Reflections for my facilitation practice (Part 2)
I also shared with Kate my reflection on my aspiration to practice as a death educator, death doula, celebrant: “I just can’t believe I chose this… Surrendering one's life is so hard… I saw very clearly that there was no way to choose surrender, and moreover there was no way to teach someone surrender… how could I have chosen this impossible career,” I sobbed. Kate responded: “Darling, it chose you, because you’re ready for it.” This strong sentence rang true within me as I kept on crying, and just trying to imagine how I will be able to guide someone on such an intense journey. I clearly saw that I’m so powerless in the face of it that I could only hope that some higher power would take me through it. Who am I without it, after all, just a bunch of thoughts and emotions… It’s humbling to realize the deep powerlessness of this little human… It leads to an understanding of the essence of the Dhumavati archetype: the profound human misery that we endure when we’re too weak, too lonely, too anxious, too overpowered by the impersonal wheel of nature. The experience exposed to me a major need for divine intervention. But how can one manufacture it?
I knew the answer.
Ceremony changes everything, because using it reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles. I know from experience that it is possible to awaken a larger feeling of connection using a guide, a supportive group, and the Higher Self (God, Divine Consciousness - whatever you call it depending on your belief system). Our individual loads to bear in life become lighter when we come together.
Ritual–the language of spirituality–binds us to the whole of creation, and it is in this bond that we can encounter the sacred. Ceremony, therefore, is like a container that holds a series of rituals, all of which come together for one purpose – to recognize a sacred (special) event. And this is an opportunity for a major shift.
I've practiced this before in my work and very much successfully. I’ve learned a lot about what is needed. A container is needed. A safe, sacred space. I realized that this is what was lacking in my own living burial experience.,It was a powerful realization as it wasn’t just theory: I experientially understood the giant importance of the need for ceremony and ritual to help us through challenging times at every level of my being.
Here is how the ceremony can be structured.
Consecration - offering the fruits of our actions to the divine: it is an intention to surrender and to be guided by something larger than ourselves.
Sacred space - even some lines in the sand to indicate our special territory is enough, but also a tea ceremony, altar space, candles, incense, sacred objects are very supportive. It’s the symbolic action sanctified by personal faith or spiritual tradition.
The two aspects of ritual – heart and hand, or intention and action – work together to focus our minds on the implications of what we are doing.
There is great power in sitting in a circle. For when we sit facing one another, we open ourselves to each other, working together instead of working alone.
Holding each other’s hands, or eyegazing and meditating together to create an emotional container of trust. It is important that we are assured that we are safe and well cared for.
Mindfulness. Being fully present allows us to find that place within ourselves where we can encounter the divine. Many spiritual traditions believe that to experience God, the energy of creation, or a higher consciousness, we first need to be present and pay attention. Ritual can help us to do that – to center on the moment so that we might, as William Blake wrote, “see a world in a grain of sand and eternity in an hour.”
A slow and conscious process of burial, continuous emotional support and energetic connection - the guide must be able to enter the altered state together with the journeyer - rationalization doesn’t work. It’s crucial for the guide to have a certain degree of empathy in order to create this energetic and emotional level of attunement.
Concluding ritual and aftercare
The main purpose of ceremony is to create a conscious connection – to ourselves, to others, to the Earth, to Spirit, to God. This in turn facilitates our growth, healing, and personal transformation. Death can remind us that we are part of a great and grand design, something much, much bigger than we are alone.
I believe that death is the most sublime experience we go through, and that human beings can try to expand their consciousness in order to bypass our limitations. There is no guarantee that it will work perfectly, but the effort to enter a more sublime state of mind and call upon a higher power is fertile ground for a transcendental experience.
This very challenging experience of living burial created a definite and lasting shift in my psyche. After this “coming out of the grave” the world around started to shine more brightly. I’ve been feeling more present and intuitive, and simply joyful for being alive. “Dying before I die” experiences continue to teach me humility, compassion and gratitude.