Reflection Questions for Ceremony and Ritual

1. Based on your own reflection, inner listening and experience (not reading or other research that shares the views of others!)…

• what is ceremony?

• why does it exist?

• what is its purpose?

• is it relevant, useful, meaningful?

Having responded to these questions yourself first, feel free to research these questions in any other way, seeking the wisdom of other sources too.


2. Do you have an experience of a ceremony – or a part of a ceremony – that touched you in a way that was positive and healing?

What was happening in the process of the ceremony  that made this so?


3. Do you have an experience or experiences where ceremony has actively not worked for you?

What was happening in the process of the ceremony that made this so?


4. What forms of art, indeed of life, move you? And what is it about them that creates engagement within you? When you create, what is the process that takes place inwardly and outwardly, that leads to ‘something’ being created?

Do you recognise yourself as a creator, and as a co-creator?


5. What are the consequences for you, as a participant of this training, if ceremony is potentially alchemical, transformational, alive, change-inducing?



Deep Dive Exercise into Birth and Welcome

Write, or draw, or record in any other way, all that you know about your birth.

If this requires you to do research that involves others, go ahead, AND don’t let this be an obstacle to your own inquiry.

If you don’t ‘know’ then imagine…


This is a key suggestion in this work, for you may find yourself feeling zoned out, or resistant, or spacey, or any number of other feelings, sensations or thoughts. In the process of doing this work on Birth and Welcome, almost more than for any other subject, pay attention to your energy and its expressions in thought, feeling and sensation. All of these are the great keys and clues into your deeper and perhaps less conscious inner material related to this subject.


Discard nothing, and gather it all up. We won’t ask you to share or submit any of this work.


Please take great care of yourself as you undertake this work. 


Before doing any of these questions, which we urge you to do over a few days, create Sacred Space for yourself. Pray to the God of your Understanding – to the Sovereign Light within you – to be with you in this process, and to not leave you. You are in fact this light, but our sense of this is not always so integrated, so ‘asking It to be with you/ me is healthy.


Throughout the time that you set aside for this exercise, notice your breathing – do it gently and deeply – and notice your feelings, and thoughts. Notice peripheral rememberings or vague dreamy associations. They are all relevant. Notice your dreams, and the language of life showing up to answer these questions in other ways – billboards, books, words someone says, newspaper articles, the bird that flies by. You are entering a non-rational landscape, a pre-verbal landscape, and a time of the most acute awareness and unity.


Be gentle with yourself in ways beyond your concept of what you might usually allow yourself as an adult.



1. What do you know about your actual birth: who was there, what was happening, how did it happen, where did it happen, why?

2. What do you know about the time in history, politics, economics, belief systems, at the time of your conception, gestation, birth, and first year of life? What is is that is being thought in the world and by the people closest to you about these things? This is the pot into which you arrived.

3. What do you know about the beliefs of those people closest to you – parents, grandparents, siblings, other carers – in relation to children, babies, birth, childhood, the meaning of life?

4. What did your carers believe about welcome and celebration, and what did they practice to express this? How were you welcomed? Were you welcomed? What part of you was welcomed? What part of you was not?

5. Through the process of each of these questions, what are you feeling, thinking, noticing in your body?


Go back to the invitation to find a photo of yourself as a baby or young child, or to imagine into this time in your life.

How might you also bless this new-born who is you, and express your self acceptance and love in personal ceremony or prayer?

A Daily Love Gaze

Find a photograph of yourself as a baby – as young as possible. If you do not have a picture of yourself as a baby, make a drawing or shape some clay, or represent your infant self in some other way.


Place this image on your altar. If you don’t yet have an altar, then you are invited to make one now. It can be as simple as the photograph, a flower or other presence of nature, and a candle. Every day for a week, spend 5 minutes in silence with this image. Centre yourself to feel yourself supported, and in your adult self.


Try this ‘Self Light’ visualisation exercise, anchoring yourself between the above and below, and sitting in your heart space in the middle of where all things meet. From this place, with soft and love-choosing eyes, gaze at the baby, at you. Sit with your thoughts and feelings and sensations, breathing them along, and witnessing them as the deep observer that you are.


Spend a few minutes writing or drawing about anything that comes to mind/ heart/ awareness following this five minutes.


Give thanks, and release the exercise.


red heart wall décor

The Seven Stages of Ceremony

Stage 1: preparation before start of ceremony: minister personal attunement to what is about to take place, solo (or with fellow ceremony-holders if they exist)


Stage 2: opening: state intention, welcome all, do invocation/ attunement: all of this signals that we are moving into connection and with intent.


Stage 3: moving into connection more overtly, with each other and with ceremony intention: …seeking to link with stage 1….create something/ s that support this movement towards the central purpose/ intent (song, prayers, ritual, etc, anything) …and connect to next stage about to begin


Stage 4: central purpose being expressed intensely/ climax/ etc: …..seeking to link from stage 2: create something that overtly expresses & delivers the core purpose of the ceremony, & in the spirit of our work expecting that something transformational will take place, whether we feel it or not….and connect to next stage about to begin


Stage 5: cooling down from intensity of high energy of stage 3: …..seeking to connect with stage 3: do something that allows reflection, integration, expansion of the intensity of stage 3, etc (anything song, dance, prayer, movement, readings, rites etc)….and connect to next stage


Stage 6: moving into conscious ending and separation: ….seeking to link from stage 4:bring ceremony to close by doing thing/s that signal ending, separation imminent, purpose achieved, and that blesses the whole of what has occurred, the process of ending, and the future that lies on the other side of the ceremony


Stage 7: release at end after ceremony: minister does something on own, or with fellow co-celebrants, to ground, release, integrate, both immediately and later via supervision of some form


In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own frailties.


In this video, Dr Brown explains the difference between empathy and sympathy and how empathy drives connection whereas sympathy drives disconnection. She shares that empathy is actually a vulnerable choice, and forces you to connect with something within yourself in order to connect with another person. She shares that typically, as humans, we want to try to make things better which in itself can drive disconnection from another person. As you go deeper into spiritual accompaniment this year, you’ll explore more about not falling into the trap of wanting to fix others.


In Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication book, he explores the ways in which individuals have used NVC to strengthen their ability to connect empathically with others. He shares, ‘The more we empathise with the other party, the safer we feel.’ In empathising with another person, we become more in touch with their humanness and realise the connections we have with one another.


In the video below, Maria Engels talks about the ways in which empathy and vulnerability are connected to Rosenberg’s framework of Nonviolent Communication:

The Heart of Nonviolent Communication

If you have access to a copy, please read chapter 1 of Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication. 


In this chapter, Rosenberg begins by sharing the questions he had asked himself throughout his life;

  • What happens to disconnect us from our compassionate nature, leading us to behave violent and exploitatively?
  • What allows some people to stay connected to their compassionate nature under even the most trying circumstances?

Rosenberg was interested in exploring what affects our ability to remain compassionate. He goes on to explain he sought to develop an approach to communication (both speaking and listening) ‘that leads us to give from the heart’ which in turn allows us to connect with ourselves and others in a compassionate way. This approach is Nonviolent Communication (NVC). 


He explains that the way we talk could indeed be described as violent as the words we use may cause harm or pain, both for others and ourselves. When speaking of nonviolence, Rosenberg is referring to it the way Gandhi used it; humans have a natural state of compassion. The framework of NVC helps us to remain in our natural state of compassion.


‘When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt, and needed rather than on diagnosing and judging, we discover the depth of our own compassion.’ 


The NVC Process

  1. Observations: We observe what is happening in a situation and articulate this without judgment or evaluation
  2. Feelings: We state how we are feeling when we observe what is happening in a situation
  3. Needs: We express what needs we have connected to the feelings we have shared
  4. Requests: We state we we want from the other person that would enrich our lives



‘When we give from the heart, we do so out of the joy that springs forth whenever we willingly enrich another person’s life. This kind of giving benefits both the giver and the receiver.’ 


In your journals, please spend some time reflecting on the following questions:

  1. What does the word compassion bring up for you?
  2. Write about a time you were treated with compassion, what affect did this have on you?
  3. What does it mean to you to give from the heart?
  4. Write about a time where you have given from the heart, what did you learn from this experience?
  5. Write about a time where maybe you didn’t give from the heart, what did you learn from this experience?

Spiritual Accompaniment: Peer Partnerships

Spiritual Accompaniment with your peer: 

Once every four weeks give a session of spiritual accompaniment, and receive a session of spiritual accompaniment, with your peer companion. It is better that these are not back to back if possible, and should last for 50- 60 minutes, with a strong commitment to observing the time agreement. By the end of the first year you should have completed seven sessions in each mode – 14 calls in total.

These are formal spiritual accompaniment sessions, not conversations, and you are urged to start the relationship with clear contracting, and with as open a heart as possible, setting aside your ideas about who your peer is.

  • Start with a prayer, silence, devotional practice or meditation.
  • Give particular attention to your own and your peer’s relationship with the Divine.
  • Engage in agreeing the practicalities of timing and the medium of communication in order to practice contracting with clients in the future.
  • Take time to establish an agreement around confidentiality, using the OneSpirit confidentiality statement (see below).
  • Focus on connecting and gently deepening connection with each other. Seek to clear yourself of assumptions about each other, based on the year passed: open to a new beginning.

Write-up notes of half a page to a page, both from the perspective of receiving and giving the sessions. These notes are private to you, and will help you get you into practice of keeping these kinds of records for an assignment in your second year. They are also the start of developing the habit of both writing up any work with a ‘client’, and including your own self-observation within that.

NB: Whilst these notes are confidential to you, it is essential to understand that clients have the right to ask to read your notes about them, which occasionally happens.


Contracting and confidentiality in the peer accompaniment context 

Contracting is an important element of any accompaniment relationship, and is essential for establishing boundaries and safety. It also helps to ensure expectations are understood and mutually shared.

We will be covering this in more depth as the year progresses, but for now notice how your group tutor contracts with you in your sessions with them, and how this feels for you.

Take time to practice this element with your peer companion. Ensure your contract is clear and shared, and practice the skills of intention setting, pre-work to prepare yourself, and inner opening.


You must also specifically address confidentiality when contracting. 

When writing up your notes, remember that clients have the right to ask to read your notes about them, which very occasionally happens. Remember that the confidentiality of your work with your peer, and the notes you make about these sessions, is an important aspect of the skills you will be learning and practising.

When writing up your case studies do not mention the client’s name. Only the issues, not the individual, will be discussed at supervision.

(While tutors will know the identity of your peer, it is still good practice to maintain this approach as if they do not. If tutors or supervisors are concerned about the “student client” as a result of reading or hearing case notes they will ask the student companion to ask the client for permission to pass on their name. If tutors or supervisors feel this code has been, or has to be, broken for any reason they will inform both student companions and student clients).

Please use the confidentiality statement below and discuss it with your client before spiritual accompaniment takes place.  

OneSpirit’s Confidentiality Statement

We understand that sometimes information is regarded as sensitive and private, and we want to respect that. Please be aware that sometimes we may need to share information internally, with colleagues, in order to ensure we provide you and others the necessary support. We will explain why and how such information is to be shared in such cases, and who with, so that you have the opportunity to withhold permission.


We may also need to breach confidentiality in extreme circumstances such as:

  • A serious risk to your own health and welfare.

  • If your behaviour presents a serious risk to the legal rights of others.

  • When staff have been placed in a position that compromises their professional integrity

  • When disclosure is required by law.


If any of the above circumstances were to arise, we would seek to discuss the situation with you before breaching confidentiality, although this may not be possible in certain circumstances where safeguarding has to take priority.


Trust helps to create and protect a sacred space, a sense of being held safely. OneSpirit recognises the need for an approach to confidentiality that encourages individual openness while establishing best practice in how and when personal information is held and shared.


Confidentiality within the Training Context

Our tutors and operations staff need to share relevant information about students and course participants in order to provide the best possible care and support. This can take the form of notes on our secure password protected databases, discussion in meetings or internal forums and secure messaging platforms, including email. Any conversation or written communication may be shared unless specifically requested by an individual student not to do so. A request for confidentiality will be respected unless there are legal or contractual reasons not to do so, or safeguarding concerns that must take precedence. If confidentiality cannot be maintained the individual will be informed as soon as possible.


Confidentiality Between Minister and Client

OneSpirit ministers will not discuss privileged conversations outside OneSpirit’s legitimate forums of support, for example in supervision, and then by focusing on the issues and only identifying the individuals concerned when absolutely necessary.

In contracting with clients, OneSpirit ministers will explain the limits of confidentiality and what their clients can expect.

All students are taught OneSpirit’s Confidentiality statement and are encouraged to adapt this for their own use following ordination.


Confidentiality and the Law

Three aspects of UK law impact on this document; Data Protection Act, Terrorism Act, and the Children Act 2014. There are legal requirements with regard to disclosure, mainly related to terrorism, child abuse and data protection.


Buddhism and Art – Mingyur Rinpoche

Buddhism and Art – Mingyur Rinpoche

Meditation will open up our minds and hearts, which will then stimulate artistic development. Buddhist teacher and meditation master Mingyur Rinpoche speaks on the benefits of practicing Buddhism with art, and making art Dharma practice.



Om Mani Padme Hum Chant

OM Mani Padme Hum Chant


Here is a video from YouTube of the OM Mani Padme Hum Mantra for you to enjoy – it is just over an hour long.




On the meaning of: OM MANI PADME HUM     

The jewel is in the lotus or praise to the jewel in the lotus   

by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet.    

It is very good to recite the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM, but while you are doing it, you should be thinking on its meaning, for the meaning of the six syllables is great and vast. 

The first, OM, is composed of three pure letters, A, U, and M. These symbolise the practitioner’s impure body, speech, and mind; they also symbolise the pure exalted body, speech and mind of a Buddha. Can impure body, speech and mind be transformed into pure body, speech and mind, or are they entirely separate? All Buddhas are cases of being who were like ourselves and then in dependence on the path became enlightened; Buddhism does not assert that there is anyone who from the beginning is free from faults and possesses all good qualities. The development of pure body, speech, and mind comes from gradually leaving the impure states and their being transformed into the pure.    

How is this done? 

The path is indicated by the next four syllables. MANI, meaning jewel, symbolises the factor of method – the altruistic intention to become enlightened, compassion, and love. Just as a jewel is capable of removing poverty, so the altruistic mind of enlightenment is capable of removing the poverty, or difficulties, of cyclic existence and of solitary peace. Similarly, just as a jewel fulfils the wishes of sentient beings, so the altruistic intention to become enlightened fulfils the wishes of sentient beings.    

The two syllables, PADME, meaning lotus, symbolise wisdom. Just as a lotus grows forth from mud but is not sullied by the faults of mud, so wisdom is capable of putting you in a situation of non-contradiction where as there would be contradiction if you did not have wisdom. There is wisdom realising impermanence, wisdom realising that persons are empty of self-sufficient or substantial existence, wisdom that realises the emptiness of duality (that is to say, of difference of entity between subject and object), and wisdom that realises the emptiness of inherent existence. Though there are many different types of wisdom, the main of all these is the wisdom realising emptiness.    

Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolised by the final syllable, HUM, which indicates indivisibility. According to the sutra system, this indivisibility of method and wisdom refers to one consciousness in which there is a full form of both wisdom affected by method and method affected by wisdom.In the mantra, or tantra vehicle, it refers to one consciousness in which there is the full form of both wisdom and method as one un-differentiable entity. In terms of the seed syllables of the five conqueror Buddhas, HUM is the is the seed syllable of Akshobhya – the immovable, the un-fluctuating, that which cannot be disturbed by anything.    

Thus the six syllables, OM MANI PADME HUM, mean that in dependence on the practice which is in indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech and mind into the pure body, speech, and mind of a Buddha. It is said that you should not seek for Buddha-hood outside of yourself; the substances for the achievement of Buddha-hood are within. As Maitreya says in his SUBLIME CONTINUUM OF GREAT VEHICLE (UTTARA TANTRA) all beings naturally have the Buddha nature in their own continuum. We have within us the seed of purity, the essence of a One Gone Thus (TATHAGATAGARBHA), that is to be transformed and full developed into Buddha-hood. 

(From a lecture given by His Holiness The Dalai Lama of Tibet at the Kalmuck Mongolian Buddhist Center, New Jersey.) 

Transcribed by Ngawang Tashi (Tsawa), Drepung Loseling, MUNGOD, INDIA

Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World

Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World

In this fascinating documentary, historian Bettany Hughes travels to the seven wonders of the Buddhist world and offers a unique insight into one of the most ancient belief systems still practised today. 

Buddhism began 2,500 years ago when one man had an amazing internal revelation underneath a peepul tree in India. Today it is practised by over 350 million people worldwide, with numbers continuing to grow year on year. In an attempt to gain a better understanding of the different beliefs and practices that form the core of the Buddhist philosophy and investigate how Buddhism started and where it travelled to, Hughes visits some of the most spectacular monuments built by Buddhists across the globe. 

Her journey begins at the Mahabodhi Temple in India, where Buddhism was born; here Hughes examines the foundations of the belief system – the three jewels. At Nepal’s Boudhanath Stupa, she looks deeper into the concept of dharma – the teaching of Buddha, and at the Temple of the Tooth in Sri Lanka, Bettany explores karma, the idea that our intentional acts will be mirrored in the future. At Wat Pho Temple in Thailand, Hughes explores samsara, the endless cycle of birth and death that Buddhists seek to end by achieving enlightenment, before travelling to Angkor Wat in Cambodia to learn more about the practice of meditation. In Hong Kong, Hughes visits the Giant Buddha and looks more closely at Zen, before arriving at the final wonder, the Hsi Lai temple in Los Angeles, to discover more about the ultimate goal for all Buddhists – nirvana.