By Elaine Voci, Ph.D. Certified Life Cycle Celebrant, Life Coach, author
Writing is one of the three most important skills you have as a celebrant: the other two are listening, and being compassionate. Not surprisingly, the degree to which your writing shines is proportionally related to how proficient you are in being a good listener and a feeling person. Celebrants do a lot of writing; they compose ceremonies, rituals, and blessings for all manner of significant milestones in their clients’ lives. In fact, one of the most powerful ways that you build your ”brand” as a celebrant is based on your reputation as an effective, moving, and inspiring writer and speaker. Your written words, spoken from the heart during a ceremony, have a tremendous impact on the audience that receives them. When clients thank you for doing a great job after a funeral, a wedding, or a baby blessing, they often tell you how you made them feel with your words, your presence, and the care with which you approached the event. You can always become a better writer technically; there are many books, teachers and courses to help you do that. I want to talk, instead, about how to cultivate your capacities as a human being so that you can bring more of yourself into your work as a celebrant. I believe that there are three inner keys to unlocking that potential:
1. The first is humility. If you have ever lain on a beach at night with millions of grains of sand beneath you, your body supported firmly, yet gently, and listened while hundreds of waves rolled in as the tide moved before you inexorably, while billions of stars shown brightly overhead, you have felt both deeply impressed, and humbled. You realize that you are but one small person, a tiny dot in the overall pixels of life’s canvas on earth, and yet, you are also irreplaceable, invaluable, miraculous, magnificent, and uniquely a contributor. That’s the humbling paradox of life – that we are both miniscule in the Big Picture, yet we also have something important to contribute to the world that only we can: our unique selves, talents, and gifts.
When I interview families and listen to them talk about their loved one who has died, in preparation for the celebration of life we are going to offer in his or her memory, I hear a “soul sketch” that I can write and deliver on that special day. It is a respectful portrait, a recollection of one “ordinary” person’s life and what they meant to the world, and a showcase of the important, unique, and lasting legacy of love they left for those who survive them.
2. The next key is hope. Hope is that gut feeling we carry within us that our time on this earth matters; that our core as human beings derives from an irrational belief that our highest selves are capable of expression even when life feels dark, lonesome, scary, or hard. Hope and humility are partners to our sense of wonder. Hope makes us trust that there is something greater than ourselves, something truer, and surprising that is just waiting for us around the next corner, something we can’t yet see, but we can believe in all the same. This is a priceless gift of the human spirit.
As a celebrant, when I engage in helping a couple bless the piece of ground upon which their new home will be built, we are jointly acting on our mutual hope and faith that it will be the place they envision from which they will grow, evolve, love, and bring their talents to the world.
3. The last key is courage. The courage of our convictions. The courage in our self-confidence that what we bring to others in our work as celebrants will add value, and meaning. Courage is what we feel at the crossroads in life, when we have to make a choice to go left or right. Courage demands that we put our faith in ourselves, in our training and experience, with full recognition of our weaknesses, as well as our strengths, and then moves us forward to follow through.
This involves embracing our role as a public figure; each time I get up to speak at an event when the room grows quiet and the audience waits expectantly, I draw upon my courage and the confidence that comes, in some measure, from knowing that I stand in a long line of compassionate elders and wisdom teachers who precede me. Our profession is an old tradition we can each uphold proudly and with dignity. It demands our willingness to let the moment take our hand and lead us onto the sacred stage to tell the stories we came to give, in a voice that is all our own, so that healing may happen.
So, I think that how we live and what we learn from our lives is the foundation for how we write. The three keys of humility, hope and courage combine to shape our worldview, over time, and, thus, enable us to bring our best selves to our clients.
In closing, here is a blessing for your servant heart that comes from a poem by John O’Donohue titled, For One Who Holds Power:
“…May integrity of soul be your first ideal,The source that will guide and bless your work.”John O”Donohue, For the One Who Holds Power