In the West, many of us feel cut off from our ancestors’ spiritual practices, from our structures of meaning, and our own indigeneity. In finding our way back to the sacred, we learn and gain inspiration from the practices of the peoples who are still connected to their cultural and spiritual heritage and living in a reciprocal relationship with the non-human world.
Whilst the sharing and spreading of different practices and ways of life has always been a part of human history, cultural appropriation refers to the use of a group’s practices and rituals with a power imbalance at play. The danger lies in the dominant culture using these practices without permission, respect or a genuine understanding of them, but rather for its narrow self interest.
At Alalaho, we are doing our best to tread with respect, humility, and in a spirit of service. We are in an ongoing inquiry to develop rituals and hold ceremonies in a way that feels authentic and meaningful for a largely Western audience in the 21st century.
We strive to share practices from a place that is grounded in and connected to the lineages we have trained in, at the same time as using the language and tools of a Western context in order to remain relevant and accessible to all our participants. And, inspired and guided by the traditions we have learned from, we are learning to unearth spiritual practices from the lands and contexts from which we draw roots.
It is a complicated, fumbling process, and we are learning, making mistakes, and re-membering as we find our way back to a sense of home and belonging. We are always open to feedback and improving. We are deeply grateful to our teachers and the traditions they are rooted in, to the places from which we have drawn inspiration, and to the earth. As we grow this work, we want to give back at the same time as we give forward.
The name ‘Alalaho’ came to us during a ceremony on a team retreat, in which we specifically invited in a name. It comes from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and is loosely defined as an exclamation of joy, wonder and radical openness. For us, it encapsulates the state of the human experience we want to draw attention to with our work.
While it intuitively felt right to us, we questioned whether it was appropriate to use, given its cultural origins, and not wishing to mis-appropriate from this sacred tradition. Our Co-Director Lodé inquired with her Tibetan teacher, who shared that the meaning of Alalaho is beyond any tradition or language, and gave his sincere blessings for us to use this word for the purposes of our organisation and to spread its magic and power.