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
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.