Aphrodite, Paganism, Ritual

Self-Compassion Ritual – Pandemic Edition

I’ve led some version of a self-compassion ritual for my local Pagan group for several years now. It is usually timed around Valentine’s Day, and is intended to help participants shift their focus from the commercial, external love that is so prevalent this time of year to an internal, sacred love. This year was a little different. While Valentine’s Day has not been quite as in-your-face this year due to quarantine restrictions and limitations on non-essential businesses, the pandemic has brought its own unique challenges to the practice of self-compassion. This ritual explores some of those challenges. I invite you to hold yourself in love and compassion during this difficult time.

This ritual has been modified for solitary practice. You will need something to write with/on and some delicious food for grounding afterward. You may also wish to light a candle or make an offering for Aphrodite. You can also incorporate items that correspond with the energy of love, such as rose quartz crystals, flowers, incense, rose water, et cetera.

Self-Compassion in a Pandemic

Our modern society doesn’t teach us self-compassion. Quite the opposite. It teaches us self-criticism, shame, guilt, and blame. It tells us that we have to follow the rules, meet its unrealistic expectations, and practically achieve perfection before we are worthy of loving ourselves.

This, quite frankly, is bullshit.

We live in a world where we are flooded with media constantly telling us that we aren’t enough. We aren’t beautiful or handsome enough. We aren’t skilled enough. We aren’t fit enough. We aren’t rich enough. We aren’t doing enough. We aren’t achieving enough.

Practicing self-compassion is difficult even in normal times, but it can be especially challenging in times of stress. With the global pandemic, our lives have been turned completely upside down for almost a year. We are starting to burn out, if we haven’t already. Our capacity for dealing with life has been stretched thin. We aren’t able to get our needs met in the same ways, if we can get them met at all. Put simply – Life is way harder than it should be.

And it seems like that has translated into being harder on ourselves. Our culture hasn’t made it easy. It has filled this already stressful time with way too many “shoulds”. “With all the free time you now have in quarantine, you should get in shape! You should learn another language! You should save money! You should start a new hobby!” And so on and so on. It’s overwhelming. It’s unrealistic. And it’s unkind to ourselves. 

In this trying time, even just getting out of bed is a victory – and it should be celebrated as such! In addition to the fear and anxiety that the pandemic has heaped upon us, it has also made us feel worse about ourselves because we haven’t been able to handle everything like a superhero.

Let me tell you something. It’s not a secret, though in our culture it’s guarded like one – only spoken in hushed tones between the closest of friends.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

You are beautiful. You are handsome. You are skilled. You are abundant. You are kind. You are compassionate. You are doing enough. You are being enough. And you are worthy of love. All kinds of love. Simply by being you.

I want you to keep this in mind throughout this ritual.

The Productivity Myth

One of the biggest challenges that I have seen, both in others and for myself, during the pandemic is the myth of productivity. Our American culture places a ridiculously high value on work, and only certain types of work. During the pandemic, this has spilled out from its normal realm of our paying jobs, to our hobbies and all the new “free time” that we are somehow supposed to have during the pandemic. Society tells us that if we aren’t learning a new language, exercising, acquiring new skills, developing a new hobby, reading fifty books, networking for a better job, or keeping an immaculately clean house – that we are doing the pandemic wrong.

This is also bullshit.

We are so much more than our jobs, our skillset, or the dirty dishes in the sink. Our value as people isn’t limited to what we do for an income or what we are able to accomplish during the pandemic.

We need to let go of the productivity myth. This isn’t easy, especially when we are constantly surrounded by messages that say otherwise.

It can be difficult to let go of productivity cold-turkey. One way that we can begin to shift how we feel around productivity  is to redefine what we consider “productive” and to remove some of the judgements that place a higher value on certain activities over others.

On one particularly awful day in the times of COVID, when I was feeling really down about myself and where my life was at versus where I wanted my life to be, I made a list of all the things I had accomplished during the pandemic. I widened what would be considered “productive” and my list ended up being way longer than I thought it would be! For example, I made bread for the first time during the pandemic. It doesn’t matter that I only did it once (and had been beating myself up for not doing it again) or that I didn’t use a homemade sourdough starter or that it took me hours longer than it should have – I still did it. I made bread! 

I ended up with several things that I was really proud of on that list. I kept it, and now whenever I am feeling bummed or like I’m not doing enough, I look back at that list, and it helps me keep going. I have accomplished things. It may not necessarily be what I wanted to accomplish, and it may not meet the unrealistic standards that society has set for me, but I can still celebrate what I have done.

Another way to do this is to make a list on a daily scale. List EVERYTHING that you do during the day. Even something simple like getting out of bed! That in and of itself is a victory. There were days in the pandemic where I didn’t even do that. Did you manage to feed yourself? Take a shower? Get enough sleep? Take care of your pets or children? Do a load of laundry? Set aside some time for yourself (even if it was just to watch Netflix)? The key to this is to celebrate everything you do, even the small things. 

Some days your list may be longer than others. And that’s okay. What about the days you don’t do much? Rest is sacred, and so is taking care of yourself. And if taking care of yourself today looks like two hours of watching silly videos on YouTube, that is okay, too.

Gather your writing materials and any other items you would like to use in your ritual. Set up your sacred space. You may wish to cast a circle, if that is a part of your practice.

Take three deep breaths to bring yourself back into your body and into the present moment. Take three more deep breaths to bring yourself into the ritual space.

Call the Quarters

North

I call to the North, to the element of Earth to be with me today. Please help me to embody my own inner strength, so that I may remain grounded and confident in myself. Element of Earth, hail and welcome!

East

I call to the East, to the element of Air to be with me today. Please help me to acknowledge my own intelligence and creativity, so that I may inspire and be inspired by others. Element of Air, hail and welcome!

South

I call to the South, to the element of Fire to be with me today. Please help me to kindle my own passions and playfulness, so that my heart may always lead the way. Element of Fire, hail and welcome!

West

I call to the West, to the element of Water, to be with me today. Please help me to recognize my own capacity for healing and forgiveness, so that I may heal and forgive myself, as well as others. Element of Water, hail and welcome!

Invocation of Aphrodite

I invoke the goddess Aphrodite, the great goddess of love, in all its many forms. O Radiant Goddess, shine your light on me, so that I may realize my true brilliance. Help me to foster love and compassion for myself and others. Glorious Goddess, inspire me to walk with confidence in my everyday life. Help me to know in my heart and soul that I am worthy of love. O Far-Shining Goddess, may your fierce and protective love surround my circle. Hail and welcome!

Heart-Opening Meditation

We will begin this ritual with a heart-opening meditation and visualization.

Close your eyes. You are in a safe space here. Let’s make it even more secure by grounding and shielding. Envision roots sprouting from your feet and burrowing into the ground, anchoring you in the nourishing and ever-loving Earth. Feel your roots sink into the rich soil, going deeper into the bedrock below. Your roots grow down, down, down further still, until you reach the center of the Earth. At the core of the Earth, you see a brilliant golden white light, pulsing with life. As you breathe in, you draw this light up through your roots, feeling your vast connection to the living and breathing Earth. This pure energy soaks into your roots like water to a plant. With each inhale, you feel yourself drawing the energy up through your roots, and with each exhale, you feel it permeate your being. Your roots form a conduit for this energy to move into your body, bit by bit. The golden white light enters the soles of your feet, moves up your ankles and into your legs. It flows up through your spine, coursing through your body until every cell is bathed in the loving energy of the Earth.

Feel the energy cascading upward out of the crown of your head, as if you were growing branches of light. Continue growing up, up, up into the atmosphere, into space, among the stars, until you have reached the cosmos, the realm that lies beyond this one. The cosmos is filled with a sparkling silver light, a pool of ethereal energy. You extend your branches up even further, to touch the silvery light. Once your branches have found this cosmic, divine energy, you may bring some back down your branches, down into your head, your chest, your arms, and the entire rest of your body.

As you inhale, bring up golden energy from the Earth. As you exhale, bring down silver energy from the cosmos. Feel these two harmonizing energies balance within you – earth and sky – and know that you are divine.

You are protected by these energies from the earth and the sky. Feel these energies merge together at your heart center and expand out until you are encased in a protective bubble of gold and silver light. In this sphere, only love remains and through this sphere only love may enter. You are totally safe.

Bring your attention back to your breath. Feel the steady rise and fall of your chest. Now, sense your heart. Feel it beating in your ribcage. See your heart start to glow with that same brilliant golden and silver white light. Imagine that you are breathing in and out of your heart. Feel the breath go in and out directly through your sternum. With each breath, your heart gets even brighter, filling your chest with light and spilling out to the rest of your body. You start to feel a warmth fill your heart. With a few more breaths, your heart is glowing like the sun, illuminating everything around it. You feel your insides soften, your heart growing stronger and brighter than ever before. You take one final breath, and you open a door to your heart – a door to the light within. You feel the abundance of light overflowing from you, out into the world, while feeling totally and completely nourished inside. You feel the light you send out return to you, filling you with joy. You breathe here for a moment, finding the equilibrium of your light with the world. If you wish, you may vow to keep this conduit open, so that you can receive and give love freely. Or, while still keeping your heart door open, you may slowly dim the energy and ground, if that feels best for you right now.

Self-Compassion Activity

Get out your paper and pen.Write out the numbers one through five. For each number, write down something you love about yourself. It can be anything, but try to focus your list on the human “being” that you are, not a human “doing.” Instead of saying “I volunteer for charity,” say “I am compassionate for others.” Don’t be shy! If you think you have a great butt, write it down! We often shortchange ourselves for fear of appearing arrogant. There’s no room for that here.

After you have finished writing down your five things you love about yourself, write in big letters underneath your five statements “I AM ENOUGH.”

And now, because truths are even more powerful when spoken aloud, speak the statements you have written. Do this as many times as it takes for you to feel it in your heart and soul. Sit up straight (or stand up if you like) and make your statements, and each time you have finished your list, declare “I AM ENOUGH.”

Gratitude to Aphrodite

Thank you, Aphrodite, for being with me today. Thank you for your blessings of love, particularly those of self-love. Thank you for shining your light on my beautiful being. I honor you. Blessed be.

Release the Quarters

West

Thank you West, and the element of Water, for your healing energies today. Hail and farewell!

South

Thank you South, and the element of Fire, for your passionate energies today. Hail and farewell!

East

Thank you East, and the element of Air, for your inspirational energies today. Hail and farewell!

North

Thank you North, and the element of Earth, for your grounding energies today. Hail and farewell!

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