Yoga, meditation, mysticism, and ritual are at the heart of Mara Branscombe’s Ritual as Remedy.
Mara Branscombe is an adventurous spirit. She has sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, trekked across the Himalayas, studied yoga in India, planted trees in Canada’s north, lived off the grid in a remote cabin in the woods, worked as a Waldorf (Steiner School) teacher, and found a passion for dance and choreography along the way. Her training in the Incan shaman lineage and the pagan tradition have greatly inspired her life’s work of earth-based, ceremonial, intentional, and heart-centered living and loving.
Branscombe is a mother, writer, yogi, artist, teacher, mindfulness leader, ceremonialist, and spiritual coach. Yoga, meditation, mysticism, and ritual are at the heart of her journey.
Her new book Ritual as Remedy: Embodied Practices for Soul Care is reviewed in the May/June 2022 issue of Spirituality & Health.
S&H: You have broad but deeply integrated influences and practice many modalities. What practices resonate most with you right now? Have the challenges of the past two years changed this?
Mara Branscombe: Bookending my days with a short ritual has been deeply powerful over the last two years. I begin my morning with a candle-lighting and visualization practice and end my day with a short restorative yoga practice, along with a clearing meditation. These practices have become my anchor and my inspiration as I have been focused on completing my second book.
Finding moments to be in the quiet of nature, along with a movement practice, is the soul fuel essential to my family-work-life balance. Creating an intentional ritual on both the full moon and new moon continues to nurture my creativity and keep me connected to my inner guide alongside the external rhythms of the earth.
For my work, the pandemic has been a gift in many ways. As several of my courses were online pre-pandemic, I was able to naturally shift and create weekly events for folks to practice yoga, meditation, creative writing, and ritual together. I was able to commit more time to my writing practice as I was traveling and teaching less out in the world. And I haven’t stopped writing … it’s a wildly creative and fulfilling practice for me.
How does writing— including the physical act of writing as well as the creative expression of it—function as an embodied practice for soul care?
I love this question. I feel as if the past twenty-five years of commitment to mind-body practices, creative pursuits, and ritual study culminated to bring Ritual as Remedy to life. There was an inner impulse too strong to ignore. It was time for me to write this body of work. So, the writing as a physical and creative act pulled me to my meditation cushion at 5 a.m. every morning to enable this vision to pour out of me. Morning is my magic time for writing, and I sit in a meditative, crossed legs position to write.
The embodied soul care for me became committing to the book’s content and getting out of my own way to do it. It was more uncomfortable for me to procrastinate or hold the idea of the book than actually writing it. My passion to fulfill this book vision did not leave room for questioning its process. I learned how to let go of the outcome and listen to the inner impulse of what wanted to come forward—and to trust that voice. This has itself become an embodied soul-care practice.
Morning is my magic time for writing.
What mattered most was to hold the vision that this book would serve the collective and support the reader in learning how to self-guide, self-heal, and live their best life.
I have always loved piecing things together. Like choreographing a dance piece or a yoga class, I found great satisfaction in finding the ways to link the prose, poetry, and ritual practices together in an accessible way. It felt like soul care in a whole new way for me.
Many books use the “you” to create a boundary between teacher (author) and student or aspirant (reader). Throughout your book, you write intimately as though you are already in community with your readers. This felt empowering and generous. You’re making it clear that you trust your readers’ intuition from the outset. How does this trust in connection carry through the rest of your offerings (in-person and virtual)? Do your students feel this, too?
That is truly a compliment, and exactly the feeling I aspire to generate in my students and community. At the core of my beliefs and teachings is that we are born whole with everything we need to access our unique gifts and express them authentically out into the world. The daily rituals provide the rhythm needed to free ourselves from limiting narratives and past experiences that hold us back in life. Through self-awareness, compassion, and devotion we can access a deeper connection to our path of service and purpose. Essentially, our self-care rituals become the life gate to create the life we desire.
I love your line that “rituals serve as sanctuaries.” When did you first feel this connection? What are simple first steps for our readers to create a sense of sanctuary in their daily lives?
Engaging in rituals has always felt like a glassy lake reflecting what matters most in any given cycle or season in life. This is what feels like a sanctuary—a place where we can lay down our fears and release daily stressors. A space that feels inviting, whole, and sacred. Initiating the path of wellness, creativity, and mind-body integration through a ceremonial process allows us to return to our essential self. And here the sanctuary of our own intuitive guide comes alive to bring joy, wonder, and a deeper sense of peace within.
Engaging in rituals has always felt like a glassy lake reflecting what matters most in any given cycle or season in life.
In my early twenties, I was gifted with a mentor who taught me about moon rituals and how to access the power of the elements for healing, strengthening, and accessing intuitive states. As a baby, my earliest memory was gazing at the full moon’s glow over the lake. So, when I learned about the power of the moon rituals, I was struck by the feeling like I was being held and immersed in a sacred sanctuary. It was a wildly familiar and kindred moment that had a profound impact on the direction of my life.
[Explore S&H’s Moon Practices collection.]
Here are a few ideas for creating a sense of personal sanctuary:
- Begin with a gratitude practice, journaling three or more gratitudes daily.
- Create an altar in your home. Include candles, plants, crystals, images, positive affirmations, etc. to welcome the sacred into your home. Recreate your altar each month to encourage inspiration and connection to what is meaningful to you.
- Be mindful of what you consume. From media to food and social energy, where you put your energy, focus, and intention grows wildly. Be mindful of what you feed into your life daily.
- Track your thoughts. Catch yourself when negativity begins to take over your life. Journal about them, redirect them, spend time in nature, move your body, and get proper rest.
Some mental health professionals and cultural observers write about our collective epidemic of loneliness. How do your teachings, workshops, and other offerings alleviate loneliness?
Nature and the elements are great teachers in my offerings. Whether we are practicing together in real-time, in virtual space, or self-guiding, the work of ritual and nature immersion allows us to step away from our mundane activities and intentionally connect to what matters most.
Discovering the desire to fulfill creative, mindful, and embodied practices fill the soul. We feel connected to something greater; we feel less alone and more supported to carry on with the path that inspires us.
When we can align with the symbolism of the earth, we connect to our own inner abundance. With water, we can access greater levels of letting go to replenish our vitality. The element of fire teaches us how to transform toxic energies in our lives and return to the power of our own light. Air and the expansive sky above can purify our vision and support our capacity to live with greater compassion. Opening to the ethereal fields of energy brings a sense of wonder and curiosity, and glimmers of otherworldly dimensions restore our faith. I have found this body of elemental work to be a remedy for the epidemic of loneliness and an inspiration to connect more deeply with community and the natural world in this way.
You meet yourself 20 years ago. Is she surprised by where you are and what you are pursuing and cultivating?
Life has a way of surprising and guiding us towards what we know we want and what we know to be true. Twenty years ago, I had left my stable teaching job as a Waldorf teacher to pursue my dance career. Risky, yet it felt essential at the time that I followed this dream. For 12 years I poured my heart and soul into the dance. All the while, ritual, yoga, and meditation practices anchored me and provided incredible teaching opportunities across the globe. I then gave birth to my wonderful daughters. Shortly after, my writing journey began.
When I look back, I feel like there was a part of me that was always ready to write. I have always been inspired by different modalities, mind-body practices, and ways to source deeper meaning in this wild world we live in. Putting pieces together to generate a creative, formulaic process has always inspired me.
So yes, in a way I am surprised by how the past twenty years have unfolded. Yet, somehow, I have carried this deeper knowing within that I am doing the work I was meant to be doing. And I am so deeply grateful for this journey.
Want more from Mara Branscombe? Read: “How to Embrace Divine Timing.”
Read our review of Ritual as Remedy in the May/June 2022 issue.