Since as far back as anyone can remember, people have created ceremony. We honor the seasons, celebrate rites of passage, and perform rituals for healing. Why? Why do we take the time and energy to do this, when there is so much else to do? Ceremonies don’t make us money, don’t put food on the table. They can seem rather superfluous actually, to a modern-day US-er.
When I was fresh out of college, I had the great opportunity to serve as an AmeriCorps Leader. I came together with 49 other Leaders, each of us representing one of the 50 states. We gathered for a two-week training in service leadership, where we learned about meeting facilitation, conflict resolution, change management and more. It was all really helpful, but one module in particular stood out for me. It was the day we learned about how to “share an inspiring vision.” We were given a few hours to go off by ourselves and think about our vision and then come back and share it. It felt like such a luxury! I went outside into a field, looked up at the shimmering blue sky and scurrying clouds. Felt the grass tickling my skin and listened to insects chirring. I let my mind expand; I asked for my vision.
What came to me was the concept that each of us carries a small piece of a single universal soul. And that the point of life is to form positive connections with other people so that we share our little pieces of the great universal soul. Through positive connections, our souls begin to mix – I carry a bit of you and you carry a bit of me. Your bit contains a bit of everyone else you’ve connected with and so does mine. With every positive connection we make, the pieces of the great universal soul mix and blend more and more.
And this is what we do, mix and re-unify, re-connect, bringing this universal soul back into wholeness.
Flash back to the AmeriCorps Leaders training when we all gathered back together to share our inspiring visions. Mine was by far the most “far out there” and not exactly what the organizers had in mind. But it’s a vision that has stuck with me, and it’s why I became a Celebrant.
I believe that ceremony is a powerful tool to reconnect. To reconnect with our own selves, our communities, and the planet.
Ceremony and storytelling go hand in hand. We connect with ourselves through ceremony by giving weight to our own stories and making meaning of our transitions. We are reminded that we are not alone – we connect our experience to the experiences of others and are reminded that others have made this same journey before. When I tell a love story at a wedding, I place the story of that particular couple in the context of the universal story. The couple’s story is added to our human story of love and connection. The true story of their lives and hopes and dreams is shared with their family and friends – honored and savored.
Ceremony connects us to our communities by generating shared meaning and reinforcing shared values. We gather for a memorial service and we are reminded of what we actually think is important – what we believe really makes a life, when you quiet all the static and can reflect together on what really matters.
And ceremony can be used as a tool to re-connect ourselves to the planet. We harvest the first ripe tomato in the summer and rather than just bringing it inside and slicing it distractedly into a salad, we find a sunny place in the garden, smell the tomato’s earthy aroma, feel its taut skin, press its flesh to judge ripeness – and then we bite in, eyes closed, flavor and juice and seeds exploding into our mouths. This mini-ceremony, this ritual, reconnects us to the planet. We pause, enjoy, and give thanks to Earth.
So, it’s simple, and so necessary. We create ceremony to re-connect. With ourselves, with our communities, and with our planet. For me, connecting is what life is all about. It’s what will heal us and our world.