by Marilyn Dion, Certified Life-cycle Celebrant®
There are so many things about March that I love. It signifies the end of winter and the beginning of Spring. And what kid doesn’t love getting out of school during March break and perhaps taking a family vacation in a quest for the sun? It’s the month we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by wearing green and holding the fantastical hope that we’ll see little leprechauns having a marvelous time. March 21st was my father’s birthday. My mother used to make the best angel food cake – we all loved it! The symbols of the month reflect new life, new beginnings and good luck. March 20th this year is the Spring Equinox, the day when the hours of night or darkness equals the hours of day or light. A perfectly balanced day – nature’s yin yang. Equinox comes from two Latin words ‘aequalis’ meaning ‘equal’ and ‘noctis’ meaning night. I knew high school Latin would come in handy one day!
This year let’s think of March kind of like a second New Year’s with resolutions for healing and recovery in our lives. It is time to set a new groove for ourselves. It is time to set our sights on healing from the many downs on the roller coaster of life. This past year, two of my best friends with whom I shared many musicals get togethers over the years are no longer with us in this life. Another very close friend moved far away to live with his daughter and enjoy his grandsons. I miss the quality times and frequent jams with them and other kindred spirits. Things are just not the same. Other friends have drifted away, busy with their lives and their families that have continued to grow.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve decided to breathe newness into my being. One of the best ways that I have found to do that is to create personalized ritual. In my case, I have been neglecting a hobby that I love – playing guitar and singing. I’ve even allowed my fingernails to grow too long so it is extremely difficult to play a chord – I don’t know how Dolly Parton does it!
There is something about music that lifts my soul and just setting the musical intention to become absorbed takes me away from my immediate cares. The enjoyment of music in its many forms is part of our most basic instincts. The repetitive percussive of drums or a certain rhythmic style of guitar playing puts the listener into a tribal mood. Perhaps I will even try song writing – something I haven’t done since high school when I wrote a song for a Shakespearian play. Half the battle to changing anything in our lives is to set the intention to do it.
There are so many ways rituals can improve our lives and shine light on the healing and recovery that is appropriate in our own circumstances. A community ritual that I have found to be uplifting is a potluck jam. It involves sharing a meal with elements brought by each attendee along with sharing talents, time and tunes. People attending are not all musicians, after all an audience is needed and anyone can shake maracas or tambourines! Think about how the elements can be acknowledged in such a gathering. Foods from the Earth sounds of the music symbolic of Air, a bonfire or candles representing the element of Fire and flavored liquids as a nod to Water.
It is so important to attract positive energy into our lives. We can start to do that by living with an attitude of gratitude. Don’t you just love the feeling of peace when all seems right with the world? What a sense of awe we have when we appreciate seeing the first Spring flowers break through the ground – the tulips, the daffodils, the forsythia and the pussy-willows. Such beauty and purity and symbols of hope and happiness. Taking a mindful walk, hike or bike ride through trails observing the waking of plant life and the stirring of the small creatures in the forest. The primal connection to nature, never ceases to make my heart glad. I marvel on those rare occasions when I am blessed to see a couple of deer, a fox or a raccoon cross my path! A fun ritual would be going on a photo hunt for signs of Spring and creating a collage with the discoveries.
A fond memory I have from my childhood, is my mother’s ritual of Spring cleaning. This was a major event. Walls and windows were washed, furniture rearranged, new curtains were sewn and hung, and windows were thrown open to refresh the air. Clutter was cleared, Spring clothes were tried on and winter outfits were packed away. I loved coming home from school to the freshness and newness she created for us. Everything felt so pure, so special. I didn’t understand anything about energy back then, but I felt it. I embraced the freshness of it. There really is such a thing as the excitement of Spring Fever when everything feels more alive and there is a subconscious need to bring the outdoors in and get outdoors as much as possible.
As an adult, I take great joy in creating little life affirming vignettes around my home. A few ceramic bunnies here, a couple of decorated eggs there and a bouquet of fresh flowers arranged as a dining table centerpiece. Cultures around the world do many things to celebrate Spring and recover from the dark days of winter. From water guns at the Thailand Songkran water festival, throwing colored powders in northern India, making breakfast at the Festival of scrambled eggs at dawn in a town in Bosnia, to cheese rolling down Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester, England, people find ways to bring happiness and positivity into their lives.
If you are an early riser, or even if you are not but have some self- discipline, get up to see the sunrise and perhaps read this as you contemplate healing areas in your life:
Salutation to the Dawn- Atrributed to Kalidada, Indian Poet Look to this day!For it is life, the very life of life. In its brief course Lie all the verities and realities of your existence: The bliss of growth; The glory of action; The splendor of achievement; For yesterday is but a dream, And tomorrow is only a vision; But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Hope – rituals have always given us the illusion of control over our chaotic lives. Raise a flag to underscore your sense of patriotism, fly a kite, plant seeds and care for the fledgling plants, decorate eggs, organize a picnic at a nearby park or create an altar with nature’s bounty where you may dream your future with guided meditations and visualizations. Walk the nearest beach and find a stone that resonates with you. Meditate on the meaning that stone has in your life and carry it with you to remind yourself of your intention for change – whatever you have decided that change to be.
One Boxing Day, I was invited to partake in a sweat lodge ritual with a shaman near my community. Honoring a higher power than ourselves involved creating sacred prayer bundle offerings containing tobacco, sweetgrass and sage, to dedicate during the ritual and sharing in a meal afterward. The atmosphere of safety and comfort allowed for the sharing of what each person was grateful for as well as what aspects of each person’s life needed healing. The calm, soothing environment with the steam created from water poured on the hot rocks cleansed skin and spirit. The tea made from fresh cedar boughs was delicious and nourishing. Anxiety, stress and distraction gave way to a sense of peace and healing. I left the space feeling uplifted and ready for positive change in my life.
Floating on water – what a feeling of complete peacefulness. I feel so lucky to be able to just float in a swimming pool for hours if I choose. Looking up at the celestial blue sky with wisps of clouds floating by must facilitate healing, after all how close it must be to the safety and comfort of the womb. Time stands still when the mind is cleared of all but the sensation of floating. No swimming pool available? Create the same sense of floating in your bath tub surrounded by candlelight.
One of the most useful ways to heal yourself, I have found, is the customization of mantras to have meaning for you. For instance, a couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia, a type of scarring hair loss. I had lost my eyebrows, leg and arm hair and was noticing much loss on my scalp. It is possible that I could lose it all. My hair at one time was very thick so this was devastating news. Knowing this is psychologically difficult to say the least, I decided that a mantra would help me through. Daily I say to myself: “I am not my hair.” You know that is a true statement and it has helped me gain perspective and to focus on what is important in my life.
We can gather together to place our worries or concerns into a burden basket, a physical receptacle that is an adaptation of an Apache custom or take part in a burning bowl ceremony. Using gemstones, the centuries old practice of yoga, moving meditations like Tai Chi, flower arranging, or subscribing to an uplifting quote a day app, we can wash away trauma, whatever the cause, through meaningful rituals.
None of us are our diseases, our losses, our trauma or our suffering. We are stronger than we know, and daily rituals help us to hold ourselves together when times are tough. Building our inner resilience is essential as we move forward and become the people we are meant to be contributing as best we can to make our world a better place.