On graduation day of yoga teacher training, our instructor had us make a prayer arrow (more here).
Before that day she asked us to find sticks to bring to class. She asked we bring feathers, semi-precious stones, and any other adornments that called to us. At first, I was skeptical about why I had to find a stick. Especially in downtown St. Pete. But the day before I need it, I found my stick! I collected an assortment of crystals I had and a roseate spoonbill feather I found by Mirror Lake. I was ready to make my arrow.
Once she told us what we were going to do with the different materials, I was intrigued, but I didn’t know what intention to put into my arrow. The idea is that as you wind the cords around the flowers, stones, and feathers, your intention is wound into the arrow. According to my instructor, later you plant it in nature and it sends your intention to the universe (or gods, if you prefer).
It’s been sitting in a potted plant since graduation day. I’ve been meaning to plant it more formally but didn’t get around to it until today.
So I put it in my bike panniers and off I rode to Weedon Island.
When I arrived at Weedon Island, the prayer arrow was in my backpack. The stick I chose was probably 4 feet long, so it stuck out of my backpack just like it stuck out of those bike panniers. I’m fairly certain people who passed me on the road or on the hiking trails thought I was crazy.
I had a place in mind. There is a long stretch where the trees cover the trail and you can see 100+ meters. Every time I hike or run it, it reminds me of something out of Lord of the Rings. I just had to remember where it was. I almost turned down the wrong path, and I probably wouldn’t have found it at all. But something made me take a left at Albuquerque instead of a right, and I ended up on the right path. I found a tree a little off the trail, and I put it behind it. I tried to secure it a bit so it wouldn’t easily fall. I went back to the trail to make sure it wasn’t visible. Before continuing, I said a final chant and prayer.
For those concerned: I definitely considered that this is essentially littering and whether I should leave it at all. But all of the materials are natural (e.g. a stick, cotton yarn, stones, feathers, flowers) so there’s nothing to damage the environment. All of it will degrade or fall to the ground. Not sure that makes it completely right, but… Hey, if I had a yard, I would have put it there!
I checked one more time to see if it was visible. I could see a corner of a brown feather, but that was all. Nothing that anyone else would notice. It’ll probably fall at some point, but even then it will be a stick on the ground.
Anyone who might find it might mistake it as a memorial. It occurred to me that it is the opposite! A memorial is something that honors a person or thing that happened in the past. My prayer arrow honors something that has yet to happen.
I continued along the trail and tears came to my eyes… The ritual was done.
Up the trail, things got a little soggy. Probably a combination of Irma and the other bouts of rain we’ve had. I thought the trail I was on was a loop, so I decided to navigate it.
I stuck to the sides of the trail, and someone put a board to cross it at one point, so I didn’t get too messy. I kept trucking only to find a dead end. Huzzah!
So back I went. The last travail in the interest of planting my prayer arrow.
I looked for the tree where I put the prayer arrow. I did end up finding it again, but I got it wrong at first. It should be well-enough hidden. I sent one more packet of positive energy towards it, and I continued my hike.
There were more soggy patches. It was hot. But it was peaceful.
I released that energy that I put into making my prayer area and let it carry where it’s supposed to go.
While walking back to my bike I thought about how we engage in so few rituals in our normal day-to-day. Once upon a time, humans engaged in different rites of passage. Now, what do we have? When I was 10 I was allowed to get my ears pierced and I traveled to Miami from Ohio on my own to visit my grandparents. When I was 16 I was allowed to drive. The assortment of things we can do when we are 18. Drinking at 21. But then? Sure there’s marriage and kids for those who have them. Some folks buy houses and there are celebrations for that.
But for the rest of us, or once those have passed? We go a long time without any rituals. And we need them. We need the symbolism. We need the focus. Sometimes we need the celebration. And, we need to realize that people won’t always do it for us. We need to create our own rituals. Ones that work for us and help us celebrate our lives and challenge us in ways specific to us.
Is there a place that feels stagnant in your life? What sort of ritual could you do to help get that area moving again?
Is there something in your life you feel needs to be celebrated but hasn’t been? What could you do for yourself to honor this?
Writing a poem, making a picture, going for a walk with intention… All of these could be great ways to honor the things going on in your life.