Slow is the new Fast! - does Ritual rewire the brain?
'Through the snow their way they wend
For precious time with her they spend
Yuletide bliss in her embrace
Cherished in the arms of Grace' Wendy Andrew
As we approach winter solstice, we experience quietness in the land around us. This is a time of dreaming, with deep teaching about the power of stillness.
Engaged in ceremony - be it at the fire, making a sacred offering, celebrating a rite of passage, communing with the spirit of a plant, joining together to sing our praises of earth and spirit - we experience sacred stillness and thereby alter our brain's patterning.
Safely held in ritual, we step outside of ordinary time, we let go of our mental chatter, and we create a space for new possibilities both within and without.
Neuro-science is showing us pathways which Shamanic people have always understood.
My rudimentary understanding of this is that the anterior singulate coordinates between the pre-frontal cortex (which is the place of imagination, poetry, human aspiration), and the amygdala (which is at the centre of the limbic system/the primitive brain). At times of stress (or when stress patterns are ingrained) the amygdala can dictate our emotions and/or decisions, at times leading us into all manner of thought patterns and unconscious reactions.
When the left pre-frontal cortex is filled with positive thoughts then serotonin is made in the hypothalamus...and this in turn flows out into a more positive experience of all that is.
The anterior singulate seems to play an administrative role helping the brain coordinate new neural pathways. To do this effectively it needs clear instructions. It needs a plan.
In a trance state induced by being in a place of ritual stillness the primitive brain can slow down enough for new maps to be made. New possibilities - beyond the realms of probability - can be dreamed and activated. A strongly held ritual gives the anterior singulate clear instructions, a clear structure in which to mediate new pathways. Held in sacred ritual, the visionary, unfettered by confusion, and uninhibited by old patterns, is free to dream new realities.
Right here, right now we have a lot to learn from the Earth-keepers of old about the importance of dreaming, of vision, of ritual. It is critical that we come together in ceremony, and collectively dream a new reality into being - the one of peace, clean air and clear water. When we engage in ritual we give ourselves the opportunity to find stillness in flight, to stop colluding with outworn personal and cultural stories and to connect with our home the earth and all that is in a fresh way.
If you would like to join us in community for a Solstice Fire Ceremony on Saturday 23rd December at 6.45 am, here are more details.