Beyond the wall of glass sliders, the white tip of Finn’s tail disappears into the magnolia thicket. He likes to curl under the low branches, alternating between keeping watch and dreaming doggy dreams. My writing desk faces outward, toward the pond and the woods beyond. When I pause my work, I can watch the pileated woodpeckers searching for small insects. Occasionally a bear or a deer saunters through the trees.
This house started as a dream and has—magically!—become my everyday reality. I first saw it on Zillow. There was something about it that felt incredibly right. But the price tag? Way out of my league. I watched it for months, eventually asking my real estate agent to take me for a visit. I thought I’d get it out of my system. Instead, I fell madly in love with the mountain laurel and the oaks, the cherry wood floors, and the soft warm quality of the house’s light.
In situations like this, when I have a dream that I don’t know how to turn into reality, I turn to ritual. Ritual is intention made manifest. Doing ritual is a way of planting a seed so something new can move into the world. I think of it as pulling my hopes and dreams out of my head and letting them take a breath.
There are three rituals I have used over and over again to turn my dreams into reality. The first I call creating a tabula rasa. This is a process that preps me for the second ritual in which I set a clear intention. In the third ritual, I let myself get creative with calling my intentions into the world. I use these in flow, one right after the other, like a yoga sequence.
Ritual #1: Create a Tabula Rasa
A tabula rasa is a tablet made of wax. It was the ancient Roman equivalent of a notepad. This ingenious device was eco-friendly: after using it, you could “blank” the wax with heat and then smooth it out, so it was ready for reuse.
Before stepping into other rituals, I perform a similar process with my own mind. Ritual is inherently an act of creation, and I want to have clarity when I pull something new into being. So, my first step is always a cleansing or letting go so that I can focus.
There are many ways to do this. Here are some of my favorites, listed from quick and easy to long and luxurious:
>> Use your breath—pull clarity and quiet in through your lungs then exhale distractions and stress.
>> Burn incense—waft the smoke around your body while picturing thoughts you don’t need drifting away. Let the herbs soothe and center you.
>> Rattle it out—grab a rattle or make one (dried beans in a mason jar will do the trick), then shake off any sticky feelings, letting the vibration dislodge even the most stubborn metaphysical muck.
>> Write and burn—spend 10 minutes emptying your mind by writing out all the thoughts that are clamoring for your attention. To make sure they are truly gone, burn the paper (this can be safely done in a stainless steel sink, fireplace, woodstove, or firepit).
>> Salt it out—take a soothing soak with bath salts, “salting out” energies that aren’t yours so you can send them down the drain.
Ritual #2: Set a Clear Intention
On the surface this seems easy, but folk and fairy tales teach us what happens when we set an intention (or make a wish) without first thinking it through. One of my favorite examples is a silly tale from Sweden in which a woman is granted three wishes. She knows her husband will come home hungry, so she wishes for a sausage. When her husband gets home, he’s irate to learn she wasted a wish on a sausage. In a pique, he says, “I wish that sausage was stuck to your nose!” The third wish was then used to unstick the sausage.
Further exploration of folk and fairy tales show us another way that intention setting can go awry: the person making a wish gets exactly what they ask for…and then it turns out the handsome prince is a jerk or the much-desired pony farts all day.
When we intend a specific outcome, we need to think out all the particulars: I want a handsome prince, who is kind, not too much older or younger than me, can hold down a job…
Once you get started, you’ll quickly realize there is a never-ending list of potential variables! Thinking of them all, experience has taught me, is near impossible. So rather than trying to list all the specifics of what I want, I skip to the end and focus on the desired outcome. In this case, instead of intending a handsome prince (or princess!), I set the intention for a happily ever after. And then, just to cover my derriere, I add the sentence: this or something better for all involved.
Ritual #3: Create a Ritual to Bring Your Intention into the World
Once I have created a tabula rasa and used that clarity to construct a clear intention, it’s time to call my intentions into being through ritual. Think of this as pulling your wish out of the ethers so it can take root in reality.
There are a lot of books and articles that will tell you to do it this way. I say do it your way. The specific words, gestures, and tools you use really don’t matter. This final ritual is like putting a match to a wick—you are using a creative act to ignite your intention in the world.
>> Light a candle while speaking your intention out loud. I like to repeat three times to add gravitas.
>> Cup your hands around a seed, infusing it with your intention. Plant the seed. Tending it daily helps to reinforce your intention.
>> Stitch or collage or paint something which represents your intention (making a vision board falls into this category).
>> Create an altar with objects that represent your intention (for my dream house, these were objects I found on the land when I visited—a river stone, a turkey feather, a red capped amanita mushroom).
After you’ve worked through this ritual flow, continue to energize your intention: add to your altar, expand your collage, water your seedling. Your work in the energetic world supports your work in the physical world.
A week after seeing this house, I couldn’t get it out of my mind and heart. So I crafted a letter to the owners, telling them of my love for the trees and the ponds and the rustic bridge they had built over the creek. Turns out, having someone love the land as much as they did was more important than their asking price.
This or something better, for all involved.