It is so easy to fall into the trap of seeing rituals as something questionable or only associated with indigenous cultures. Some of the most significant ceremonies I have experienced are those that made use of rituals. So in this post I would like to share two examples:
Ritual celebrating a friend’s life
Some time ago a friend of ours died unexpectedly in car accident. So a group of her friends and ex-work colleagues met in a lovely Sufi temple in one of the suburbs of Cape Town. We made a beautiful altar with flowers, candles and vibrant fabric. We also placed photos of Adel here. Beautiful music played in the background as everyone arrived.
We formed a circle with our chairs and took a few minutes to become quiet and centre ourselves. Then slowly those who wanted to talk about Adel and honour her, shared stories about her and how she had touched our lives. Not everyone spoke. But sitting within the large circle it was very clear that everyone was fully present. This was a celebration of her life and how we had come to love and cherish her. The talking slowly came to an end and we sat quietly within the circle, holding her in what felt like a very sacred space.
Ritual marking a period of transition
There was quite a bit of other detail to this ritual so I will describe it briefly.
Recently a friend asked me to facilitate a ritual for her. Gabi feels she is entering a new phase of her life and would like to prepare for this. She invited her husband and three close friends who have been part of her inner journey.
We met late afternoon in a nature reserve which has special meaning for her. She arrived in clothes that represented her “old life”. Down at the parking lot we cleared our energy. As her husband shook a rattle, Gabi walked ahead and the rest of us stepped into line behind her. The gentle rhythm of the rattle quietly helped us focus our attention, become present and open to offering support to Gabi.
We walked up about 800 metres until we arrived at a spot where we had a wonderful view of the sea on the one side and majestic mountains on the other. Gabi laid out the space in a way that had meaning for her and we sat on the edges. She expressed her intent for the gathering and made a symbolic offering to nature.
Then Gabi as well as each person present had the opportunity to provide input on what she needs to leave behind or let go of. Each person had to have a physical symbol representing this. They shared their observations and thoughts and why they had chosen a specific symbol. Each of these symbols would be discarded once she was home. After this Gabi took off her old clothes and put on clothes that she feels symbolise the “new her”.
Then Gabi and each of the others, spoke about new aspects she can embrace. Once again each person had an object that symbolised this. Each person spoke from the heart. It was very evident to me that each of them had her best interests as the primary goal. Each of the “witnesses” then read her a poem or shared a blessing or prayer with her that they felt could sustain her into the future.
It was extremely touching to see with how much love, thought and care each person had put into preparing for the ritual. There was such immense tenderness in their sharing. They knew her well so identified the core aspects which they feel would make a significant difference in her life. Even though each of them was new to the experience of using ritual as a way to help someone in a period of transition, they went with the process.
Gabi was contained and held in a cocoon of gentleness and love by people dear to her. They offered their input with such naked sincerity that it was beautiful to witness.
Essence of rituals
Every time I have either facilitated or participated in some kind of ritual as a rite of passage, I have felt the presence of a divine hand. There is an energy that facilitates change and healing in ways often quite unexpected.
You may want to consider doing a ritual for one of the following reasons:
- Celebrating a big birthday
- Birth of a child, child becoming a teenager
- Leaving or starting a job, setting an intent for a new year
- Naming a home
- Dealing with transition
- Leaving the country, etc
A rite of passage is a deep experience that facilitates significant and lasting change. If you are keen to experience a different way of marking important milestones or events consider coaching to talk through possible rituals.
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