Spirituality is the belief that you are more than your physical body, and that you have purpose beyond your own survival.
Admittedly, I'm a pretty #basic white American woman who grew up without ceremony, without inner spirituality, without cultural context outside of American Protestantism and some Snapple-cap iterations of eccentric Eastern wisdom. I'm partially part of the caricature of millennial BurningMan-Bonaroo-Babes who desperately want to feel connected to something bigger than ourselves, to feel free in our femininity, to be "spiritual" and enlightened but with no real clue how to get there (hint: it's not flower crowns and fringe vests). The other part of me is an experienced woman who feels really grounded in this season of my life after giving birth twice and discovering with certainty the power of my own intuition. So somewhere in there is something resembling truth.
Doesn't it feel like all the different women inside you are at odds sometimes? Like your life is bifurcated and taxonomized into roles?: wife, mother, professional, supreme sexual being, home-maker, artist, activist, project-manager, teacher, emotional communicator, on and on. How can we be all these women in a single day? In one body? Reconciling this is a big part of my personal solstice ceremony today.
So it's June 21st, 2017. Let me outline briefly some significances of today.
- Eight years ago I stood in a tiny white New England church--a good little Christian girl--and I married the absolute love of my life. I wore the white dress and the veil, I did all the traditional vows, I did all the traditional things I was "supposed" to do. Eight years later, even though we are both VASTLY different people (and haven't set foot in a church for years), we have BRIDGED so much of the space between us, exposing more truth and becoming more visceral in our partnership. So today I celebrate being married to someone who affords me so much malleability and personal freedom.
- It's also the solstice; the longest day of the year and the beginning of summer; a day of the greatest solar energy and the changing of seasons. I didn't know eight years ago how appreciative I would be for our anniversary to coincide with the summer solstice and what a potent analogy our marriage would be for an intense seasonal shift. What a bright light it would be and a warm environment for raising children together.
- It has been three months since giving birth to my son, and I am ready to graduate myself out of birth recovery, out of my pregnancy & birthing stage of life, and into what's next. I'm ready to join the rest of the world again.
I don't have the culture or the community to recognize all of these important aspects of my life. I don't have a book to consult or an expert to look to. I just have a knowing and a recognition of their importance, and a desire to define them for myself. For now--for today--I think that's enough. So I held a little ceremony for myself, pulling together bits and pieces of practices I've gathered, meaningful objects and the like, to create a time to recognize all of these women within me and to remind them all they're on the same team. They're all me.
I didn't write a sweet new fad ceremony for you yourself to take home and revolutionize your spiritual practice, so I won't share every single detail and nuance. But I will tell you a bit about some of the things I chose for myself and why, in the hopes that you can give yourself a similar experience to recognize where you are in your own life.
This is such a new-agey word that I sometimes hate, but it's the vocabulary we have to work with. My intention for this, my goal, the image I held in my mind, was for all these facets of myself to coalesce as one. Also to let go with gratitude the parts of me that have served their purpose and which I have now outgrown. To know that being a mom, being sexual, and being a professional woman are not switches I have to turn on and off. They're also not "who I am." Who I am is a being who gives my energies to the various experiences of motherhood, sex, and personal development. I can give my energy to my motherhood and still be sexy AF. I can take all those glasses of feminine characteristics and pour them into the same pool, stir them all up, and go with the flow. That's what makes me most happy.
I like to integrate my senses into my meditation practice, and I think they're par for the course in most ceremonial practices. There's sacred incense, there's the partaking of food, chanting, dancing, art. Across cultures, the senses that help us experience the world can be channeled to help us experience something outside of it, too. Or at the very least they hold meaning. I wanted to experience the different parts of myself through my senses, recognize them all, and give some synthesis. I made various smokes and held space for myself with each scent, mentally letting go of different things as the smoke rose into the air. I anointed different parts of my body with oils, playing in to the sensual experience and showing gratitude to my body. Not just in a general way and a functional way, but really spending time and attention on it, hovering for a beat over areas that, to me, are sort of the governing regions of my various feminine facets (breasts = motherhood, hands = productivity, thighs = sexuality, throat = communication, and so on). I practiced with my yoni egg, giving my womb recognition for its hard work and handing it back over to pleasure and creativity. This was all over the course of imbibing the very last of my placenta. It was part of my own understanding that when the cup was empty, the ceremony would be over, the transition would be complete, and I would cross the threshold.
Usually a ceremony has an end point, at which time something is accomplished or something is formally recognized. This ceremony was for me to recognize the end of my pregnancies, the end of my birthing experiences, and the end of my post-partum recovery. I have given myself the space, the patience, and the nourishment to regain my strength and drive. I'm ready to join the world again; to come out of the warm post-partum cocoon and be a force again. I'm ready to synthesize with more of myself than just the "mother," and still honor her at the same time. This day, when the sky is filled to the absolute brim with light, is a day to recognize myself as restored and filled to the brim with my own light.
So yeah, there was some smoke that went up and some hippie-dippie stuff that went down, and at the end of it all, I finished that cup, I gave myself the recognition I deserve, I honored what was, and I crossed the threshold. It was all to recognize a graduation from a season of my life. Some people like to buy themselves a new wardrobe, I like to do weird shit Naked in my backyard.
All of that is to say that ceremony doesn't require the perfect assortment of phrases, the right incense, or a prescribed set of tasks. Maybe the ceremonies from your past aren't equipped to facilitate the kind of growth you want to experience or the flavor of spirituality you want to taste. Outside of religion and dogma and even cultural appropriation, I think an authentic attempt to know yourself, and to create space for yourself to let go and take a step forward in your life is universally valuable.