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Posts tagged ‘ceremonies for transition’

Knowing Death | Valuing Life

Lately I’ve shared a string of delicately expansive interactions with clients and friends. I’m continuously awed by the ways people open themselves into vulnerable space in my presence, as we co-create and enact ceremonies for their lives. It is likely because the people I serve live with great authenticity. Maybe it is also due in part to how I listen or observe like few have before. Whatever the causes, I am grateful for these openings.

My clients know themselves and their relations with a steadiness. They know they want meaningful ceremonies to acknowledge their life milestones. They want to share the experience with a close circle of people they love. Somehow together, we summon quite a lot of courage. We lean into the vulnerable places and with this leaning, we open channels of grace. Curiously enough, this happens during weddings as well as during end of life or death rites. (Yes, I lead ceremonies for the whole spectrum of life milestones!)

A continuous thread I’ve noticed during these recent interactions is this: awareness of death. Not a macabre or frightened kind of awareness. Rather, a genteel acknowledgment. A familiarity. Whether a Father or Mother has passed, a Grandfather or a sister, the death imparts a familiarity with the fragile nature of life. Kind of like knowing a certain tree that grows natively in your landscape. It is always present. It lives through different seasons; sometimes looking pleasant and other times looking bleak. No matter the tree’s state of being, it reminds you of the cycles in life. These cycles present the impermanence of life, right alongside the beauty.

Malus domestica: Flowering tree. Deutsch: Apfe...

Next to this thread of awareness, I’ve noticed a sister-thread.  These dynamic and authentic people all live and interact with a really humble love. I sense their gratitude. It is palpable. I see emotions well up in their whole bodies, as if to say, “this moment is why I am alive!” I witness how they absolutely adore each other. They are most certainly not bumbling through life on auto-pilot. They are here to fully absorb the big-juicy-joyful parts of life, yet not blithely. They don’t fear giving a nod – often in the form of remembrance – to the messiness lying directly counterpoint.

The people of whom I speak truly and consciously value life.

All this to say, I felt surprised to find two articles today, on this very topic. The research presented underscores my observations of a relatively positive pattern. In a death distancing culture, it is rare to see the topic presented in a positive light. Yet both of these articles do just this! This post speaks to how thinking about mortality may bring us to a place of discerning more of what we value in life. Beyond entertaining those values, this post points to research suggesting how death awareness may even improve our physical health.

Yes. This is fragile territory. And yet, there is nowhere else I would rather be companioning the people I serve.

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Finding Beauty in Impermanence

I must admit, this winter’s Beauty themed edition of Parabola Magazine has inspired me more than usual! (I love Parabola like some folks looooove their dark chocolate . . . oh, you know who you are!)

So much so, it catalyzed a theme for a Winter Solstice mini-retreat here in Tucson on December 19th. I am co-creating the sessions with Jenny Kendall of Desert Horse Yoga and my horse, Bianca. We will have more details soon.

Why is this concept of finding beauty in impermanence so big to me?

Reasons will surely unfold over time. Here is what I have noticed since reading my Beauty edition:

Mother Nature is a most pure expression of it. Everyday when I walk out my back gate, the desert is different somehow. Something changes, always. This morning for example: I was practicing yoga facing my big southern windows, before dawn. The sun was just beginning to peek over the mountains. A pale sherbet hue was cast over my little courtyard and the natural desert beyond. I went into a low lunge, holding anjali mudra at my heart chakra. I had a soft outward gaze, with enough seeing to notice motion beyond my ocotillo fence: one coyote, another three, then one more and finally three more. A pack of eight shiny healthy coyotes, trotting along. Fleeting and oh so beautiful in the dawn’s light!

sonoran desert life

Image by Observing Life via Flickr

We are usually fickle about it, yet maybe we can change. Some versions of impermanence, we do view as beautiful. And then some things, we just do not.  As “This Ruined House” (a Winter 2010 Parabola article) by Joyce Kornblatt points out: we adore cherry blossoms, despite their very brief appearance in the springtime. Their symbolism in Japan even represents the fleeting nature of life. It is rare though, when a homeowner’s association in the desert lets a fallen saguaro decay in a ‘landscaped area’, despite how many homes it creates for other creatures and how beautiful the bare ribs become.

For me, out of this fickleness arises an opportunity. I love these questions Kornblatt asks: “So what might happen if we stepped more fully beyond the bounds of conventional aesthetics?” . . . What if we lived with a wilderness mind, in which change is the only constant, and the process of decay is recognized as beautiful?” In my ever so humble opinion, I think we would have a gentler, less judgmental outlook on ourselves, not to mention the whole life and death continuum.

We acknowledge impermanence during ceremonies. Mostly, when I assist and serve clients at Sweetgrass, they are acknowledging change. Change in status: leaving their family of origin to marry another. Change in home: mourning the loss of a home and/or taking up a new residence and claiming new space. Change in family: birthing or adopting a new baby. Change in health: facing an illness or recovering from one. Change in physical presence: acknowledging the loss of a loved one, whether an animal companion or human beloved. When we create rituals and ceremonies, we create beautiful space and time that recognizes the impermanent nature of life and honors how change is our constant companion.

In so doing, we hopefully create inspiring and loving impressions in our individual and collective hearts and minds. And as I write, of course I am wondering: how do you find beauty in impermanence?