In BDSM and Power Exchange relationships, there is the use of Protocols, prescribed specific actions related to modes of behavior which are often used to produce a desired outcome. The use of protocols is more common among those within 24/7 Power Exchange relationships, as they require more effort to maintain, and are open to personal interpretation. Protocols can be taken to the next level with the art of using Rituals.
In addition to the use of protocols there is the use of Ritual. The very essence of a ritual is the series of acts/actions to be performed in a specific fashion for a specific result. However, the result may not necessarily be a tangible thing, so it’s important to bear in mind the Intent and Outcome one wishes to produce in a given ritual.
When you think about it, there are typically shared characteristics of Rituals. There is always an outcome (which means there was usually an intent), they cost a fair amount of resources (time, effort, skill, materials, etc.), and are highly specific and ordered which proceed with great design and exacting steps. I often express these things as: Intent + Investment + Correspondence.
Why we might use rituals answers the question of Intent. This is about having clarity of outcome, making the commitment to act, and the will to see it through with force of being.
It could be to produce a specific outcome consistently, to train mannerism and presentation, to break old habits, or to leverage existing habits with greater awareness and significance. For example, cappuccino aficionados often find they have a specific method and order of operation to making the “perfect cup”. In this case the Intent is to produce tangible outcomes, a cup of cappuccino with specific preferred characteristics. Example: How would a subs Owner enjoy their coffee, and what is that process used to make it? That explicit depiction of all the elements (tools & ingredients), the order of operation, and the level attention to each step, is a ritual.
But what if the outcome isn’t tangible? Rituals are also commonly used to facilitate a change in consciousness or awareness. Such rituals focus on the intangible outcomes. For example, increasing the mindfulness of the present moment, actions, or processing emotions. Alternatively, they can be used to dissociate and set the mind and body free from stress, as is used in transcendental meditation. Example: an Owner can train their sub to have a combination of space, gesture, and mantra to calm and ground themselves.
The third most common use of ritual, combines the two above – that of the tangible and intangible. An example may be a rite of passage such as a collaring ceremony, wedding, release ceremony, etc. The purpose of these rituals is primarily to delineate the passage of time, such as a phase of development, or the recognition of effort and accomplishment. The ritual is tangible in that there is often a material symbol (diploma, badge belt) just as it is intangible in that it’s really about recognizing the progress, leaving the past behind, and focusing the mind on moving forward from this moment. It is in essence, a ritual of personal transformation. Example: Is there a transition between the Then and Now?
Ultimately, you get nothing without putting something of significance forth, be that time, effort, cost or sacrifice. What you give up is what you invest. Some investments are of yourself, your personal being such as using learned skills gained through time and effort. It can be the choice to spend time, and therefore giving up doing other things you value or enjoy. Then there are other resources, be that financial resources or your energy. The key is the significance of your investment; if you don’t value what you are giving up, then it’s not really costing you – there is no weight or meaning to the price being paid. Again, you will get nothing if you give nothing – and there is always a price if you want something to work.
Everything has a relationship to another, nothing exists within a vacuum. Our symbols and everyday objects or actions contain meanings, significance, and interrelationships – and these must be linked and bound together. Sometimes they fit naturally and are part of our language of thought, while at other times the relationship isn’t obvious and requires examination to appreciate. Often such interrelationships will depend on perspective. For example, does a waxing moon mean growing luck, versus a waning moon mean diminishing challenges? It’s a matter of perspective and how you order and arrange these correspondences.
Many will therefore view rituals as very mathematical in their nature, or like a highly complex musical composition (e.g. Bach’s Fugue in C# minor). Each variable is itemized, organized, and executed with purposeful orchestration. Nothing is accidental – even if you may not have realized it at the time. This is the language of concepts, emotions, dream, and the subconscious. As such, the key elements can be represented by the concepts of being purposeful and contextual.
Anything that does not work no longer serves its purpose and needs to be address. As such, a good ritual design should also be codified (written), so as to be reviewed and evaluated to ensure it remains effective. If the ritual is not working, not producing the desired result, then it’s not being effective and needs to change. Many of life’s struggles are about the need to be adaptable and meet the challenge of change. It is the way of the balance of order and chaos, never static, but moving and shifting.
Example: folk traditions are often the basis for many of our cultural rituals being passed down and repeated. Sometimes the reason and intent is lost, we do things by wrote but the ritual has become empty. When structure is maintained but without meaning, if the box is empty, it is given that there is nothing in it – there is no power, no significance, and thus ineffective. If it’s not written, not codified, how can we ensure we return to the meaning? How can we ensure all involved are getting the full benefit of the ritual? That is what we wish to avoid, for if the ritual isn’t working, then it needs to be changed so that it WILL work. The key is balancing effectiveness with the rate of change – because the Ritual must be reliable, stable, and consistent. On other words, there must be change, but only as needed. This is why having clarity of outcome is so important to Intent, for how else do you know whether it’s working for you or not?
Example: Morning Coffee Ritual
This is an example of simple ritual based on using an everyday task or habit. In this instance, we are adding or imbuing this habit with greater significance. The purpose being to help foster connection and setting the tone for the day ahead:
Intent: Creating a gentle way to start the day with love and devotion
Expression: Morning coffee service
Outcome: reinforcing intimacy, devotion, submission & service
Components: special mug, favorite coffee, sugar, spoon, other as needed
- Verify choice in coffee flavor or type
- Set aside mug, sugar (turbinado), spoon, small dish, etc
- Ensure water reservoir or kettle filled; Bring to boil
- Select coffee based on preference
- Collect or Press coffee
- Add 1tsp.sugar, Stir 7 times; Return spoon to small dish
- Check temperature, correct as needed by preferred method (ice chips)
- Serve properly: request to enter; Kneeling w/ both hands, wait in offering
- Ensure hands/fingers touch when passing the cup; Lingering connection
- Give morning greeting using honorifics (see protocols)
- Wait for acceptance and for further instruction -END-
Rituals can serve many purposes, each to their own design and need. Ultimately they are rather formulaic, requiring several key elements to be successful. While it seems intimidating, it’s not difficult to start small, with simple every-day rituals we already use and tend to dismiss or take for granted. Start with something you know, and don’t worry about Perfection, rather focus on creating and fostering excellence over time. What is Excellence? It’s bringing the Very Best of yourself to an effort – the best you can, with what you have, in the time available.
– Sir Vice
© Limits Unleashed 2016