For us, “ecstasy” is a state that we achieve by being present and open. It is about connection rather than disconnection, presence rather than absence. Our favorite definition of “ritual” comes from our mentor, Cynthea Jones of Diana’s Grove: “Ritual is a multi-sensorial prayer that allows us to lay new patterns in our souls.” So ecstatic ritual is essentially a prayer that uses all of our parts – body, mind, heart – in order for our souls to expand and make space. What we are making space for depends upon our intention. It could be a ritual of healing or a ritual of claiming, a ritual of gratitude or a ritual of promise. There are a multitude of possibilities, but what is always true is that we strive to be open to the present moment, fully alive and immersed in the experience.
Our ritual structure follows a traditional Earth-based model. We ground and center, we create sacred space by casting a circle and inviting the elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth. We call to the Center and an aspect of Mystery or the Divine that will support and give context to our work together. The body of the rituals can and often does include trance work, storytelling, some sort of embodied physical activity, music, and movement. Our goal is to make each piece of our work as inclusive as possible. We do our best to make it clear that everything that happens in the ritual (or any of our work) is a choice. Participants may engage or not engage in as much or as little of the ritual as they choose. We can’t guarantee comfort – personal growth and spiritual expansion are rarely comfortable – but we can guarantee safety to explore and push boundaries, try on new patterns, or to simply be a witness to growth and change.
I loved the ritual conspiracy meetings so I knew a little bit about what to expect. I loved the beautiful, creative, cohesive way we raised energy together. I loved the chants and the way no one was singled out or made to feel pressured ~ participating felt natural and relaxed and welcome, and I loved the sense of community we built. –Anonymous
Our intensives are usually bookended with music. We gather together with rhythm and vocalization. We often sing during our sessions, and we almost always sing in ritual. Sometimes our music has words, sometimes it does not, but it always has intention. We believe very strongly in the healing powers of vibration (science backs us up on this), so we create those vibrations in a variety of ways – drumming, improvisational vocalizing, singing, rhythmic movement, even speaking together can be a healing connection.
Many things exemplify our rituals and workshops: personal and spiritual reflection, inclusivity, connection… all of these things are hallmarks of what we offer. But – what makes our work really stand out is our sound. Or, more accurately, what makes the work truly memorable is your sound. Imagine standing in a circle of people simultaneously lifting their voices in joy and celebration. Imagine the vibrations of a deep hum permeating your being as you step in rhythm to a deep, resonant drum. Imagine a group of people breathing together, opening together, singing a song of commitment and courage. It takes each and every voice, each and every heartbeat. The music we create together is not a performance – it is a prayer. Our goal is to invite people to participate at their own comfort level, but we will open that door wide to allow you to push your edges, embrace connection, and add your voice to the unique song that we create together.
Please visit our chants page for sample recordings of a few of the chants and songs we have used in our rituals and workshops.
Trance (a specific technique that leads the listener to his or her own discovery) is distinguished from guided meditation by our belief that we each have, within us, an innate wisdom that will offer up our own answers, if we will open up and listen. Rather than guide participants through a shared experience, trance facilitators offer the opportunity for individual experience in shared, safe space. We believe that this distinction is an important part of designing inclusive and empowering magical work.
Dual trance is a technique developed by Patricia Storm and Cynthea Jones of Diana’s Grove Mystery School, combining elements of Ericksonian hypnotherapy, the ritual techniques of Starhawk, and the imaginal mind-work of Jean Houston. Dual trance can involve two voices, a voice and a drum or a voice and music. It is called “dual” trance because there are two things happening that are competing for our mental attention. This technique gently overwhelms the conscious mind and allows us to open up to our own subconscious wisdom.
No one can responsibly tell you what you needed, in the past. Or what your future should look like. No one can shape your life but you, and in trance we provide an opportunity to do just that. Trance is like a waking dream in which we can slip easily forward and backward in time, shaping our experience and engaging with it in a very real, multi-sensorial way. Another tool for crafting new, healthy, inspiring patterns, and laying them in our souls.
I remember sitting there for what seemed like an eternity in darkness and nothingness. I remember hearing something about a breath – and I drew in a breath, and another – I only existed as lungs, throat, and air. Then I heard a voice say something about the movement of blood and all of a sudden my fingers were tingling, and my toes were tingling… I was starting to tingle all over my body. I moved in ways I haven’t moved for a long time. Moving and dancing as if a goddess was awakening from a long death. I truly felt like I had an out-of-body in-my-body experience. – Brittany F
Human beings are meaning-making machines. We instinctively shape our experiences into a coherent narrative. We tell stories. To ourselves. To each other. To the generations that will live beyond us. And there is nothing, nothing more powerful than the stories that we tell.
The Expanding Inward team believes that these stories are our greatest, collective human work of art. The things we make, alone and together, that open us to beauty, move us to heroism, and make change possible. They can also be incredibly destructive weapons in the wrong hands – particularly the stories that arise to shape our experiences of fear, isolation and oppression.
So we tell – and re-tell – the oldest stories. The myths that Joseph Campbell calls the stories that “have never happened, and are always happening.” The stories that, in often invisible ways, have shaped our lives. We take that power back, together. We tell old stories in new ways, to ourselves, to each other. Together we shape and re-shape the world. A story – often one of these oldest stories – will generally form the backbone of one of our intensives. The story becomes the context within which we do the Great Work of seeing and shaping ourselves, allowing us to enter deeply into the metaphor, in ritual, and to make world-changing magic there.