Ceremony helps us process the emotions of life.
My younger son has been having a rough few weeks. As an 8.5 year old, he is going through the very normal developmental phase in which he is beginning to understand the permanence and finality of death. He is scared of his own mortality, and of losing the people he loves.
I recently celebrated a birthday and he cried during my celebratory dinner, crawled into my arms, and whimpered, “Mommy, I don’t want you to get old and die and leave me alone without you.” He also makes many comments about wanting to stay 8 years old forever. The other day in the car he cried, “Mommy one day I’ll be an older man and you won’t be alive anymore and what will I do? How will I know how to live my life? Who will I have to talk to when my heart hurts and I need advice or to share my feelings? You’re always there for me. I don’t want to be without you!”
As I listened to him cry and try to wrap his mind and heart around these concepts, to say that my heart was aching with pain so fierce is an understatement. My greatest fear since becoming a mother is dying and leaving my boys alone. So to hear him speak of my greatest fear was almost unbearable for me.
As parents, we don’t want to see our children in pain. We would do anything to take that pain away. Sometimes in an effort to make them feel better—and to make ourselves feel better—-we inadvertently invalidate their feelings or minimize them or enable them in some ways.
Our children are here on their own journeys. They have to experience all of their feelings—the good, the bad, and everything in between. Feeling emotions and sitting with discomfort is the only way to grow and evolve our souls. Our kids have the same need.
When my little man cried to me I wanted to rush in and distract him with music or games or tell a joke or tell him not to worry. But all of that would have been invalidating for him, and it would have been an attempt for me to avoid my own discomfort.
Instead, I leaned into him, hugged him, kissed him, and told him I loved him. I told him that I understood how painful it is to think about losing someone we love. I just offered validation. I didn’t try to change his feelings or avoid the conversation.
I also had to make time to be present for him. That meant ignoring the sink full of dishes, the explosion of dirty laundry, the text messages, and the phone calls. I had to turn off the autopilot.
Later that day, I invited him to participate in a ceremony with me. I use ceremony in my life and in my work with children and adults both individually and in groups each day.
Ceremonies and rituals offer countless benefits for humans of all ages including:
*calmness and increased inner peace *decrease in anxiety and fear *experiences of pure joy and happiness *unconditional love for all beings and for self *regulation of the central nervous system *improvements in executive functions *greater mindfulness and awareness *increased self-awareness and introspection *increased ability to feel gratitude *sense of community and true belonging *increased self-esteem *and more…
Ceremonies remind us to not live life going through the motions but instead to live with intention and to have every move we make be full of deep meaning and creative energy. To be full of awe for all of life, even the parts of life that are painful. It connects us to the source of our innate healing that resides within us-knowing that we are our own medicine.
Ceremony also helped my son to feel connected to something larger than himself. To have faith in the universal order of things and to trust that he was never going to be alone.
We sang, danced, drummed, walked mindfully in the woods, watched birds, and laid down under the warmth of the sun. Both he and I were calm, full of joy and gratitude, and connected to each other, even with the pain that we both felt in our hearts. Pain is transformative if we allow it to be.
My ability to offer validation and support for my son was possible only because of the work that I have done, and continue to do, every day to make myself more conscious and connected. My own ceremonies and rituals help me to evolve my soul for my highest good and for the good of all around me.
The greatest gift we can give to our children is that of our own growth and consciousness.
My single most important parenting goal is to raise two men who are CONSCIOUS—Truly awake, alert, and aware of their own hearts and their connection to every being in the universe.
I’ve learned that all of life is sacred. Anything can be a ceremony—eating dinner together, walking through a pile of leaves, driving to hockey practice, even folding laundry! If we set the intention to be present, connect with feelings of gratitude for life just as it is unfolding in each moment, and see how we are connected to all that is, then life itself becomes a sacred ceremony.
Any day in which I remember that is a good day. I forget. And then I remember again. And then I forget again. Because I am human. And my son will forget because he is human too. When I have compassion for myself, I can have compassion for him.
It’s not easy. And I screw up daily!! Some days the best version of me looks like mismatched pajamas, dirty hair in a bun, yelling at my kids, and crying as I shove a donut in my mouth. Other days it’s drumming joyfully in the woods with my son.
But I keep picking myself back up and doing the work.
Thank you to my son for being one of my greatest teachers by always helping me to remember. ❤️