Each and every one of us deserves to find true happiness; to walk through life on this planet with self-awareness, compassion, and purpose. We are meant to discover and share the best parts of ourselves with the world around us—and it is our responsibility to become the best versions of ourselves. This is no easy task. It requires daily practice, steady dedication, and an open heart and mind. It requires, that is, treating life each precious moment in life as ceremony—and allowing our actions to reflect this.
This idea is nothing new to Ana Forrest and Jose Calarco, founder and co-leader of Forrest Yoga, and esteemed leaders of ceremony and emotional healing. We sat down with Ana and Jose to discuss how we can all invite this type of purpose into our everyday lives. Here’s what they had to say.
What is Ceremony?
The most important thing when understanding something is to begin at the roots. According to Jose, the Australian Aboriginal, the indigenous people of mainland Australia and Torres Strait Islanders, dating back more than 40,000 years. This, says Jose, is where “the world’s first magic among the world’s oldest living culture began. Before there was religion, yoga, philosophy, and other magic rituals, these individuals were worshipping the stars, the seas, the animals, as gifts of the great creator.”
Ceremony can be thought of as tradition, observance, routine, communion, or simply a celebrated reminder of the small moments in life. Ritual and ceremony are personal practices that refocus our awareness so that we can become more enlightened humans. Ceremony may look like a quick grounding practice to prepare you for your day, or may even be an all-day experience.
Ana and Jose believe that every moment in our lives can be ceremony. Let that sink in: All of our actions can be ceremony. We can all work to become more aware, to experience things in a more meaningful way, and foster a deeper connection with ourselves and the world around us. Like all great things, this takes time, patience, and practice. It’s not easy—but the best things never are.
It’s essential to navigate these new practices with a baseline of knowledge. Here are three steps to help you get started on this journey of self-transformation.
⤅ Internal Readjustment ⬶
Everything starts with the perception. In order to create more ceremony in your life, you likely first need to take a good long look at the quality of the mind. The fundamental change begins here with “the thinker,” as Jose calls it. “The mind is like a runaway horse without a rider,” he says—we must learn how to reign it in. Humans are naturally in a vortex of thoughts and emotions. This constant thinking, planning, cycling through our to-do lists, revisiting our memories, and problem-solving is a difficult path to navigate. For most of us, the mind is in a state of perpetual chatter.
“It’s a matter of putting the higher principle in charge of the body, rather than the neurotic,” says Jose. “It’s about going into a deep place of the inner quest, below the mental noise.” Prioritize what’s most important. With enough deep introspection, we will all arrive at a similar conclusion: We want to be happy beings rich in love and connection. Devote time to calming the mind and create space for this exploration.
Each day is an opportunity to improve. There are small, significant changes we can make that result in substantial progress. Momentous life transformation doesn’t happen over night.
Meditate on your intention. What is it that you want to celebrate, change, or shift? Ana says that it’s important to remember that the intention should be grounded in both action and truth. “Find a healing step forward, whatever that may look like for you,” she says. “Ask yourself, ‘What can I do today to change my internal energy field and the energy I emit?’ Perhaps you agree to one day without poisoning yourself: No negative thinking, no gossip, no depressing thoughts, no unhealthy food, no drinking, and no drugs. What would it be like to go through an entire day without giving into these poisons?”
Make a list of the changes you want to make, and accessible goals that you can commit to do every day. Remember that these actions should build your luminosity, spark the fire within, and make you feel more alive.
Yes You Can
Ana believes that the “I can’t” mentality is unacceptable. The truth is, simply, that you can. We all can. “Can you breath?” asks Ana. “Can you do a yoga pose? Can you overcome your inner blockages to discover a more fulfilling way of living? Lower your walls and be brave enough to be touched and be brave enough to change,” she says.
Clear your internal environment. We should never stand in the way of our own greatness. It is our birthright and our destiny to be magnificent humans with meaningful lives. Believe in yourself, always. We are much stronger than we so often think. You can do this.
⤅ Bringing Ceremony into Your Life ⬶
Now we have an understanding of what ceremony is, where it came from, and how to prepare ourselves for these positive life shifts. Below you’ll find 7 ways to bring ceremony into the essence of your life. Remember this is a process, so be patient with yourself and take what resonates with you and leave behind what does not. Each of our paths looks different.
Start out your morning with 5–10 deep breaths before beginning your day. Hold that sacred space for yourself in the quiet of the morning while the mind is clear of distraction. “Can you stay with feeling in those breaths? Notice what this does to brighten you internally,” says Ana. There’s no wrong time to breathe with intention.
When you continue to practice this each morning, you’re creating a positive ritual in your day. Once it becomes consistent, begin to deepen the practice. Perhaps you make a commitment to yourself to stop every few hours at work and take 10 deep breaths. Notice how this small change is impacting you. Ana says that “your breath is the music of your soul.”
A daily yoga practice is a critical component in the foundation of ceremony for Ana and Jose. Honoring the body, breath, mind, and spirit through yoga has lasting effects that can be felt almost immediately. This ancient practice is at the epicenter of change within the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga affects how we carry ourselves through life by teaching us patience, how to breathe, how to feel, and how to comfortably sit with ourselves. It removes and shifts some of the superficial layers within us to clear the path to a higher sense of knowing oneself.
As before, start small! Even a 10–15 minute daily practice can provide clarity and transformation. Never practiced before? No problem. We all start somewhere.
Let’s be real: Food is the best. Who doesn’t love a good meal? More than just delicious, food is, of course, our body’s fuel. What we consume has monumental effects on how we feel, the way we look, and our overall health. Your body is your temple, so be conscious of what and how you eat each day.
Ana and Jose are both vegan. They believe veganism is the, “least destructive way of consuming on this planet. It’s the kindest thing we can do to our plants and animals. If you want to build your luminosity, start from the inside. This is a spiritual process. Eat foods that make you bright.” They implore the world to take the time to learn about the principles of being vegan. Learn some tips on how to make the big switch here.
Additional to diet choice, we can all embrace a more purposeful eating regimen to reset our bodies and clean out harmful chemicals or unnatural substances. “It’s the idea of refining the body, which then affects our psychic gifts and connections. Many of us are living on the surface of life,” says Ana. “It’s time to explore ‘the inner ecstasies’.” Begin with simple changes by taking the time to learn about your eating habits.
Create a ritual when eating. When you sit down for a meal or grab a snack on your way out the door, take time to acknowledge the nourishment you’re providing your body and the energy you’re absorbing into your body. Food is medicine. Food is ceremony.
The most profound ritual to the Aboriginal Australians was and still remains the communion with nature, which is referred to as “walk about.” This is how medicine people got their powers—by becoming one with nature. Jose and Ana believe this is one of the most prevalent practices that is missing in today’s society.
When you step outside, try not to think about problems that need to be resolved, or planning your weekend. Resist stressing about a deadline for work. Walk with the purpose and intention to connect with the world and nature around you. Ana and Jose are in the business of “helping humans use tools to come back into balance so we can shift the ecological disasters that we’ve created,” says Ana. “Focus on the breath and focus the mind, but with the bigger perspective of ‘what can you do today to make a difference in this world?’”
Most of us aren’t drinking enough water to begin with, but how many of us are creating an experience when we take that sip of water? Ana guides us to, “bring in a ceremonial aspect by drinking water in communion of the waters of the planet, flushing and cleansing your own rivers and streams inside of you (your veins and arteries). Really feel the truth of it—pause the internal conversations and feel what you’re doing.”
How incredible would it be to become so self-aware, so in-tune with actions of our lives that each drink of water was ceremonious? It’s all how we think about things. Ceremony, after all, begins with the mind. Be mindful in your actions, even a simple sip of water, and you’ll find that your perception on life shifts.
It’s imperative to our well-being that we hold space for ourselves and others. The idea of a sacred pause helps us think in a new way, to interpret our surroundings differently, and to soak in the moment. This concept will facilitate effectiveness on all the other practices above. Allow a few moments of stillness and quiet to absorb the benefits of your personal ceremonies. These sacred pauses lead to enlightenment and illumination as they can turn us into deeper awareness. Get quiet, go inside, and feel.
Use music to touch deep and to quest, meditate, and to do your yoga with. A practice of appreciation of our capacity to listen. Or perhaps you bring music through you by singing out loud. Music can open our hearts and can guide us into ourselves to new understandings of who we are, what we want, and how to get there. Music is a journey and it unites us all together. Let the power of music help you along your new path. Watch the videos embedded in this piece for Ana and Jose’s sacred music!
Where you begin this journey, only you know. Ceremony looks different for each of us. Find what works for you and roll with it. Let ceremony guide you along the path of self-discovery. Let it light you up from the inside out and shine onto the world.
Zuzu Perkal is an independent artist, photographer, yoga instructor, and adventure enthusiast in Austin, Texas. Her days are filled with coffee, paint, and daydreams. She believes mistakes are simply a beautiful opportunity for growth and that our own life experiences serves as our most valuable teachers. Zuzu graduated from Wanderlust’s first Teacher Training Program and is on a mission to continually expand her consciousness while following her journey down the yogic path. She is currently experimenting with the concept of a floating yoga studio and mixed medium practice.