In response to the queries from my clients and others who find their way to my work, I have started a new category on this blog called “Rituals and Symbols”. Here, I’ll offer rituals that can help create the meaning and community that we all long for during transitions and elucidate on the symbols that inform our rites of passages.
Both women and men often ask me for meaningful rituals that will help support them through their transitions. As I write about in my books, our culture is sadly devoid of the rituals and ceremonies that many cultures around the world rely on to help create meaning and guide their members through life’s many rites of passages. From sending the adolescent boy into the forest as part of his initiation into manhood to surrounding a woman with her female kin when she prepares for marriage, the initiate in these cultures knows that he or she is not alone as s/he crosses the threshold and walks into the unknown.
Rituals contain the emotional experience of a transition. What does that mean? It means that through a concrete action – like diving into water through a Mikveh ceremony or throwing pieces of paper with elements of the life you’re leaving behind into a fire – the grief, fear, and anxiety that characterize transitions are moved through more effectively. This is not a new age concept; people have enacted rituals to guide their members through transitions for thousands of years. Rituals are real ways that we can make sense of and contain the often scary and overwhelming experience of being in transition. Alongside accurate information, they’re the life rafts amidst the groundlessness the characterizes moving into a new stage of life.
Whether you use one of my ideas or create your own, it’s important to create something that acknowledges that the old life is ending and that you’ll be making a leap of faith, a leap into the unknown, a leap into fire where you will emerge transformed, your current identity purged and your new identity on the way to being born.