I wasn’t born a ceremonial creature. Actually, during my first encounters with traditional ceremony I remember feeling terribly awkward, like a tourist (a very obvious one at that) in a foreign world. I have souvenirs of my brothers and I smirking at each other, holding back laughter, when having to sit through grace at someone’s house; or feeling clueless as to what to do with ourselves while attending a church with a friend, or a funeral or a wedding. Although I unknowingly created many personal rituals for myself in the intimacy of my childhood world, I can trace the moment back to twenty years ago, when the first seeds of meaningful shared ceremony took root in my life: I had just finished my bachelors’ program in Vancouver and thought I would take a two year break before resuming my academic trajectory in the health sciences. Needless to say, two years turned into a lifetime.
After year one of said “break”, I was working on an organic farm in a little French village which I had made my new home. As anyone who has moved to a new country will tell you, finding yourself in a dramatically different context beckons a reorientation on so many levels. Thus future livelihood paths expanded into never-previously considered possibilities, ranging from organic gardener/farmer, to herbalist and somatic therapist, to climate-activist storyteller…
It was in these artistic settings and earth-oriented environments that the seeds to authentic and meaningful ceremony were planted.
I spent almost a decade working on various organic farms and gardens, tending to the earth, learning to be in right relationship with its living beings (from beetle to cattle, from rivers to ravens, from ferns to the heavenly constellations above). As we have done since the beginning of agricultural times, I learned to interact with the living world through ritual and seasonal celebrations, and through a lot of hard work steeped in reverent observation of nature’s cycles and rhythms.
Looking into the sky daily to watch the moon wax or wane, the clouds form and dissolve, the winds carry pollen or leaves, I lived, worked, and trained in intentional communities and learning centers dedicated to environmental sustainability and planetary healing.
In these places, ritual and ceremony were a part of life as we shared from the heart in circle gatherings, celebrated seasons and each other’s milestones, and engaged in diverse forms of life-transforming experiences. I remember feeling like I was diving into life’s depths and feeding a great soul hunger for connection, belonging, and meaning-making. Coming into circle to share from the heart was a learned skill, but it felt like a deep thirst was being met. I had to learn to listen deep (to both myself and others), to decipher different levels of experience (feelings, emotions, sensations, thought patterns, assumptions…), to find the courage to speak from my truth, to trust that others could hold space for me, and to feel comfortable speaking of the sacred.
It felt like a home-coming. And at the same time, it was heart-wrenching to discover how far my cultural conditioning had disconnected me from inner resources that would make me more fully human.
It came to acknowledge my illiteracy in the realms of intuition, my disconnect from a deeper connection with the wild world, my inability to identify and articulate my emotional needs, my lack of clarity about what I truly wanted from life and what my gifts were.
I also remember how difficult it was to step back out of these inspiring contexts into the hustle and bustle of mainstream culture, and to sense the contrast. I had been steeped in conversations that revolved around the sacred and tending our earth, and then sometimes felt embarrassed or awkward talking about such things back home.
Deep in my bones, I knew that ritual, ceremony and celebration were much needed healing balms for our fragmented modern world. Yet I struggled in finding a way to bridge this into my everyday life and conversations.
I devoted myself to the intention of bringing this healing balm into my personal universe and into the world at large. I turned to books, mentors, and countless workshops and trainings where I could drop back into these containers, where such conversations and ways of being were the norm. Through these experiences I was gradually transformed.
In the end, it was my love of earth that brought me to embrace ceremony as a way of life…
…along with my desire to celebrate its beauty, uphold its sacredness, and express the complex and often overwhelming feelings of grief, tragedy, indifference, anger and despair that bubble up when we face the earth’s plight and the local and global suffering. I have deeply grieved the losses and despaired for the future. At the same time, what has kept my candle burning is seeing and celebrating the exquisite beauty of this world, and falling to my knees daily in deep gratitude for this precious life.
To breathe in “sacred” and breathe out “sacred” and remember that there is so much to celebrate.
Gradually, I realized that there was no room for embarrassment, that awkwardness was totally acceptable, and that I could start with how-to books in my honest attempt to bring this language of ritual back into my life. By the end of my twenties, I decided to devote myself entirely to exploring the relationship between psyche, spirit and nature. After years of studying and working in deep ecology, permaculture, and organic gardening, alongside storytelling and creative writing, I enrolled in a Masters in Transpersonal Ecopsychology, which coincided with my first pregnancy, and I completed my thesis by the end of my second pregnancy. My thesis focused on the motherhood transition and I took a semester-long course dedicated solely to the study of life transitions and rites of passage work.
Rites of passage work guided me through my own passage into motherhood, helping me to grasp the archetypal stages of human transitions and their deeply transformative potential, giving me a ground of understanding to root deeply into.
I have since continued to train with Animas Valley Institute to deepen my skills in nature-based soul-centered practices, dream-tending, council practice and mirroring. This training is not therapy but rather a guide to unearth our hidden psychological resources and learn how to cultivate these in order to become more fully human, while becoming aware of the symptoms that emerge when these resources are obscured. Most of the practices for developing these facets take place in natural settings, recognizing the healing power that lies in communicating and communing with the elements and the more-than-human world.
As I dive deeper into this work, I continue to witness a necessary shift in consciousness taking place within myself as I relinquish a model of “lack” (in which we are somehow perceived as personally deficient and lacking) and embrace one that celebrates our participation in a story much larger than ourselves.
Here, the symptoms of suffering and discomfort that we experience are placed in a larger picture that recognizes our wild entanglement with what is taking place in this world. This is more than an intellectual shift; it is a felt, experienced, spiritual shift in consciousness as I come to understand that we are radically interconnected with the rest of life. Everyday I am learning to be in conversation with other beings and to embrace a bigger picture of what it means to be a more connected human. We are part of this living, breathing Earth, as much as the rain, grass, and dove. Our minds and hearts are shaped by our everyday encounters: as we come to know this world, our sense of self extends from sunshine to fern fronds, from stars to stones, from moon tides to moss…
And as human, our own wild nature is a vast reservoir of inner resources: just as rivers, winds, animals, seeds, and sun animate and shape the earth, so the currents of our emotions, thoughts, sensations and imaginings bring us to life and inform our being.
Celebration and ceremony have become great anchors in my own life, as I regularly gather in circle, rejoice in my friends’ milestones and insights, participate in group ceremony and celebrations, and engage in ever-evolving personal practices that help me feel into the undercurrents of my journey and honor the learning I find there.
Celebration and ceremony also rhythms our family life, helping us to navigate the transitions between day and night, between seasons, between homes, between countries, between summer vacation to school year, as well as giving us the space to honor personal milestones – birthdays, decade changes, moving from toddler to child, new accomplishments, new life-changing understandings…
Thirty years later, I no longer cringe and retain my laughter at dinner time blessings – I rejoice in hearing the kids spontaneously thank the garden, the rain, and the chicken who laid the eggs – knowing that a sense of gratitude will form the foundation for their sense of belonging to this earthly realm. I also rejoice in witnessing their untamed desire to celebrate everything from a fallen tooth to a first snow fall, as I know this creates the foundation to appreciate and honor both their accomplishments and challenges in life. It is beautiful to witness how effortlessly they enter a reciprocal relationship with the living natural world and feel a sense of deep belonging amidst the beings and seasons they grow up with.
I created Fire & Honey to extend this gift of ceremony to help support others on their journey through change, and also to affirm my heartfelt and joyful commitment to this life calling. I am so grateful to all of those who walk alongside me on this path and who share with me their trust and stories, so that together we can say “yes” to tending the wild realms of our inner and outer worlds.
With love and wild blessings,
Copyright © 2020
Fire & Honey Ceremonies
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