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Insights at the Edge
Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interviews with leading spiritual teachers and luminaries.
Listen in as they explore their latest challenges and breakthroughs—the leading edge of their work.
The Power of Ceremony
Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today, my guest is Sandra Ingerman. Sandra Ingerman is an award-winning author of ten books, including the new book from Sounds True Walking in Light: The Everyday Empowerment of a Shamanic Life. She’s also the creator of seven audio programs produced by Sounds True. She’s a world-renowned teacher of shamanism, and has been teaching for more than three decades. Sandy teaches workshops internationally on shamanic journeying, healing, and reversing environmental pollution using spiritual methods. She is recognized for bridging the ancient, cross-cultural healing methods into our modern culture, addressing the needs of our times.
With Sounds True, Sandy is joining with other leading shamanic teachers—including don Oscar Miro-Quesada, Christina Pratt, Luisah Teish, Alberto Villoldo, José Stevens, and Hank Wesselman, among others—to lead a 13-part online series—13 global gatherings to create both personal and collective transformation and healing that will be taking place on the full moon. People [will gather] from over 50 different countries online beginning on Wednesday, March 23. If you’re interested in more information about Year of Ceremony, please visit SoundsTrue.com.
In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Sandy and I spoke about the essential elements that make a ceremony effective and stories of the most powerful ceremonies that she’s been a part of. We also talked about the role of intention in ceremonial work, and how to engage both the elements and invisible helping forces. We also talked about how ceremonies can ask that a part of us die, and the letting go and surrender that’s required. Here’s my conversation on the power of ceremony with Sandra Ingerman.
Sandy, you’re one of the lead presenters a new online series from Sounds True called Year of Ceremony, which will bring together people from all over the world. We’re expecting people from upwards of 50 different countries gathering on the full moon each month for 13 months to engage in a ceremony together. I wanted to start our conversation by talking about the full moon, because I actually think there’s a lot of confusion and myth and legend about the full moon and what’s happening during a full moon. Why is that a good time for ceremony?
Sandra Ingerman: Well, one of the things that I like to talk to people about whenever I teach is that we are nature. We are not connected to nature—we actually are nature. We forget that in a modern-day culture because we’ve disconnected so much.
As beings of nature, we’re mostly water. If you look at the tides and what happens to water in our outer world during the different changes in the lunar cycles, then it’s obvious that those kinds of changes are happening to us also.
So, the full moon is a time where energies oftentimes become magnified. You oftentimes hear that there’s more hospitalizations where people have certain breakdowns during the full moon, or more police activity as that energy—people don’t know what to do with that energy, again, because we have disconnected ourselves from nature. The positive side of the full moon is that we can use our energy that is rising during this particular time to join together as a global community with people from all over the world to manifest healing in the world, personal healing for ourselves, and also global healing.
TS: Now, I’m interested in the moon, so I want to go a little bit further. What do you think about the new moon? What’s the best way to spend time during the new moon?
SI: Where I kind of find myself working with the moon and teaching people about lunar cycles is that, although we are all water and part of nature, I also find that people’s personalities—they feel differently on the new moon than other people do. Some people feel differently on the full moon than other people do. So, although we’re part of a collective natural cycle, we also have our own individual cycles.
The new moon is typically thought about as new beginnings—what a wonderful time for new beginnings. But, what I find in my own practice—and especially with myself and teaching others—is that some people feel more introverted on a new moon. Some people feel more extroverted on the new moon. And the same thing with the full moon. Although it’s known to be a time of new beginnings, there’s also how we react personally to that flow of how the moon is affecting our own personal water pattern in our bodies.
I encourage people to start to journal or just start to be more observant during the different phases of the moon of how do you personally feel. I used to have a really, really good friend. I never had to look at a moon calendar. I never had to look up at the moon. I always knew exactly where the moon was based on his behavior. He was one of the most sensitive people that I’ve ever met to the changes in the different moon cycles.
So, I think it’s really important to—yes, we understand the new moon, when you look at it—that sliver in the sky—that newness, which means to all of us on a deep level, “Oh, this is something new being birthed and something new can be birthed into my life.” And then as it grows into its fullness, there’s that full energy—that magnification energy. We can see how bright it is. If you can look up at the night sky and it’s not too cloudy, you can actually feel tangibly in your body what that feels like in your body to have the moon shining that brightly upon you. Of course, people have trouble sleeping on the full moon because there’s so much energy that we oftentimes feel.
So, on one level—to put it into a classification—the new moon represents the newness, the unpotentiated energy, the possibilities of new beginnings. And the full moon is that energy that has really come into being and it’s magnified right now, and let’s use it because there’s just such a tremendous amount of potential. Then we all have to tap into our own personal cycle and feel for ourselves how we need to change our behavior to live more in accordance with the cycles of the moon.
TS: You mentioned, Sandy, how nature’s not this thing out there that is something we connect with. A lot of times, people will say they want to protect nature or they miss being in contact with nature. Here you’ve said this very profound thing right at the beginning of our conversation—how important it is to remember that that’s actually what we are—that we’re nature.
I’m wondering how that insight changes things. It seems so profound to me. So, I want you to unpack it, if you will, a little bit.
SI: Sure. Well, we talk about wanting to be connected more to nature. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and so I understand people who say, “I live in an urban environment and I read all these books on nature. But, people don’t understand that when you live in a city, it’s a little bit more difficult to connect with nature.”
That’s not true, because—again—you are nature and there’s always the sky that is right there for us to feel its power. There’s the earth beneath our feet and there’s always a tree that we can reach out and touch.
So, we’re in many ways—as human beings— we’re denying the truth of who we are in a physical body. On a spiritual level, you can say we’re spiritual light and we’re these divine beings.
But, we chose to be in a body in this lifetime and our body is earth, water, air, and fire. We’re made up of those elements, and those elements are outside of us too. It doesn’t matter where you live—whether you live in an urban environment or in the country—there’s always a way to feel that part of yourself that is nature. As you can do that, there is that natural protection that comes because—if you’re taking care of your own health and well-being, and if you are recognizing that you are nature—then you’re naturally going to protect your own health and the outer health of the planet that we call nature because we’re taking care of who we are.
TS: Now, I mentioned that—for the online series, Year of Ceremony—people will be gathered together from different parts of the world to engage in healing ceremonies. I’m curious if you think it’s really true that when people bring their consciousness together that something different can happen than if people are just practicing on their own whenever they’re practicing, et cetera. Or, is there a lot of myths about that? Like, “Oh, we create this field and it amplifies . . .” How much of that is really true and how much is just wishful thinking?
SI: Well, I think that, on one level, it is really true because I have been teaching shamanism for over 30 years. So, I have seen when one practitioner works on a client who’s really ill and then calls out to a community and says, “I’m working with this client or my brother or my sister—or my mother is really ill, and I’m asking people to join together and to do some healing work as a group instead of just me one-on-one.” In my over-30 years of teaching, I’ve seen the difference of the effect of healing that happens when we work one-on-one rather than when we work as a community.
There’s an exponential power of healing that happens when we work together as a community. That’s been seen again and again and again in different experiments that have been done. But, just different case studies that thousands of practitioners have written up and teachings that come from shamanic cultures from all over the world for thousands of years—it’s talked about the exponential power of community.
On the other side of that, when we’re talking about these huge planetary issues that we’re dealing with right now with terrorism and the climate, I do believe that when we gather as a community, that a change does happen. What starts to happen when we work as a community to perform ceremonies on behalf of these very big issues, we start building a world of invisible substance. In all healing—whether it’s personal healing or global healing—first something happens on an invisible level before you actually see the results of it in the physical world.
But, also, the other piece of that is performing ceremonies is not enough to create those huge changes that many of us are really yearning for right now because we need to integrate a certain amount of personal work in order to make those big changes that we’re yearning for in the world right now. So, for example, I’m sure everybody gathering for the Year of Ceremony wants to see a peaceful world. So, we might have presenters who might be talking about creating peace through coming together as a global community. But, if you’re going about your daily life and you’re angry all the time and you’re having negative thoughts about others—loved ones, your coworkers—and you’re a rage driver, you’re not doing your personal work if you’re not actually becoming peace inside of yourself [and] doing that personal work.
Then, what we’re doing in the ceremony—I do believe—has some ability to change, but not to change the world on the levels that we’re all looking for. Ceremony has to be integrated with also working on yourself at the same time to become more of a spiritual consciousness and bring more of a spiritual consciousness into your minute-to-minute life.
TS: Now, what are the essential elements that make a ceremony successful, if you will—or effective?
SI: Number one: a lot of preparation work has to be done because, in shamanism, shamans work in the invisible realm. So, I like to spin fiber into yarn on a spinning wheel. As a spinner, the metaphor I use is that you go into the invisible—when you look into the old mythological stories about spinning and how you can manifest through spinning different qualities into the world. You can spin thread into gold, which comes from those old stories.
What happens is you start in the invisible realms, and there’s a thought-form that happens in the invisible realms. So, shamans actually open up the door between our ordinary consciousness—who we are on an egoic and personality level—and they open up the door into the invisible realms, where all things are possible because everything that is to be created starts in the invisible realms. Everything starts in the invisible realms before it’s created into the physical.
So, in shamanism and in ceremonial work, we actually go into the invisible realms and we start to spin through these threads that start to weave together into a new fabric of reality that starts to replace the fabric of reality that we’re seeing dissolving in our ordinary world right now, right in front of our lives. Because we’re not living a healthy life. We’re not taking care of the planet in the way that we came here to do.
So, in order to really be able to go into the invisible realms and start that spinning process and that weaving process, you have to be able to leave your ordinary thoughts behind because your ordinary thoughts anchor you here. So, if you’re thinking about your emails or what [you’re] going to eat for dinner when the ceremony’s over or, “God, I had a really bad day at work,”—if you can’t put that behind you and lift the anchor, it’s like a ship that can’t go out to sea unless you actually lift the anchor.
So, in all ceremonial work, it’s really important to do some kind of preparation work. It’s really different for different people, because we’re all called to different ways of working. Shamans in classical cultures sing and dance, and that’s a great way to get your ego out of the way, your personality out of the way—let go of all your ordinary thoughts and all of the things that burden you from being able to fully bring yourself into the invisible realms. Some people like to take a walk in nature. Some people like to just go into silence and do some meditation. Some people like to do some yoga beforehand. But, something that helps you to let go of your day, your ordinary life, and who you are on an ordinary level, and to be able to move into integrating your spiritual nature into going into the invisible realms where all things are possible.
And then, creating sacred space is a really beautiful thing to do. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. But, lighting a candle to just make a statement to your psyche that something different is getting ready to happen—something sacred’s getting ready to happen. Or, burning your favorite incense, if fragrance [and] burning incense isn’t an issue for you. If it is, spraying some rose spray in where you’re working. Or, putting a little rug down in your house—just a little, tiny cloth or rug where you put some flowers. Bring a rock from nature or your favorite crystal, or your favorite picture of something that reminds you that this is sacred, this is something different, this isn’t an ordinary activity. “I’m changing here into another space.”
These are things that are really important. Also, what goes along with dropping your personality and your ego is dropping into [or] dissolving into a heart space where you allow yourself to feel—number one—the preciousness of life, and how grateful you are for life and all that is alive—and also for the circle that has gathered. If we’re just a group of people from around the world who are performing a ceremony, then that’s not going to create any change. That’s not where the power is.
But, if we’re a group of people who realize that we’re all coming together out of our love for the planet and let’s open our hearts to each other so that we can actually join as a loving, supportive community—that’s where we create an opening. We become a vessel for the power of the invisible realms to come through and to create transformation.
So, that preparation—creating sacred space, opening up our hearts in love to the community that has gathered—I sometimes wear something just a little special. It just says to myself that I’m doing something different, something special. This isn’t an ordinary activity. So, I might wear a scarf or a particular necklace that I have, or a belt that I have. It just says, “This is different from an ordinary activity.”
So, these are things that I feel are really important to create the space that needs to happen before we actually enter into the ceremony—and to not come to a ceremony as an observer—“I’m going to call in and kind of see what this is all about,”—but to really be willing to try. We live in a culture where we haven’t been supported in working in the invisible realms. So, there’s a part of all of us that goes, “Hmmm. I wonder about this. What is the power of this?”
So, there’s a part of us that sometimes comes as an observer to a ceremony. Again, that’s going to lack power. We really have to—over time—learn how to bring ourselves fully present into this ceremony so that we are really with the group—hearts open, present, not thinking about anything else—and seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, touching the possibility of change that can happen by gathering together as this community.
So, bringing ourselves present and not going through a ceremony [by] just following instructions as rote—because then, again, there’s no power in that. But, bringing our own individual nature into that.
So, when I lead ceremonies, I encourage people to sing or dance or drum or rattle—to do something that brings them more into the ceremony and saying that there are no rules here. Let’s make the ceremony our own instead of following particular instructions. Let’s make it our own. That adds a tremendous amount of power to the ceremony itself.
TS: Now, Sandy, one of the things that I hear people talk a lot about when they talk about ceremony is the role of intention. It’s important to have a clear intention about what you’re doing. This is something—just to be quite honest—that’s confused me because, when you set out to engage in a ceremony, your ordinary thinking mind may be part of what’s going on. So, you set an intention. It could be not from the most expansive place within you before you begin a ceremony. So, how do you work with intention so it’s coming from—if you will—your “big self” and not your “small self?”
SI: Well, that’s a really excellent question because I know a lot of my students are nervous about performing ceremonies because it’s, “Oh my God, what if I’m asking for the wrong thing?” That is a possibility—where we’re asking from an egoic desire instead of from our bigger self.
I have a few responses to that. One is that we have to start somewhere. I feel that if we start with some intention, we start to open up the door into the invisible realms, where some kind of change starts to happen.
So, for example, I lead a lot of fire ceremonies to release blocking beliefs that stop you from using your full creativity in the world. What I tell people is if you release the wrong belief into the fire—you thought this was your core belief [or] big belief, but actually, on an unconscious level, there’s something even bigger that’s blocking you—you’ve at least opened the door to some kind of healing starting to happen. Over time, that does start to happen.
I also feel that the helping spirits—and again, we’re leading ceremonies that come from the practice of shamanism—and the elements read our hearts and they don’t read our minds. So, when we come with an intention, oftentimes they’ll go a little bit deeper behind what we’re mentally thinking about and looking at what we’re spiritually asking for.
But, I do believe that’s part of the personal work that we have to keep doing—is to keep exploring, “What is my own personal desire?” and, “What is coming from my actual soul desire?” because it’s our soul that knows, really, what we want to manifest—or what people would call “the higher self.” [This is] where that soul passion is really coming from.
And that takes time. It takes time of personal work—of making a commitment—to really explore the difference of your personal desires and what is coming from a higher spiritual place.
But, I do believe that we have to start somewhere. So, I encourage people—over time of working with ceremonial work—to keep exploring what the difference [is] between what our ego wants and what the bigger picture [is]. There’s a bigger picture that’s going on in the collective right now too. Part of that also goes into the need to have an intention and to hold the vision, to keep your concentration, not drift off, hold your focus on the ultimate vision that you would like to see, and then let go of the outcome at the same time.
That’s where it gets really tricky, because you’re dancing a paradox of—from a human perspective, I don’t know the bigger picture. But, it’s my destiny to participate in the game of life fully and to be a person who adds my creative energy and my heart energy to ask for a change in my own life and in the world. At the same time, I don’t always know what the bigger picture is.
So, I hold my focus, I do my work, and I let go of the outcome. That’s a dance. It’s definitely a tricky dance to be able to surrender the outcome and also surrender the timing. In a modern-day culture, people go, “Oh, I participated in a ceremony and nothing changed.” Well, time is really important. The right timing when we’re engaged in ceremony is important too. So, you open a door into the invisible realms and you don’t know exactly when the timing is going to come for what your intention is to manifest.
TS: Now, that was a great answer, Sandy. You covered a lot. You said something that I thought was really beautiful and interesting—that the elements that we might be working with and the helping spirits that we’ve invoked are reading our hearts [and] not necessarily what’s going on in our mind. When I think about something like “the fire is reading my heart,” I think to myself, “What? What do you mean? The element is reading my heart?”
Can you help me understand? Believe it or not, I’ve kind of gotten friendly with the idea that there are helping spirits, but when it comes to—I’ve gotten friendly to that—but the elements? I still draw kind of big question mark inside.
SI: Well, I love working with the elements. It’s one of my passions, and it’s one of my passions in teaching people that the elements are incredible allies for us. Earth, air, water, fire are alive. They’re living beings. [Just] like a tree is alive, fire is alive too. It’s a living being.
The elements are intelligent. They’re incredibly intelligent creatures. I used to be a firefighter, and I used to watch how fire would jump to different places. I’ve watched how—with ceremonial work—the winds would change to be able to move a fire in a different direction, to stop it from creating destruction. I’ve watched how we can talk to the elements—not to manipulate the elements, but to work with them in the intention to work in partnership with us.
I was supposed to take a trip in a week or so. I told people, “You know, I’m not really sure I’m supposed to be taking this trip.” So, what I’ve done is ask the elements that, if I’m not supposed to take this trip, to create a big storm so that my way is blocked.
And this is way that I’ve worked over time—is that the elements will provide certain omens for us. So, you could be taking a walk in nature and you’re thinking about making a change in your life. All of a sudden, the air is really still. But, all of a sudden, you feel this really gentle breeze starting to caress your cheek or you feel the breeze playing in your hair. There’s an inherent knowing that, “I’m being supported here.”
If you open up your heart to how the elements are touching us—or you’re walking and you’re thinking about, “I think I’m going to make this change in my life,” and all of a sudden a drizzle comes down, from a shamanic point of view that rain coming down is a blessing. You’re being blessed. So, you realize that [you’ve] made the right decision.
So, fire is worked with in shamanic cultures and is seen as an intelligent being. I always teach that fire is always reading our hearts. Shamans have always worked with fire to get messages. A classic shamanic ceremony is to just sit with fire or even a candle burning, and [to] hold a question and look at the flame that’s burning. [You] open yourself up to notice if you get a vision or a feeling in your body, or you hear a message.
So, it has to do with being willing. There has to be a willingness to open up to more than what we experience on a tangible level and to open up [to the idea] that there are intelligent nature beings that are around us who are actually communicating and guiding us all the time. It’s just that it’s almost like we have to open up a veil in our consciousness or open up a curtain that’s in front of our eyes—a bird just flew right by my window when I said that—to start to notice that the elements are giving us signs that they are our allies. And if they’re our allies, they’re partnering with us on a particular level and they’re helping us to go beyond the ego and to let our own spirituality shine forth. They help us do that by being able to read our hearts.
So, I don’t know if that’s helpful to one who hasn’t quite embraced how friendly and how much help the elements want to give us at this time.
TS: It was very helpful to me. I loved the way you said “parting the veil” or “letting the veil open.” I think that helped me open the veil inside. So, thank you.
Now, Sandy, I’m going to ask you a question that’s a little outrageous. You don’t have to pick the single most powerful and transformative ceremony you’ve ever been a part of, because that may not be something you want to share. But, I am curious to know what one of—at least—the most powerful ceremonies you’ve ever participated in [was]. What happened? What [was it] like? And, how [did it change] you or the group?
SI: Well, as I said, I perform a lot of fire ceremonies. So, I have seen some really miraculous changes happening. What I would like to address here is—again—how the elements can oftentimes be helpful to us in helping us with a ceremony because they are so potent. These were life-changing for my group and were life-changing for me.
One time, I was teaching down in Tennessee—soul retrieval training—and we were doing a fire ceremony during Hurricane Opal. Obviously, we could not go out to light a fire. So, the retreat center that I was teaching at—there was this little, tiny fireplace in this room. We were going to have to squeeze into the room. But, we could make it happen.
So, we start to get ready for the fire ceremony. As soon as we’re getting ready to start the fire ceremony, the hurricane—I guess we went into the eye of the hurricane; I don’t understand the science of it, but somebody brought in the science of it—just stopped. So, I just told everybody, “Grab a piece of wood.” We all ran out to the fire circle. We built a fire. And when the very, very last person put their talisman into the fire to let go of their blocking belief, the hurricane came back again and we all ran back into the retreat center.
Another similar story to that was we were going to do a fire ceremony in Santa Fe during a terrible drought. We were going to do it inside, but I also knew the fireplace we were using didn’t have a spark arrester and there were trees right over the room that we were going to do the fire ceremony in.
So, I decided to cancel the ceremony because I didn’t want to be irresponsible and put all of Santa Fe in danger. So, I said to the spirits in the morning, “If this ceremony is supposed to happen at three o’clock in the afternoon, let it rain for just ten seconds.” Exactly at three o’clock in the afternoon, it rained for exactly ten seconds. So, we did the ceremony. I actually had a climate scientist who looked at the weather pattern during that time with whatever computer equipment he had—this was many years later—and saw how the weather pattern had changed at exactly three o’clock in the afternoon.
So, what’s been so miraculous for me—because I love the power that comes and the results that I’ve seen of ceremonies—of people when they do a ceremony to put something into a fire of their greatest heart’s desire [or a blocking belief], how something changes for them as soon as they go home. [There is also] the healing that comes from that or some kind of healing ceremony that has such a powerful effect.
But, these two particular stories were so potent for me and the group—of how much the power f the universe and the elements are willing to work with us to be able to support our ceremonial work. Those were really life-changing for me. I’ve never forgotten those.
TS: Are there ceremonies, Sandy, that you do every day? It’s just part of your life to do this particular ceremony at the beginning or the end of the day—that kind of thing?
SI: Yes. Well, I personally believe that life is a ceremony. So, as we live our lives, everything is a ceremony. So, how I put my intention into my daily activities and how I work with my own consciousness throughout the day to bring the sacred into everything that I do.
I definitely fall off the path. We all fall off the path. That’s what being on a spiritual path is about. But, I’m conscious when I fall off the path and reflect on it at the end of the day.
So, when I wake up in the morning, I start with giving gratitude—even if I’m not feeling well, or I’m not looking forward to my day or what’s on my schedule. I always start with giving gratitude for my life and to the elements, because earth, air, water, fire is what gives us life. It’s what supports us to thrive on this great Earth. So, gratitude is a ceremony that is really important.
When I cook, I make sure that I do it in a ceremonial fashion—I’m chopping vegetables and I’m cooking from a place of love that is a ceremony. Making food is a ceremony, and making sure I’m not thinking about, “Well, I really don’t like what happened,” as I’m chopping vegetables, or what I’m angry about. It’s not a place for me to vent. It’s a time for me to shift my attention into the awareness of, “This is a ceremony.”
And it’s a healing ceremony, because as we eat food, we’re absorbing the love of life. As I wash dishes, I actually—I know this sounds outrageous, but I’m a person that absolutely loves washing dishes. It’s one of my favorite activities. As I wash dishes, [I give] thanks to water and all that water brings into my life.
If I do have something big coming up for the day, I’ll do a ceremonial prayer where I’ll go to my altar that’s in my office, and I might light a candle and set my intention for the day, and ask that this particular experience go well for me in my life.
So, those are little ceremonies that I do. Or, if I find that there’s a negative state of consciousness that I can’t seem to let go of, I might write it down on a piece of paper, and get a bowl and burn it.
So, there’s those little, simple ceremonies that I can bring into my day depending on what’s happening.
TS: In your book, Walking in Light, which is a beautiful book that talks a lot about this “everyday empowerment”—you call it—of a shamanic life, one of the most interesting sections of the book for me was when you talked about how we really have to let a part of ourselves be willing to die if we’re going to emerge from ceremonies renewed and reborn—and even be willing to go through what you describe as a “dismemberment process” when needed. I’d love if you’d talk some about that. What does that mean—to really be willing to let a part of us die? How do we know when part of us needs to die?
SI: Well, we don’t know when a part of us needs to die. That’s the power of it, because this is not a conscious, rational letting-go process. It’s when we step onto any sacred path—any spiritual path—when we say, “I am going to make a commitment to be and study this particular spiritual path,” a process opens for us that is beyond our awareness.
What starts to happen—and from a shamanic point of view—is when we start to do ceremonial work or when we say that we’re stepping onto a shamanic path, a series of initiations starts to happen. So, in life there’s the big death when we die and we leave this great Earth. But, throughout our life, there’s these little deaths that happen to us—where we might lose a job, or an illness comes to us, or we break up with a partner, or we lose our home in climactic event—where something gets taken away from us. It’s an initiation where a part of us lets go of—all of a sudden, we’ve experienced the deep loss in our life.
What comes from that when we come through that initiation—whatever it is that life brings us to help us grow; these challenges come into our lives always to help us grow and to evolve into bigger spirits than we think that we are—is we come out renewed and feeling refreshed because we made it, number one. We are all of a sudden in touch more with our own authentic self. It’s like we feel different. We’re not the same.
So, whenever we perform a ceremony—whether it’s a small ceremony or a big ceremony—we come out feeling different. We might not be able to verbalize what that difference is, but it’s almost like a sculpting process happens for us—where our personality starts to be sculpted so that our spiritual light can shine through us in a greater way.
TS: One of the things I’m curious about is: what do you think is required of people in the letting-go process? What’s needed?
SI: Well, part of the thing about letting go is surrendering to what’s happening or accepting what’s happening for us. What happens for many of us is we kick and scream throughout the whole entire process.
I really believe that, in a process of letting go as I’m speaking about, our spirit comes in and carries us through. So, let’s say that you decide to sign up for a firewalk. There are many firewalks that happen around the world that people can sign up for. If you’re walking through the fire thinking about whether or not you want to be walking through the fire, or, “What am I doing and where am I going to put my next step?” you’re going to get burnt.
So, I kind of liken some of the initiations we go through in life—some of the letting-go processes that we go through in life—as a firewalk. There is a process where we just have to let spirit carry us through. We have to surrender to the knowledge and the trust that our spirit is actually going to carry us through.
That’s not always easy when we’re going through very challenging times. But, again, it goes back to acknowledging that there’s a bigger picture that’s going on.
So, surrender [and] acceptance—I would say—are two important aspects of being able to really participate in that changing, initiation, dismemberment, rememberment—where we come out renewed and refreshed—and a being where our light is shining through to a greater degree.
TS: It sounds like—let’s say somebody’s listening to this and they want more trust. Or, there’s something they want to let go of. It sounds like people could be quite creative in how they work with the elements—even just with the few insights you’ve offered in this conversation. I could write anything on a sheet of paper and put it in a fire, and that would help me as an act of letting go? It can really be that simple, from what I’m hearing you say.
SI: Well, what it does is it opens up the door for a process to start to begin. Again, one fire ceremony might not completely burn that whole belief. But, you put something into the fire and it starts a process. The universe hears you say, “I’m asking for healing of this,” and a process starts to happen over time.
Sometimes, you have to repeat ceremonies again and again. One of the things that’s happening for me right now in teaching workshops is I’m teaching more and more in places where there’s a drought [and] we can’t do fire ceremonies outside. So, one of my students turned me on to dissolving paper—where you write on a piece of paper and you put it in water, and it dissolves.
So, I’m getting ready to experiment with that. And in my own life, I’m going to start writing some things on paper and putting it into the water—[then] just watching them dissolve right in front of my eyes. That starts a process. It’s not only a process that starts in the universe—where the universe hears a call that you’re asking for healing and transformation to happen—but it also works on an unconscious level where you’re recognizing on an unconscious level that you’re asking for a change.
So, your unconscious ends up working in partnership with the power of the universe to start some kind of transformational process. It might not be in a day or a week or a month, but it starts a process.
TS: OK, Sandy. Just two final questions. You talked about how ceremony can be useful when there’s something happening in the world that we’re very concerned about. What I’m curious about is if someone has an issue they really care about—maybe they’re quite concerned about the upcoming election, or it’s an environmental issue that they’re very concerned about, or the elephants—whatever it might be—how might we use ceremony in a situation like that?
SI: In a situation like that, we would join together and—as I started our conversation with—doing the preparation work, creating sacred space, moving into our heart place, and working with an element. Or, just coming together and sitting together in meditation, depending on what your practice is. In shamanism, oftentimes an element is used in working with ceremony to bring to fire or to water or to air or to the earth something that you’re asking for.
As a group, [we] come together and ask for protection of the elements—consciousness being raised to the fact that they are sacred beings on this planet as is every single life form, and have the right to be honored and respected. Or, that you would like to see a particular outcome of an election. Again, there is a bigger picture going on. So, you might not get that outcome.
But, it’s still important to at least come together, state your intention, do the preparation work, create sacred space, and ask for help in an intention that you would like to occur. Then, the tricky part [is] letting go of that outcome and not losing your sense of trust in the invisible worlds at the same time. That’s where it gets tricky.
I remember being in Austria when there was a particular part of an election happening. Because we were in a different time zone, we had information that people in America were still sleeping. The group was dancing and drumming and rattling. This was a European group. I was the only American in the group. But really, [we] were praying for a particular outcome in an election in America.
It just didn’t go the way that we wanted it to. But, that’s what ceremony is about. You take the opportunity to ask for healing to happen and for a particular intention to come about—and then also have to accept that there’s a bigger picture that we’re not always aware of.
TS: And then, Sandy, just to end—I’m wondering if you would be willing to lead us in a blessing for our own ceremonial work—however this conversation may have inspired people—whatever small or big kind of future ceremonial act they might want to try. I’d love to just end with a blessing for our ceremonial work.
SI: Well, I’m very excited about our ceremonial work. So, with my passion for ceremonial work, and knowing the power and transformation and the amazing experience and feelings that are going to happen on a deep level for everybody who signs up for Year of Ceremony, I go into my heart and I can just feel the energy starting to build in the collective itself. [I] want to open up to asking for the help of the universe and the help of the elements to assist each and every one of us to drop in fully to a place of heart and to know that our prayers are heard, and that our heart and soul is being read.
So, I bless everybody who joins together in this collective, and give thanks for the courage and the willingness to open to a different experience than maybe we might have experienced in this lifetime—and to trust that we will be held in the loving arms of the universe, knowing that each and every person is going to be blessed by their willingness to step fully into a circle of love and support, and work in partnership with the helping spirits.
TS: Sandra Ingerman is one of the lead teachers—along with don Oscar Miro-Quesada, José Stevens, Alberto Villoldo, Christina Pratt, Luisah Teish, Hank Wesselman, and many others who are all participating in 13 ceremonies on the full moon beginning on Wednesday, March 23. It’s called Year of Ceremony. People will be gathering from many different countries together online for different ceremonial events. You’re all invited to join us. You can find out more at SoundsTrue.com.
Sandy, it’s always great to talk to you. I always feel inspire and—dare I say—lighter. And the title of your book is Walking in Light. But, I always feel lighter after talking to you. No matter how heavy our conversation is, I feel lighter. So, thank you.
SI: That’s great. Thanks, Tami. I appreciate it. And, again, I’m just so delighted that this is happening. I think it’s going to be such a transformative experience for everybody who joins our circle.
TS: SoundsTrue.com. Many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening.