There was a routine I had at the beginning of each shift as a paramedic. It was to work with my partner to prepare the ambulance for our time in it. This included cleanliness along with making sure that each item was there that was supposed to be there, and where it was supposed to be. With a drug box holding about fifty different medications, and compartments and compartments stuffed with trauma materials, this was not a quick ritual.

Yet, ritual it was. Placing and replacing and getting every little item in order was not unlike the process of setting an altar. The interior of the ambulance was, in a sense, consecrated to act as more than a container for the emergency work that would follow: It would actually act as facilitator.

We were drilled and drilled again on procedures that, through years of trial and error in and out of hospitals across the world, if done in the proper sequence, could take someone determined to be “clinically dead” and return them to life. In this sacred space, miracles could occur.

Years later, when I learned to tend fire for sacred Inipi (sweat lodge) ceremonies on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (SD), there was a highly specific procedure of prayers and actions to follow. Essentially I was being told that if I followed the ritual as I had been taught, and specifically prepared the space the way I was told – which was gleaned from a 5,000 and more year history of trial and error through the ancestors of the medicine family I was working with -- the spirits would appear in the sacred space of the ceremony and effect healing.

In retrospect, this was not a whole lot different than what I had experienced as a medic, and as time went on, I also began to see that this thread runs like cable through all the healing arts.

As an actor, I was taught to treat the stage as a place out of time; a place where I had permission to explore like I never would be allowed to in the world at-large. I was taught that by following certain rituals of preparation I could be an effective instrument through which the essence of another human being could appear and make an indelible mark on an audience. Every act taken, every item placed on stage by anyone involved with the production was focused on producing that kind of effect.

In all three cases: the back of an ambulance, the sweat lodge grounds, and the stage, certain things were done in certain ways at specific locations to produce particular results. When you strip them all down to their essentials, what you find is that preparation through ritual and the establishment of a sacred space are methods used to focus the intent of the practitioner.

That single-minded focus provides an atmosphere within which the desired results can be attained, even if, over the year’s specific elements of the procedures, rituals or locations change, as they’re bound to.

You do not need to be a “religious” person to work with the basic principles of sacred space and ritual to effect change. If you look around you, even though we claim to be far removed from our more aboriginal ancestors, we do rely on things such as these to provide ourselves an atmosphere where we can do our best works.

Look at how our popular culture is fixated on giving us "insider's views" of the rituals and sacred spaces of celebrities. Our televised sports are completely about ritual and sacred space.

Have you ever walked into a room or specially designated area and found yourself struck by a sense of serenity, a charge of energy, or even an immediate sense of dread? If so, you understand how what lives inside of the people who contribute to the creation of such spaces can be transmitted through the space itself.

With practice and a sense of joyful exploration, you can begin to create personal rituals that help you attain and maintain your focus. You can also become adept at defining or creating sacred spaces that can help magnify your effectiveness as a healer.

The beauty of it all is that you’re the only one who needs to know.

Author's Bio: 

Russ likes to be called a firetender because it reminds him of the role that life has chosen for him: to tend the fires of life that live in all things. He offers his life experience in the healing arts through counseling, art, music, workshop facilitation, photography and more.