Honoring and Celebrating Change through Ceremony

I went to bed at 2am last Saturday after my son’s “bar mitzvah-flavored coming of age ceremony” positively vibrating with love and gratitude for all of it. Family, friends, teachers, and mentors shared their blessings and wisdom with Kaleb. It was like an infusion of good vibes and appreciation. What a gift that is for any human being in the middle of 7th grade. 

Aside from being a proud mama, I feel re-inspired as a ceremonialist. I’ve been officiating weddings, funerals, and baby/mother blessings ever since I graduated from an interfaith seminary program in 2003. But this was my first personalized coming of age. Designing and facilitating something new requires a real trust in the creative process, something I love to do, whether it’s for a client or my own family. People that choose personalized ceremonies often feel like they don’t fit within the structures of organized religion, yet they long for the connection and meaning that community gathered together in reverence can bring. So when I work with a new client, I start off by asking questions. I need to know who the people are, what matters to them, and why they want to have this particular ritual. We have to root the experience in what is most meaningful and true to the people involved. So, for instance, if you come from a culture or tradition that you would like to reconnect with, I use that as a foundational piece. If you feel disconnected from the traditions of your ancestors or you’ve experienced religious trauma, I want to know where you feel the most alive and connected. Is it when you’re lying on the grass, staring up at the sky? Is it a martial arts or yoga practice? Maybe it’s hanging out with a small group of loved ones around a fire. It’s different for everyone, and that’s what makes personalized ceremonies so unique. 

Once I understand how to root the ceremony, we can branch out in ways that reflect the people involved. I follow tradition in structure or just in essence when it serves the heart-centered purpose of the ceremony. In some ways, the process is a lot like making art or writing. We start with a free flow of ideas and let them marinate for a while. In time, with patience and creative collaboration, what looks like disparate parts solidifies into form. Something brand new emerges that has never been seen before and yet is completely familiar, for it is your own.

Several friends this weekend told me they want to do something similar but don’t know where to start. The first thing I say is to give the ceremony creation some priority and a little space in your life. This isn’t just event planning (which takes time too!). The process is likely to stir up deep feelings, memories, and some questions. Ceremony is a marking of an important change you or someone you love is going through. It’s a chance to get real with yourself and with the people in your life. Rites of passage have been a part of every human culture throughout the ages. We all come from this history. We can remember and relearn our roots, and we can grow new branches reaching for the light. As humans here on earth, we have an open invitation for meaning and purpose. May we all grow strong and more beautiful in its unfolding!

All my love,

Julia 

PS–If you’re considering some kind of ceremony to mark a transition in your life, and you’d like support in its development/facilitation, I offer free phone consultations to see if we are a good fit for working together. Let me know if you have any questions! 

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