Monday, December 6, 2010

Reverb 10 December 6

December has always been a time of looking back, reflecting on what was, and opening up to what is possible in the new year. This is why I find the winter solstice such an important celebration -- an opportunity to look at what we accomplished, what was good, what was not so good and then release that with the knowledge that we are capable of creating whatever we desire in the coming year.

I'm observing this time of year in two ways: I'm holding a Winter Solstice Celebration December 18, 4:30 - 6:30 and everyone is invited. We'll let go of the past and embrace the light of the future in a meaningful way. We'll eat and drink together to embrace the light of the longer days that will come.

And, I'm responding to daily prompts at a site devoted to reflecting on 2010 with daily questions. I'll be blogging about them and invite you to join me. Here's today's prompt:

December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)

The last thing I made was a stuffed pumpkin for dinner last night. I took two little sugar pumpkins, cut the 'hats' off them, cleaned them out and stuffed them with a combination of bread and cheese cubes, thyme, chard, bacon and cream! Yes, decadent I know, but very tasty. I served it with a rice that was a mixture of rices I had little dabs of -- some brown, some wild, some basmati. We ate 1/2 of our pumpkins so we have dinner for another night. They were very good and I loved smelling them as they baked. What I want to do is spend more time with my art journal. I haven't created in it for some time and I've been missing it and wanting to do that. I am committing to one night per week the rest of this month to play in my art journal

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My Ritual of Collecting Rocks

Do you collect rocks? I have been collecting heart-shaped rocks since my daughter was little. Every trip to the coast we'd be on the lookout and our collection would grow. When my honey and I hadn't been together too long, we realized we shared a passion for sitting on sandy beaches, sifting for hours through tiny rocks and stones, tossing the keepers into a bucket or one of our baseball caps. We created rock works of art that now decorate the downstairs bathroom, because that's where they can be seen and appreciated best.

But more than the beauty of the rocks themselves, I am fascinated by the history of the rocks, the time and space where this rock might have dwelt for who knows how long before I claimed it. When I attended my Celebrant graduation in New Jersey we were each given a rock from the shores of the Atlantic, hand chosen for us by the Director of the Celebrant Institute, Charlotte Eulette. We were told to hold them, take them home, or leave them. My rock had sat on the Atlantic shore, so many miles from my home for who knows how long -- Christopher Columbus and numerous Indian tribes may have scampered over it. It had energy, strength, history.

My good buddy Tenaya recently got to fulfill a life dream of hers, to visit South Africa. Prior to her departure we had a lengthy conversation about what this trip meant to her. She was going for the soccer games, traveling all over the country for six weeks, a trip that was going to most certainly be not only memorable but life changing for her. So many historical events had occurred there, wars, clashes of cultures and ultimate freedom. I asked her to bring me back a rock.

The picture atop this post is my South Africa rock. I know it doesn't look like much. It's brown like dirt, but it's smooth and solid and it fits in my hand. She told me it came from the Sudwala Caves and offered me the website where I found this- "Looming above the beautifully wooded valley of the bustling mountain torrent known as the "Houtbosloop", there is a majestic massif known as Mankelexele (Crag on crag / Rock upon rock). In the great massif dolomite rock there is one of the most astonishing caves in Southern Africa, an as yet unplumbed complex of passages and giant chambers extending into the mysterious heart of the mountain.

The Sudwala Caves are the oldest known caves in the world...(and are) situated in Pre-cumbrian dolomite rocks of the Malmani Group, formed over a period of 3000 million years, capturing in stone a time when the area was covered by warm shallow in-land seas. These are amongst the second oldest known sedimentary rocks on the earth, and represented in the cave are fossils of the first oxygen producing plants on the earth, Collenia."

Clearly this was not just a rock, but container of a million memories, a survivor of a million rains followed by scorching heat, followed by untold ancient animals, plants and people crunching and growing around and over it. Holding it I reflect on the people of South Africa, all the struggles they have endured that I cannot begin to imagine. Somehow it gave me strength and centered me to hold it, knowing I too could endure whatever life might throw my way.

Many life ceremonies and rituals include stones, metaphors for a feeling or honor as when stones are placed on headstones in Jewish tradition. These little gems may look like 'just a rock' but they carry their secrets and wisdom to us from deep in our shared earthly history. My rock sits on my desk, a daily reminder to me of what I know I am capable of, as well as the deep responsibility I hold for the future.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Saturday Rituals

More than any other day of the week, Saturday keeps many wonderful rituals for me. I've realized this before, but yesterday I stopped to consider all the rituals I hold dear, some new, some older.

Two of my oldest rituals involve listening to radio programs. Memories of old-time radios, kids sitting on the floor, the entire family listening to a show run through my mind. Going back to the early days of my former marriage, my husband and I used to religiously listen to "A Prairie Home Companion". My kids grew up with this program playing in the background on Saturday evenings. I'd make dinner and we'd eat while listening. My son still enjoys this show and one year we went to see Garrison and the gang in person in Santa Barbara. There is so much that is familiar about the show, beyond my long-term friendship with it. The characters are real and they sit in my living room with me, speaking words I've thought, or have spoken as well. Now, I have introduced this show to my current beau who also enjoys it. It is a necessary part of my Saturday.

I am not sure when I started listening to "This American Life" with Ira Glass. It could have been while I was married. But this 'grab your emotions deep down' show pulls me into it's story every time. I sit mesmerized, eating my lunch at the table, or driving my car, leaving it running while idling in a parking lot because I have to hear what happens next. The stories are always so spell-binding, sometimes very funny but so often bittersweet, amazing. The hearts of people opened wide, sharing with the audience some poignant memory. I love Ira Glass and what he creates every week. It is a necessary part of my Saturday.

Usually at least a part of Saturday is spent puttering or cleaning in the house - another tradition, accompanied by my tradition to play music (if the aforementioned shows are not on) that makes me want to sing and dance. Mopping floors, straightening and organizing are so much more fun with tunes.

Since being with my sweetie, we have developed some of our own sweet Saturday rituals. We enjoy a morning bike ride, trying a new path every time, ending at the grocery store to pick just the right number of items that will fit in the bike basket. This ritual works for all seasons, unless it rains. Yesterday's ride was so befitting of fall -- cool, apple crisp breeze blowing my face as we coasted, sky overcast, hands in warm red gloves, smiling, feeling the love I have for fall, for bike rides, for feeling like a kid, for having this joy to share with my love. Sometimes we stop for coffee at Edwins. It's a nourishing Saturday ritual.

So I started at the end of the day with Prairie Home Companion, forgetting to mention another ritual on Saturday which is making a nice dinner. I enjoy cooking, not that I do anything fancy or special, I just enjoy the meditation of chopping, stirring, creating something that tastes yummy. I usually drink wine while I'm cooking and light candles while we eat.

I've touched on my daytime rituals and the morning bike ride. But what usually starts my Saturday is intimate time for sweetie and I. We stay in bed longer than usual, one day we don't have to dash anywhere quick, and talk, read books, watch the sky or birds out our window and snuggle. This too is a necessary part of my Saturday morning as well as a necessary part of our relationship.

I realized yesterday how all these rituals feel so comforting to me because they show up regularly every week, I can count on them and I miss them if something in the agenda excludes them. They are also comforting because of their lasting durability in my life, our shared history. But they also address so many parts of my essential self: connection with my sweetie, time outdoors, learning something new about myself or others by listening to stories on the radio, music, beauty, good tastes and good food, creating and being creative, home. These are all necessary components of my values, what is important and critical to me. Is it any wonder that each of these rituals nurture me and feel so good, and so necessary.

What rituals do you practice on a weekly or daily basis? Do you see a correlation between the rituals you enjoy and your key values, things you love and enjoy in life? If not how can you begin to create sustaining and meaningful rituals for yourself?

Here's to your happy Saturdays!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why I Think Hilary Was Right...

It really does take a village to raise a child. No matter how dedicated we parents may be, we need support, we need relief, we need the intimacy that comes from sharing within a family. While having a respite and allowing a spouse, friend, parent or grandparent to watch a child for a time is important, what I'm talking about is the deeper contribution to the creation of this child's upbringing, just by being an integral part of his life. I was told the other day that much of how a kid turns out comes from the community he is raised in, not just the interaction he receives from his parents, (not to minimize the huge role that is in a child's life).

If a child is raised in a family that is happy, accepting, affectionate and dedicated to the child's well-being, what a difference that can make to his self-esteem and confidence. This love, acceptance and bonding can begin at birth, and it can begin with the public acknowledgment of that child's birth at a Baby Blessing/Naming Ceremony. Having a ceremony to honor a new baby is an ancient tradition with specific rituals being practiced in every culture. The premise is basically the same: honoring the parents who have taken on a new role in life as parents (even if they are 2nd,3rd, etc-time parents, it's still a new role), honoring of the grandparents in their new role, introduction of the new babe to it's 'Community' and asking that the community vow to do their part in raising this child, forming this child, mentoring this child to be the best he can be.

Such a ceremony cements the family, gives the parents confidence knowing they have the backing of their greater family, trusting they will hold their child's needs in mind. In our more modern times where "tribes" do not necessarily live in the same town or even state any longer, how precious to have such a ceremony to bring the members together, if only symbolically and say - We are Family; This is My Tribe".

I love keeping this ancient tradition alive, setting aside the time to gather round, share wisdom, honor the name given to the child and the significance thereof, and to confirm to the little one that he indeed has roots and soil in which to grow.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

On the daily task of being Mindful

People talk a lot about being mindful; it's hard not to hear the message to "slow down, be present, be mindful". I have read the Buddhist foundations of mindfulness and have touted them in my blogs and my newsletter, but what about really practicing what that means, trying it out in a, well, a very mindful manner?

I notice when I'm in a place of conflict or indecision that it is easy to talk, talk, talk to everyone I know about what is going on. That helps me to process through my feelings and to get more present to them. However, at some point well-meaning listeners will not just echo what they hear from me, but their own ideas and feelings will start to flavor the conversation and I can end up feeling like "this is what other people think, but I'm still confused about what to do".

I was recently feeling a desire to re-visit what practicing mindfulness really means and see what happened when I did so. I decided to be conscious regularly of what I was feeling -- in my thoughts, in my body, in my emotions.

I am a very Feeling person. Friends kid me about starting every sentence with "I feel...". I have prided myself on being in touch with my feelings, aware of them, and being emotional. But I think the piece that is added when I am mindful, is true awareness, clarity and acknowledgement of the feelings, without stuffing, 'making nice', or thinking about it later. My plan was launched, to begin to take note of what I was feeling in each present moment and to describe to myself without judgement what I was experiencing.

For example, I woke up this morning with an expectation of how my morning would go with my mate. He was already up and downstairs. I thought maybe we'd take a bike ride together, but as I started to head downstairs I heard his truck start. I asked myself what I was feeling. I felt angry, sad, abandoned, un-cared for, lonely. Didn't he care about me? Where was he going without me? I decided to go ahead and take a walk on my own, so I dressed to do so. As I was ready to head out, he returned. I had forgotten he had planned an early morning run to Home Depot for supplies to finish the fence he'd been working on. He thought he would dash over while I was still sleeping. I told him about my feelings, which felt painful. I got a little teary. He acknowledged my feelings. None of our conversation was about me telling him he was a dog for leaving without consulting me, but just about how I felt.

While out on my walk moments later I asked myself what I was feeling. Uh oh my thoughts were back at that incident. I asked myself what I was feeling in that present moment as I was walking, in my body and mind. I recognized I was feeling joy at seeing and hearing birds everywhere. I felt the warmth of the sun without the heat that will be there later today. I felt my body feel strong as I ran up a hill. I felt emotionally good to be out walking on an early summer morning. As I breathed in I could even connect with a smell of childhood summer mornings which made me smile. Be here now was calling to me. Look at these great feelings and sensations, the whole point of why you are walking!!

My plan is to continue this experiment of sorts and to really be present to my feelings in each moment which I recognize now can intensify my feelings, but also spur me to action, which I'm craving. As I walked in the kitchen after my walk I noticed a little grease on the stove and noticed I was noticing it. I grabbed a cloth and cleaner and quickly wiped the stove down, something I might have put off until later if not being mindful, perhaps thinking not so mindfully that it needed to be done and I'd get around to it "later".

More later. Right now my mind, body and emotions are saying it's time for what's next, which is most likely breakfast.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What's a Celebrant??

What is a Celebrant? Sounds fun doesn't it? In a nutshell, we celebrant life and the many turns our path takes along the way.

I believe I have always been a Celebrant. Even at a young age I loved ceremony and ritual, marking holidays and special occasions with an Event-like fervor. I didn't realize it at the time, but it grounded me, made me feel part of my family, my community, my 'tribe'.

As I grew into adulthood, these rituals and ceremonies, the little things that must be done - my kids each riding their bikes through a toilet paper barrier my husband and I held for them when they learned to ride a bike; getting to choose what you wanted to do and what you wanted for dinner when it was your birthday; lighting the Advent candles at Christmas; making specific foods for the holidays -- all were comforting, affirming, made us all feel part of the family and the passage of each life experience.

Even though I securely had these rituals in place, I realized the importance of marking the larger life passages with meaningful ceremony. When I was 13 my father passed away. Even though he was dying of cancer and in the hospital, to me it felt sudden and everything that occurred following that felt like a whirlwind of activity without any real opportunity for expression of feelings, or true acknowledgement of the man and daddy that he was. As an adult I began to realize how important ceremony is to the grieving process, and especially making the ceremony meaningful to the participants. In facilitating a ceremony for the passing of my unborn grandson a few years ago, I recognized the remarkable value of allowing space to acknowledge feelings, to feel the support and speak our truth in order to begin to move forward. Again, I felt the powerfulness of family, community, tribe.

I realized that life passages of all kinds deserve recognition. As a life coach, I already had worked extensively with clients in acknowledgement of even the smallest progress. This helps us to move forward with joy and purpose.

You just bought a house? That is cause for celebration, acknowledgement of the work it took to get there and to really feel what it means to have not just a house but a home. A house blessing ceremony gathers your team around you to celebrate this new place that is yours.

You just had a baby? More than a shower, a baby blessing ceremony honors the ancestors of this child and gives all present the power to be that child's team, supporters, helpers in life. It offers the parents witnesses to the experience of being parents and the virtual arms wrapped around all in a familial embrace.

A Celebration of Life service rather than a traditional funeral, can allow the grievers space to grieve along with an acknowledgement of the departed as a real human being in a way that is meaningful to those left behind.

So go ahead and feel free to celebrate life and all it's glorious moments. Have a Celebration and make it uniquely yours.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cindie's Passage of Becoming a Celebrant

Ceremony. Ritual. Life passages. Story. These are all things I love. If I look carefully, I find these everywhere, in everything and everyone and noting them brings me closer to my environment and the people within it.

I spent the past 5 days on the opposite coast from where I live, seeped in story, my own life passage, ceremony and ritual. This was my journey to becoming a Certified LifeCycle Celebrant! After many long months of study, I made the long, sometimes anxious trip (picture me running to just barely catch my connecting flight both directions of this journey) to the shores of the Hudson River to attend the Wisdom Conference and my graduation. Along the way I met a large room full of fellow celebrants, men and women, from around our globe, all with their own personal story of work and accomplishment to get there. Each of them so unique, yet we all shared enough commonality that I felt I had known them all for a very long time.

I hung out for 5 days at the Hyatt on the Hudson, with an amazing view of the New York City skyline. I was mesmerized by the view, mostly because I could not help thinking of the accumulation of stories that existed within that skyline and those buildings, those people. I spent as much time as I could soaking up the stories, walking the streets and shoreways of New Jersey and New York. I think I toured the entirety of Battery Park on foot, took the underwater subway called PATH, traveled across the Hudson on the ferry 5 or 6 times and was a curious observer of my country's past and present.

It was an interesting perspective, really the eagle vs mouse vision. Instead of viewing the city just from the beautiful vantage point of across the Hudson, I got into the mouse view, seeing the story through the faces and ancient buildings of history. You've heard how people say you are rarely a tourist in your own town? Well I was a tourist in my own country, sometimes very aware of the many people who had not had the chance to be tourists in their own town. I had a mission one morning to walk to the Brooklyn bridge then over it. I was told I only needed to walk down this bike path and "it's right there". It was not that intuitive and I found myself consulting my map and many Brooklyn-accented policemen trying to find out where to get onto the bridge by foot. Many had no idea, they had never had this perspective of the bridge, only traveling it by car and some seemed confused by my desire/need to travel it by foot. But it was my mission and I was not going to rest until I found it and walked it which I did.

I like this perspective. Walking the old bridge, being on Liberty Island and Ellis Island, walking shoulder to shoulder with fellow humans, I could feel the presence of our ancestors who probably similarly had to ask for directions, who came with their own stories of work and accomplishment and life passage bringing their own rituals and ceremonies with them. But it is not only the east coast of our country that is rich with history. We all have a story, a history that cements us and connects us. This is what I vow to keep alive - my story, your story, our story.