Monday, December 31, 2012
Saturday, December 29, 2012
During the time of planning my brother's memorial, I happened to see an ad in a magazine for the Celebrant Foundation & Institute, which trains people to become professional Life-Cycle Celebrants - people who create and perform ceremonies with and for people. I immediately knew this was for me, and I entered that funny process of coming to decide something that you've actually already decided.
At the time, I had just started working toward building my new business as a personal historian, and I questioned the wisdom of aborting that in midstream and starting another new thing. But the rightness was so apparent to me that I took the leap of faith and signed up for the training (which I'm now in the middle of).
The thing is, I knew I had found my true calling, and so many things that had happened in recent months all worked together to form one big twinkling, neon arrow pointing to celebrancy. It started with writing about wedding officiants and realizing the importance of celebrations of milestones. But the biggest thing was leading my brother's memorial. It felt totally right to me, and many people who attended, most of whom I didn't know, gave me very positive feedback; a couple of them even leaned in and whispered, "I want you to do my funeral." I know it may sound strange, but I am so intensely grateful to my brother for this gift.
I have always felt drawn toward ritual and ceremony. I've even considered going to seminary; and now, in the Celebrant Institute, I've found my tribe, my place. I'm amazed at how this vocation will draw on all my passions and talents. I'm so used to having multiple jobs, but for the first time in my life I see the various side paths all merging into one. And since focus on the client's personal story as a "hero's journey" is one of the hallmarks that makes a Life-Cycle Celebrant different from other kinds of officiants, the personal history business is also simply being absorbed into this profession.
All the bells in my heart are ringing in one accord. Hallelujah.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Almost every year, at some point on Christmas Day, I find myself in tears. You might say it's a tradition - not planned and anticipated like wrapping presents or making my eggnog cheesecake, but just what spontaneously seems to happen. I think it's largely because of attending Midnight Mass at the Ranchos church the night before, the way it opens and softens me. Also, being up so late means I'm tired on Christmas Day, and that adds to my feeling of vulnerability.
This Christmas crying is not a bad thing. As Kahlil Gibran pointed out, sorrow and joy are inseparable. And for either to exist, the heart has to be open.
Christmas is about the birth of a baby - the most vulnerable, crying kind of creature there is. When the Holy Child is born in my heart, joy cracks the brittleness inside me a little bit more, and I see the remaining brittleness more clearly. The desire to freely and fully love is ignited anew but starkly contrasted against that, I see where I still fail, where I am still frozen in fear and resistance, and in noticing that, a little of it melts into tears.
Though God’s wisdom and holiness remind us of our limitations, it is precisely within these limitations that wisdom is often revealed. The incarnation represents the moment in which this wisdom enters the human sphere in all its contradictions, so that nothing is left without transformation and transfiguration.
~ William J. Danaher Jr. (via Edge of Enclosure)
So here I am the day after, and I can treasure these insights and begin again. It's perfect that the new year begins soon after Christmas; I can plant seeds in this darkness and water them with these tears, and watch a new thing grow. The light has been reborn, the world has been reborn, and I am in these movements too. This beautiful day is mine to live, to surrender and surrender to the flow of grace in each moment. And when I fail, to surrender again.
Always we begin again.
~ St. Benedict
Monday, December 24, 2012
The world is made of stories, and traditions and rituals are the ways we collectively enact those stories and keep them going. Most would agree that many of our collective stories are dysfunctional, but to say they are not "true" is to miss the point. There are no true stories: stories, like anything else in the world of the senses, can only point to truth, make space for an experience of truth.
Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. --Hamilton Wright Mabie
The senses are the portal, as we are flesh and blood creatures in this world. This is what has been given. And that's why I love Christmas, because it is a shared feast for the senses. We vary in what version of Christmas story we hold dear, but if we hold any of it dear at all, there are certain agreed upon symbols, colors, scents, etc. Surrendering to the profusion of those, for me, is what makes Christmas magical, even though I am well beyond childhood.
Representing a progressive Christian point of view, Richard Rohr says:
Christmas is a celebration of God become flesh, of the sacred presence which shimmers through everything in this world. The Incarnation is not an abstract theological principle, but an intimate flesh and blood invitation to celebrate the gifts of our senses and our bodies as portals to the divine. We are called to awaken to the holy birthing happening within us, not demanding our work, but our consent for this work to happen through us. And yes, this is much harder than it sounds.Thus, Advent and Christmas are for me a call to keen awareness of both light and dark within myself and in the world, and of my own power to bring forth light through surrender to the light that wants to come forth. I find myself, at this time of year, both brimming with gratitude for the grace in my life - the abundance I have done nothing to deserve, as well as more aware of where there is want.
This is what happens to Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. His transformation occurs out of awareness of want, both within himself and others, and gratitude that he has the power to do something about it. I recently read a commentary on Internet Movie Database which added a new dimension to my understanding of this:
The word "humbug" is misunderstood by many people, which is a pity since the word provides a key insight into Scrooge's hatred of Christmas. The word "humbug" describes deceitful efforts to fool people by pretending to a fake loftiness or false sincerity. So when Scrooge calls Christmas a humbug, he is claiming that people only pretend to charity and kindness in a scoundrel effort to delude him, each other, and themselves. In Scrooge's eyes, he is the one man honest enough to admit that no one really cares about anyone else, so for him, every wish for a Merry Christmas is one more deceitful effort to fool him and take advantage of him. This is a man who has turned to profit because he honestly believes everyone else will someday betray him or abandon him the moment he trusts them.People today who call Christmas a humbug, although they no longer use that word, often do so because of the nasty consumerist nature of it all, with which I have no argument. I would, however, point out, that consumption in and of itself is not a bad thing; it's what we do as creatures of flesh and blood. A feast, by its very nature, is an excess of consumption, and serves the purpose of celebration. Giving gifts and feasting both enact sharing of abundance in a way that stretches us; this, in my experience, is a healthy and valuable exercise occasionally. As with anything, what makes it valuable is how consciously, conscientiously, and imaginatively we go about it. It is in imagining and re-imagining what we already have that we create a better dream of life.
However, to me it's not so much about consuming as being consumed. By immersing myself in the sensory overload of Christmas; by pouring out creatively, financially, and energetically, I realize surrender of ego a little bit more. I am the Yule log, each year learning a bit better to surrender to the flame and thus become one with it.