By Holden Cession
The arrival of Spring signals to us an end to hibernation, a time of rebirth, and a season of action. While I love seeing the flowers bloom and feeling the shift in weather, I find myself still longing for the slowed pace of Winter. We’re less than halfway through the year and the lingering question “can we just slow down,” lingers in the air. I realized that this question was about more than the pace of my days and the organizations I’m in. It was about the pace constructed by a society conditioned to move like a machine, always in motion and doing something. While I enjoy the ability to be out and more physically connected with the community again, I also feel the pressure to be more productive and fill as much of my time as I can with getting things done. It seems like there is always so much to do and not enough time to do it.
In those moments when anxiety is high and my thoughts are racing, I take a breath, invite myself to be present and continue to do deep intentional breaths until I am fully present. This has been helpful in getting me to slow down and has been a practice I’ve been able to invite others into. Collective breathing has been key to easing tension, opening us, and the space up to more possibilities. It’s become a ritualistic practice to support me in moving towards balance and alignment. In Ritual: Power, Healing, and Community, Dagara tribe medicine man and author Malidoma Patrice Some, offers some indigenous wisdom on the relationship of ritual to the machine.
“Ritual in a way is an anti-machine, even though the industrial world is not totally devoid of the practice of ritual… Ritual is not compatible with the rapid rhythm that industrialism has injected into life. So whenever ritual happens in a place commanded by or dominated by a machine, ritual becomes a statement against the very rhythm that feeds the needs of the machine.”
Our society is full of machines that many of us work to slow down, dismantle, and destroy, and at the same time our lives, homes, and organizations can replicate the same frantic, hurried, gear grinding, mechanical characteristics of the machine. When our own lives and spaces move at the speed of the machine, we reproduce the very thing that we work to disentangle ourselves from. As local and global events unfold, our ability to replicate ritual, the anti-machine will be dependent on our ability to slow down and be in authentic connection to each other. Like intentional breath work, ritual is a process of slowing down, tapping into a different energy, and seeing what else is possible.
Could you imagine what it would look like to be in a collective ritual that involved being in joy, play, or grief together for more than just a few hours or just a day? How could that change how we envision a new world and respond to the issues of this present one? In another book, The Healing Wisdom of Africa, Malidoma says that,
“As much as our body requires food for nourishment, our souls and spirits require ritual to stay whole. it is as if without the spirit being nourished in us, the body pays for the consequences… Ritual is also necessary because there are certain problems that cannot be resolved with words alone…by actively involving the members of the community in seeking solutions based in ritual, a community can achieve a deeper solution than words and rhetoric alone can provide.”
I’ve heard many comrades say, “If we could think our way to freedom, we’d be there already.” I also believe if we could work our way to freedom we’d be there. We have to do more than theorize and execute our plans for the kind of world we want. We actually have to live into being that example of a ritualized society that can lean on community for support in generating solutions that aren’t based on what we know, but on what happens when we slow down and move beyond words and with our people. Our wellness and futures depend on it.
C.D. Holden Cession is a Black gender expansive magik maker, multifaceted creative, time traveler, and spiritual conduit for collective liberation. They are born, raised, and based in the Southern region of occupied Turtle Island, in the Saura lands of what we call Greensboro, North Carolina. They spend their days plottin’, schemin’, and crafting containers in support of the grassroots efforts that make freedom dreams more possible. They have spent nearly a decade tapping in and serving movements that move the needle towards a more just and sustainable world. In particular, they have lent their hands towards liberatory work that elevates Black and LGBTQ communities, and as a land, cultural, and wellness steward that centers healing as a radical act. You can find them playing dominoes and nerding out about spirituality, nature, art, music, and southern culture.