Anji Bignell recently stayed at Fivelements while writing a story on ritual and healing. She shares with us her experience of our signature Agni Hotra fire ceremony.
“This ritual is all about symbols that we can relate to and use to rid our minds and bodies of unworthy thoughts as well as make sense of time and space.”
“Before my stay at Fivelements I had quite honestly forgotten about the simple benefits of including the five elements of earth, fire, water, air and space into our everyday rituals while attending to our busy lifestyles. It made me think about the calming effects that running water or simply being surrounded by bodies of water can have on us. Even clean air, space just to be, feeling the earth between our toes (because we are always wearing shoes) and the hypnotic embers of a fire can breathe life into us again.
The Balinese people practice rituals every day that include these elements. And they are happier for it. You can see it in their smiles, their eyes and their ridiculously youthful looking skin. It also means they take time out to appreciate what surrounds them and understand that they are a part of the elements themselves – not a separate entity.
Agni Hotra is an ancient fire ceremony that originated from Hindu sacred scriptures the Vedas. Agni refers to fire and hotras means healing. Specially trained priests make offerings to the fire while reciting Sanskrit mantras to invoke blessings of health and abundance.
During the ceremony, I sat next to my priest and recited the OM mantra 21 times (to help purify and cleanse) while setting my intention or wish for the future. I adding ghee to the fire one spoon at a time while exclaiming ‘Svaha’ or ‘So be it!’ at the end of each chant. Offerings of seeds (representing food) and sugar (forgiveness) were added to the fire and I was told to drink the holy water.
Even though I was initially unsure of my role in this ceremony it somehow came naturally to me and our movements and voices moved in time with each other. As the fire grew hot and somewhat uncomfortable on my face it felt like my presence was known – I was no longer just sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to happen. It gave me the understanding that I am continually adding fuel to the fire in my life and I should be careful about what I add.
The most intriguing offering was the coconut. Its metaphorical and also symbolic reference as the human 'ego', was poignant for me at this time. I needed to let go of who I thought I was and who others thought I should be. As I cracked open the coconut (well, the priest cracked it as I tried and failed a few times) and threw it into the burning fire it felt like a release of the old ego and the creation of a new and better one.
This ritual is all about symbols that we can relate to and potentially use, to rid our minds and bodies of unworthy thoughts as well as make sense of time and space. That doesn’t mean you should build a bonfire out the back of your house and start throwing tubs of lard in. The rituals of lighting candles, surrounding yourself with flowers and creating a sanctuary with water flowing can be appreciated every day in some sort of ritual.”
Anji’s ideas for easy rituals to incorporate into your own life:
1. Wake up and be thankful for all the goodness in your life. Purely focus on those good things and they will grow.
2. Set your intention for the day. What would you like to achieve? I have a mantelpiece with lots of candles and crystals and a vision board that I focus on in my thoughts. Hold a crystal to your heart and make some wishes.
3. Have a cup of tea, sit down and appreciate nature in your backyard or balcony before you start your hectic day. It only takes 10 minutes of your time and it really helps to wake up every cell in the body to function at an optimal level.
4. At the end of a long day take a bath. Add oils, bath salts (Epsom salts are amazing), light some candles and put some music on. If you don't have a bath, or the time, then make your shower a ritual with a natural body scrub and face mask, and then apply body oils.
5. Go to bed in peace. We often deal with difficult relationships, money issues, work dynamics and family problems in the evening. Try practicing 10 deep breaths (lying down or sitting up), focusing on the nose and the feeling of the air passing up through each nostril and out again. Only focus on the nose and this will instantly calm the whole body. When the mind wanders, don't beat yourself up about it, just calmly go back to focusing on the breath. And feel peace.
For the past 10 years, editor, journalist and photographic nomad Anji Bignell has travelled extensively while writing and editing for a number of health, wellness and lifestyle publications. Her background in community cultural development finds her seeking out interactive, innovative and ritualistic methods of integrating health and wellbeing into our lifestyles for the greater good of the planet and ourselves. Learn more about her work by logging on to www.anjibignell.com