right to be fully appreciated as yourself. The right for the forest to thrive as the wonderful and diverse community that it is. Allowing you, and everyone around you, to grow up to be beautiful beings, together creating the forest community.