One of the most important aspects of spiritual practice is that of ‘cleansing’. I’m not talking about fake purity or some mortification of the flesh, but a simple way of releasing those things that don’t serve us, from our mother’s judgements, to our lover’s jealousy, to the purposefully thrown baneful prayer. Things stick, especially if we allow them to find a comfy place in us.
There are lots of ways to deal with this cleansing problem, some complicated (think 13 days of daily baths at sunrise) to one of the simplest: what we call the Untangling Rite or the ‘rite of unbinding’*. A basic principle of this rite is that your life force belongs to you and you get to decide how to use it. You don’t necessarily want to cut away your problems; this would rid you of some of your energy. Instead you can find the places where you are all tangled up about the circumstances of your situation and free yourself from those complications. Sometimes this means that things do go away, but other times, it just means that you find new ways of seeing people and problems and become more easeful in dealing with them.
In this rite, water is used as a sacred holder of your complexes for a time while you heal them. Its nature is softening and separating, which helps to loosen the tangles and knots. You might choose to have a special cup that is only used for this.
The ritual of untangling is important, but it is only one tool. Having the rite be the only time you focus on your spiritual health is sort of like sinning all week and then going to Church on Sunday to be forgiven. It’s not a really good program for creating joyful, empowered beings. It’s better to be aware of your actions and your motivations every day. Check in with yourself and trusted others: Is this the good kind or the bad kind of selfish? Is this fear to be listened to, or overcome?
It’s important to get okay with seeing your foibles, (what you might think of as your ‘defects’) not because it’s pleasant in any way, but because it’s a necessary step in the process. I was lucky enough to receive this advice from a good friend: just because you admit you’re being a jerk doesn’t mean you get to continue to be one, but knowing that it’s happening is the first step to changing your behavior!
You can take inventory, and consider how you treat yourself and others. You can make new choices about how you want to proceed. And please, never forget to be gentle with yourself.
The Untangling Rite
Thank the cup for partaking in this rite with you.
Pour clear water in.
Take a small sip and thank the water for helping you with this work.
Set the cup down.
Cup your hands and make an energetic container there, like a sphere or an egg.
Breathe 4 breaths into your hands, sending forth those things within you that need tending, those things that have forgotten their true nature of joy and creativity.
Hold these things in your hands for a moment, then place them into the cup, into the sacred water, which is all water, a source of healing and transformation.
Hold your hands to either side, or above and below the cup.
Begin to breathe life-force, building up the energy in your body.
Send the life-force into the cup, letting it flow through your hands; letting it bless and purify the water, soothing and smoothing all you’ve placed in it.
Breathe out all the air you have in you, then let your body breathe in.
Hold this in-breath and drink all the water.
Welcome back into you this, your own life-force, which has been cleansed and charged with your blessing.
Hold yourself and feel the energy move through you, back to its rightful place, as strong and healthy as possible for today.
*Yes, this also known as the Kala Rite in Feri trad!