Ritual for Re-Opening Space

As all kinds of folx move into re-opening space that was closed during the pandemic, it can help to bring intentionality, and even ritual, to this process. We have all been exposed to trauma in the form of a global pandemic.  This trauma has different manifestations depending on one’s social location and context, but no matter where you are or who you are, the impact of this collective trauma is real.  And this means finding and creating means for healing from it are necessary and can be real. A congregant who is a psychotherapist sought me out, asking about ritual before they begin seeing clients in-person. The following was crowdsourced from Unitarian Universalist ministerial colleagues, and brought together by the sacred, synergistic energies that occasionally flow through me.  It can be used, in whole or in part, in many contexts ~ perhaps it can be used in yours?   Please feel free to share it widely. I strongly advocate against cultural appropriation of sacred rituals from communities to which we do not belong. For instance, I do not burn sage since its origins is from people native to this continent and mine are not. I encourage others refrain from similar acts of misappropriation. Center Yourself Before entering the space, remove your shoes and connect with gratitude. Sit for as long as you need to be present and to leave the logistics and distractions of the rest of your life aside. They can learn to wait patiently for you while you do this thing. Embodiment: Bow to the pandemic out of respect and humility for its power as an adversary. If the concept of bowing is distasteful, consider it as an act of “touching the earth.” (This idea comes from Joanna Macy, who adapted it from Catriona Reed, an ordained senior member of the Order of Interbeing.) Honoring the limits of your body, raise hands high to the ceiling at each wall and sweep down. Do over and over to experience the power of repetition and the possibility of groove. Exhale audibly and comfortably with each sweep of your arms so that the breath that we’ve been afraid of is now helping move things. Use a broom (I like cinnamon brooms myself – it’s one of the few scents I can tolearate) and ritually sweep, starting at the center of the room and moving toward openings (open windows, doors, vents) Bring music into the space.  Singing or playing recorded music. Some ideas include    Cleanse: If you do this, do it first: sit in the room and allow that which you are inviting to be released to take the form in your mind: words, images. Go holy slowly; some may be timid or wiley and take their time to be known. Write them on slips of paper.  Burn them in the space – perhaps in a cast iron pan. If you cannot burn them in the space (think about fire detectors and safety), go to a nearby outside space to do it. Using water (homegrown holy water, water from a source sacred to you, or salt water representing tears of joy and sorrow), dab this stuff of life in those places that speak to you as in need: thresholds, places where people regularly sit, wherever else calls out to you. Bring in a green plant that will thrive given the conditions of the space (access to natural light, for instance).  A jade plant, perhaps? Not only is it an ongoing filter of the air (cleansing), it is a segue to the next phase for it represents life. Renew & Affirm Life Instead of cut flowers, can you bring into the space a living plant? Set new intentions by writing them down on colorful slips of paper.  Place them in a beautiful container that sits in the room. Perhaps the container is transparent, providing a visual reminder. You could also write new intentions/blessings on flat rocks with a permanent marker, leaving them throughout the space. If you use a version of this ritual, I’d love to hear about it.  Please feel free to contact me at kjohnston (at) uuma (dot) org.
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