Monday, July 29, 2013

Ordained in Gold

In order to be able to perform wedding ceremonies as a celebrant, I needed to get ordained, and so I did this through Universal Life Church, as I mentioned here.  Anyone (in the U.S., at least) can be ordained in this way simply by going to their website, filling out a form, and paying a small fee. 

I went through this process on February 13, 2013, because I had just been asked to do my first wedding.  A week or so later, I got a certificate in the mail saying I was now an ordained minister.  It felt weird; it gave me an odd sense of power that immediately was followed by a great sense of responsibility.  But because there had been no ceremony involved, getting the certificate also felt quite anticlimactic and incomplete.

Around this time, an amazing photographer and good friend, Heather Sparrow, and I had been planning a photo shoot for me around the theme of gold.  We had talked about this being ceremonial in several ways, but now we decided to turn it into a full-blown ordination ceremony, which she would both photograph and officiate.

So I wrote my own ordination ceremony.  I adapted vows used in more traditional ordination of Christian ministers and added poetry that I drew from various sources.  Heather and her assistant Jackie Kolbenschlag created a labyrinth on Heather’s land, and then on the morning of March 27th, as the full moon set and the sun rose, we held our ceremony in the labyrinth.  I was wearing an incredible outfit created for me over several months by the phenomenal Brooke Barlow, who took my rather vague ideas about wearing gold and juxtaposing the ultra-feminine with stuff like metal and leather, and executed a costume that felt like, well…it was made for me.  It perfectly but also far exceeded what I had imagined.  Brooke and Jackie also painted all my exposed flesh gold.

A shot taken in Heather's studio following the ceremony

Over the past months since this event, I have written a much longer piece about it because it was a truly transformative experience - not just the event itself, but many things that happened during the planning in the months leading up to it.  This piece will be published on another website with more photos in the near future, but here on this personal blog, which has been such a valuable and often life-changing medium and community for me, I wanted to share a bit about it first. 

This blog has not only traced a journey of creative and spiritual awakening in my life, but also helped facilitate it, and for that I am so very grateful.  My ordination ceremony and photo shoot in many ways was a summit on my journey, kintsugi and tikkun olam, the crossing of a major threshold in my personal life.  I am now ordained.  Creating the ceremony for this made me consider deeply what that means.  What am I now ordained to be and do?  I don’t want to be casual or glib about that.  

The way I see it is this:  My role is now to assist people in crossing major (and also less major) thresholds.  Creating and participating in my own ordination ceremony profoundly showed me how powerful a ceremony really can be when approached with humility, creativity, and openness.  A ceremony done this way is not merely a symbol of crossing a threshold but is (at least part of) the actual crossing itself.  And I am honored and inspired to now be ordained to companion people through such ceremonies.

If you want to read more about what I offer as a celebrant, click here:  Enchanted Circle Ceremonies.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Monkey See, Monkey (Hair) Do

Okay, so I lied.  I said I was going to tell you about my ceremony and photo shoot this time, but I just had to share this all-important news with you first. 

I decided to do a DIY deep conditioning treatment on my hair, after running across a recipe for one on Pinterest, my new addiction pastime.  The recipe called for:
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1/2 a banana
  • 1/2 c. coconut oil
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
All of these are things I already had at home, so I figured, why not?  I probably should have put all of that stuff in the blender, but I just mushed it up with a potato masher, and then whisked it to get it a bit smoother, but there were still little chunks of avocado that I decided not to worry about.

The mixture smelled great but looked, frankly, like vomit. Green vomit.  Complete with chunks.

Since I was already in the kitchen, I decided to just put it in my hair there.  If I was fortunate enough to have a bathtub (and what I wouldn't do for one!), I would have just taken a bath and done it there, but, alas, all I have is a very tiny shower stall.  Sigh.

So I crouched there on the kitchen floor, scooping up handfuls of muck and working it through my hair, with my head bowed over the bowl I had mixed it in.  Engaged in this activity, I suddenly and thoroughly felt like a monkey.

My son walked in at one point and caught me in the act.

hoo hoo hoo hoo ha ha ha

As you can see, I ended up using all of the mixture, which surprised me, since it had seemed like an awful lot.  But I have pretty thick hair, and that stuff was very thick and gooey.

After application, you're supposed to put on a shower cap and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes.  A shower cap, seriously?  Who has a shower cap?  So I used a plastic grocery bag instead and congratulated myself for my resourcefulness, and for recycling.

The look of near-horror on my face here is due to the fact that within moments of putting on the "shower cap," oil started dripping down my forehead, threatening to get in my eyes.  Actually, "dripping" isn't quite the right word; it was streaming in rivulets that I couldn't wipe away fast enough.  (Note to self:  next time, just wrap it in an old towel.  Not that there will likely be a next time.)

Twenty minutes was about all I could bear of that, so I made a beeline for the shower at that point.  I lathered (and oh, what a lather that was), and then rinsed.  And rinsed.  And rinsed.  And then, yes, I did it - I repeated.  Why?  Well, because my hair felt so greasy and heavy, even after all that rinsing, that I just couldn't stand it.

Unfortunately however, by lathering and rinsing a second time, it pretty much undid any benefit of the treatment.  When my hair dried, it looked dry and even frizzy (and as I brushed it, I discovered little chunks of now-solid coconut oil that somehow had managed to hide from the rinsing process.  Yee haw.)

I've never been much good at the girly stuff, so all of this was a bit of a stretch for me, and one that I don't think I'll repeat anytime soon.  But thanks to Pinterest, I'm sure I'll come across some other deep conditioner recipe that seems a little less elaborate and messy, and give that a shot instead. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Monumental March

March 2013 was a monumental month for me.  Pivotal.  Epic.  Seeds that had been planted in the first two months of the year quite suddenly burst up through the soil, so to speak.  Just to give you some context, between the beginning of the year and March, I:
  1. got ordained through Universal Life Church so that I can perform weddings (and then I performed my first one on March 5th)
  2. found out I was going to become a grandmother this fall
  3. realized that my long-term relationship, after years of wimpily limping along without really being anything, was FINALLY.  REALLY.  OVER.
  4. turned 45 and, largely because of items 2 and 3, was faced squarely with the fact that I am entering "middle age," and will never have more babies; thus, my long-held dream of a specific domestic bliss in which I raise a child in a loving marriage to the child's father is gone forever.  Forever. short, big changes were afoot, and I decided that I wanted to meet them with grace.  Some of you might know that I'm fond of giving things up for Lent (even though church itself was one of the things I gave up in Lent of 2010 and never really went back to).  I no longer consider myself a member of an organized religion, but I do still see meaning and value in adhering to some of its practices, and in immersing myself in some of its stories.  Lent, for me, is a good opportunity to focus on what I can shed in the interest of becoming freer from attachments, to explore the alchemy of death and resurrection.  (Which is especially meaningful to me right now as I'm finishing up my funeral celebrancy class.) 

This year, rather than give one thing up for the entire period of Lent, I did a three-week cleanse in its second half.  A cleanse is something I had considered doing for years, but never could find the resolve.  Most of the ones I had looked at were juice fasts, and seemed too extreme.  But this one is different.  The first week is mostly vegetables with some fruit and nuts/seeds; some of it is juices, but it also has soups, salads, and some cooked dishes.  The second week, you add back fish and legumes, and the third week you add back gluten-free grains and eggs.  It's available on the Whole Living website, and all the recipes are provided, which makes it very user-friendly.  A friend of mine does it about twice a year, and seeing how well it affects her was a big selling point for me. 

Amazingly enough, I made it through the entire three weeks without cheating (and I was surprised to find that my biggest temptation was not coffee but macaroni and cheese).  The first week was hell, especially with the caffeine withdrawal, and I briefly considered switching to a juice fast just to get it over with sooner, but I'm very glad I didn't, because it opened me up to a whole new way of eating and has had a permanent effect on how I shop, cook, and eat.  Some of the recipes were actually gourmet-level delectable, and I will continue to cook them on a regular basis.  I tried foods I thought I didn't like, and learned that I actually do.  I lost weight, which was an unanticipated but welcome side effect, especially losing that nasty belly bloat.  I firmed my lagging resolve to consistently avoid wheat and dairy; in fact, I haven't even much wanted those things since finishing the cleanse.

Grilled Salmon and Bok Choy with Orange-Avocado Salsa.  My absolute favorite recipe from the cleanse.  Get it here

And the effects were not just on the physical level; the ultimate value of doing the cleanse was in the very deliberate act and enduring commitment to care for myself.  It was a demonstration of self-love that has moved me into a new way of being.  This change actually began a year ago when I started doing weekly yoga and meditating on a daily basis, but the cleanse was a quantum leap in this direction.  I feel a greater acceptance, appreciation and gentleness toward myself now.  And then there's that wonderful feeling of accomplishment that I did it!, and the sense of strength and confidence that comes with that.

I planned the last day of the cleanse to coincide with my son's birthday on the 26th, and with a truly monumental event that was planned for the 27th, on the full moon:  a ceremonial photo shoot that I did with three amazing women in the wee hours of the morning.  It involved a labyrinth, an ordination ceremony, and lots and lots and lots of gold.

But I'll tell (and show) you all about that next time.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tikkun Olam by Kintsugi; but First, the Furnace and Flux

Sunday was the first anniversary of my brother's death, and as I began to write this post, something he once said popped into my head.  Commenting on my penchant for symbolism, he said something to the effect that I'm always trying to read meaning into things where there is none.

True enough; most of the content of this blog is a neon flashing case in point.  But my response to him then, as it would be now, was that basically, it doesn't matter if the meaning is "really there" or not; what matters, and what I enjoy, is creating that meaning, working - and playing - with it.  Symbology is fun.

Working and playing with gold as my color for the year has so far - pardon the pun - been quite rich.  Around the time that I realized 2013 was going to be gold, a Facebook friend posted about the Japanese art of kintsugi, which I had never heard of before.  It means "golden joinery" and is the practice of repairing broken pottery with a lacquer resin sprinkled with powdered gold, thereby making the item more beautiful and valuable than it was originally.  

How glorious!  My metaphorically-oriented mind was off and running, and the first thing I thought of was the Hebrew phrase tikkun olam, meaning repair of the world.  In Jewish spirituality, this is seen as humanity's responsibility.  

Tikkun olam by way of kintsugi; I love this concept.  But what would such a process entail?  Obviously, one needs to first have some gold.  It has to be extracted, refined, then ground to a powder and mixed with lacquer.  

As I delved more deeply into exploring the metaphorical meanings of these processes, it became clear to me that the reason gold is so valued is because it represents pure love, pure being.  If one wants to repair the world with it, one has to find it in oneself first.  And in order to do that, one has to first trust that it is actually there to be found, then actively look for it.

I realized at that point that I tend to deny the gold in myself because I recognize that it's not pure and so I discount it altogether.  But in exploring these metaphors, I began to understand that I must value the impure gold for it to be purified.  I must "extract" it by gathering it within myself from all the "veins" where I can find little bits of it. Interestingly, I discovered that just by turning my imaginative focus more to the image of gold, feelings of joy and love were increasing me.  (And by the way, I learned in my research that the human body does actually contain tiny amounts of gold.)  

The next step is purification.  Find and extract the the impure gold, then surrender it to a 2100-degree Fahrenheit furnace and add something called flux, which causes the impurities to separate and rise to the surface where they can be poured off. The funny thing about flux is that it consists of very ordinary substances, and can actually be as simple as 100% borax.  Boring old borax, available at any corner store. 

Perhaps, then, I should value the ordinary circumstances of my daily life as the flux that catalyzes my purification.  Maybe I should also welcome the intensely challenging and painful things in life when they come because they are the fiery furnace, without which, the flux has no purpose and the gold remains impure.  And perhaps, when impurities rise to the surface, I can let them be poured off instead of clinging to them because I identify with them.  Then, with the pure gold that is left, I can repair what is broken - but only after it's ground to a powder, another wonderful metaphor for appreciating life's way of taking something that seems so solid and breaking it apart so it can become useful to the world.

I feel like all of this is happening simultaneously in me, but I can give my attention to one part of the process or another, depending on my need in the moment.  I am one piece of the broken world and the whole process is the repair.  Kintsugi, tikkun olam, the furnace, and the flux are one. 

Tamamizu Ichigen , (Japanese, 1662?-1722)
Edo period

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Higher Resolution

I'm not a maker of New Year's resolutions; rather, I choose a word and color for the year to guide me.  That way, what resolves in me can flow freely out of what's revealed to me in contemplation with those guides.  It just feels a little less rigid and more inspired than making a resolution.

Just because it's New Year's Day and  I love to look at multiple levels of meaning, I did a little exploration into the word "resolution."  Turns out the origin of the word is about "a breaking into parts."  There is also, of course, one of the most common uses of the word these days (when it's not the end of the year), which is about computer images and screens.  Resolution in that sense is a measurable quantity (and therefore quality) of image detail.

Common display resolutions, according to Wikipedia
 So, now I find myself asking, what will be breaking into parts for me this year?  Another way of saying that might be:  what will I be analyzing?  And what images in my life could benefit from a higher resolution?  Where do I need to see more detail?

Wonderfully enough, these are exactly the kind of questions choosing a color and a word for the year lead me to contemplate.  So I guess, in a way, I do make resolutions after all.


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