Rites of Passage are an essential part of an integral community or society. In ethnic and older cultures, Initiation ceremonies are an important way of marking the transition from one phase of life to another. By being witnessed and held by the community we feel a sense of belonging and are able to respond to the duties and responsibilities appropriate for this time in our lives with the support of the community. These ceremonies help us grow from children into mature human beings. We know about the obvious rites of passage, namely birth, marriage and death, but the lesser ones are much more personal and much less recognized in this culture.
The passage from childhood through puberty to adulthood is often a confusing and lonely time as we let go of the innocence of youth and try to figure out how to be in a world that we have to now try to fit ourselves into in order to survive. In other cultures, this was a major initiation time where the young adult would be welcomed in and given a new role (and often a new name) to mark their new life in the community.
Mid Life is a also a major rite of passage that is rarely mentioned, much less celebrated, in the west. It is a time of deep letting go, of our looks and our vitality, of our dreams and much of what we have identified with and as. Our children leave the nest, we may now have to begin caring for elderly parents, our relationships are changing, our careers might be ending. It can be an extremely unsettling and scary time for us in the 45-65 year range, and yet our lives are far from over. In a way we have to re-imagine who we are.
In this day and age, there is less and less certainty about our collective future and many people feel isolated and alone. Anxiety and depression can set in, and sleepless nights rob us of energy during the day to deal with life’s challenges, further affecting any physical symptoms we may be experiencing due to ageing and loss of hormonal activity. We may have increasing thoughts and concerns about death and dying.
It is a sad fact that there is no map and very little guidance and support for this major Rite of Passage that we face in this culture. Without the holding and support of a community and soul friends to reflect back to us the wisdom we are bringing forth and the continued offering we have to make to the community, we can slip into loneliness and deep suffering.
In my workshops and retreats I have worked with Rites of Passage for over twenty-five years. I am convinced that a Rite of Passage for this vital time of leaving behind much of the ego’s projects of “becoming” and stepping into our wise (and wild!) eldership from a state of Being, is what is needed in this culture. Having travelled this painful and lonely road for several years on my own, I feel a deep cry in my heart that it doesn’t have to be this way. A Rite of Passage to celebrate all that we have done, to lay to rest all that we may have tried and failed to do, and to honour who we are NOW, with dignity, Grace and beauty is what is needed.