Break-Up Ceremonies, Rites of Passage, Why You Should (NOT) Respect Your Elders, & Ancient Solutions To Modern Problems
The general self development branch I was once so fond of seems to have withered; the fruits not as appetizing as they once were.
Change your beliefs, work on your mindset, implement better habits and behaviours… all of these avenues of growth are important, of course. I’ve certainly not ascended that. However, having done a reasonable amount of work in that regard, and having layed a reasonable foundation to build upon, my attention and awareness has shifted to explore new lands.
I sense a deepening within myself; a certain energy being cultivated. It’s another layer of maturing. On a heart level. On a soul level. A siren bellowing out and calling me to march more steadily towards subjects such as death, dying, elderhood, wisdom, nature connection, and deepening into ceremonial rituals and practices.
Recently, I had the honour of facilitating a relationship separation ceremony, a rite of passage (both of which included the use of sacred medicine), with the ensuing reflections of these initiations in regards to maturation, elderhood, respect, and facing our global problems.
These points are what I discuss below.
Purging Relationships: Separation Ceremonies & Sacred Medicine
Tears, laughter, sweating, grieving, gratitude and purging… all hallmark signs of a separation ceremony paired with the healing potential of Kambo, the traditional frog medicine from the Amazon Jungle.
Relationships are like the pairing of musical notes. They rise and fall in song, sometimes in harmony, sometimes in disharmony. Some sustain the same note til the end, some vibrate away from each other at different frequencies. And on that note, it certainly seems like a rarity that two individuals can approach this journey of vibrating away from each other consciously, from the heart.
The way in which two people in a partnership decide to set sail in different directions can be a significant marker for the internal journey of healing and growth that has taken place. To end a marriage, or a relationship, from a place of love, honour, gratitude, presence and ceremony, is a testament to the inner work that each individual has done.
We gathered around the fire, inside the teepee, where I had the privilege of guiding them and receiving their maturity, strength and courage, as they sat in sacred space across from one another, purging almost a decade of marriage into their buckets with the help of various sacred medicines.
Sananga, the Amazonian eye medicine, symbolized the ability to see the teachings within the relationship, and to envision new beginnings. The tobacco snuff Rapeh symbolized grounding, gratitude and heart connection, helping to honour each other and honour the relationship. Kambo, the frog medicine, encompassed the ceremony with it’s powerful amphibian grasp, symbolising the release of the relationship.
In other words, this particular ceremony not only symbolized another significant marker in the release of the relationship in it’s current form, but included the vital elements of sharing with each other the teachings within the relationship, honouring the relationship and each other as individuals, sharing in love and gratitude for all that has been, giving each other blessings to move on, and engaging in fire rituals to consecrate sacred words of release.
While we engage with several traditional medicines in these types of ceremony, Kambo is the healing ally that most people see as the big kahuna. This animal spirit medicine can help us discover new things about ourselves, release the energies that are no longer serving us, and it can help create the space within one’s internal and external environment to allow new life to blossom.
Many approach this sacred medicine on a physical level, to detoxify and cleanse the system, on an emotional level, to clear baggage and blockages, on a mental level, to shift unhealthy beliefs and thoughts, and on a spirit level, healing and connecting with ancestral knowledge and nature wisdom.
Then of course, there’s the healing and sealing of relationships, as touched on above, while also being used as an initiation process in powerful rites of passage.
Sacred Medicines as Rites Of Passage in the Modern World
“Brother, please receive this message knowing that I send it from a place of deep honour, as it is a privilege to be facilitating this upcoming process for you. This rite of passage process has the potential to act as a significant marker on your journey of growth and expansion as a man.
We’re initiated into many rites of passage as we continue along our journeys of stepping deeper into manhood. Sometimes they're self initiated, somewhat like this process you have chosen to step into, and other times we're thrust into them without much choice at all. One similarity between these though, is the element of intensity, discomfort and challenge.
There isn't one defining moment that we become men, rather, rites of passage appear in different forms, with different challenges, at different stages of our lives, acting as markers for growth and maturity, just like these initiations have been used in many cultures across the globe for many thousands of years. This rite of passage is likely to be one of many definitive markers on your continued journey of bringing clarity to your own truth and your own purpose; as your own unique expression of becoming a man, and your own vision of what kind of man you want to become.
Rites of passage traditionally have three stages. Separation, transition, and reincorporation. Or in other words - death, rebirth and integration.
Throughout this experience we'll be engaging in some very powerful traditional practices which demand strength, courage, humility and respect. What arises can be subtle, or profound. The opportunity, however, is always there, and the choice is always yours, when it comes to placing your next footstep in the direction that you're being guided to walk. But how do we know which way to walk? Well, it's a continued unfolding of many learnings along the way. A process of continuous deaths and rebirths. Shedding the old, to make way for the new.
As part of the separation process; of making a distinct shift away your comfort zone; into the process of death, it's encouraged to do something special for yourself to signify the shift. It may be as simple as taking the time to reflect upon and journal the questions I have sent you, it may be a new haircut and a shave, it might be decluttering the house. Whatever it is, this small activity will symbolise a physical, mental, or emotional act of preparation to signify the welcome of change.
This initiation brings opportunity and choice. It's all there for you, and it's all up to you, to decide how seriously and how deeply you wish to take this journey into the unknown…”
The message above was sent as an introduction of sorts, before facilitating this sacred medicine initiation, and rite of passage into adulthood, for a member of our younger generation.
The way in which we frame certain experiences, can alter the way in which we experience them. Presenting sacred medicine journeys through the lens of a rite of passage, incorporating other vital elements such as accountability, community, appropriate structuring, preparation and integration, can act as one of the flagpoles of change in our modern Western society, especially where specifically crafted rites of passage are almost entirely absent.
It’s these initiations that help build a foundation for both men, and women, to step deeper into maturation, and eventually, elderhood, just as these processes have acted, as mentioned above, for thousands of years in many global cultures. Knowing that someone has faced and overcome great adversity through intense initiations or challenging rites of passage within their lifetimes, can also pave the way for community to acknowledge that a greater level of respect has been earned, and should be given.
Why then in our day and age, do we see so many of the younger generation lacking respect for the older generation?
Is respect a given, or, should it be earned?
Olders, Elders & Different Types of Respect
It is clear to many of us that we have no shortage of olders in our communities, in comparison to the demise of elders.
The term “older” is indicative of someone’s age, whereas the term “elder”, signifies something much more; the carrier of the wisdom. Age and life experience, contrary to what many people think, does not equate to wisdom and elderhood.
The abundance of olders who have paved the path before us and ahead of us, have demonstrated quite clearly that age and life experience doesn’t necessarily lead to wisdom, but instead, can lead us to unconscious struggles and disharmony with self, other and nature, as evident by the global state of affairs today.
Without the necessary rites of passage and wise guidance from elders, we find ourselves in this current situation where we’re now forced to face the demonstrous mess of the industrialized, materialistic, produce and consume, pollute and destroy, unconscious aspects of modern culture and society, and all the consequences that follow on a personal and collective level.
The young are inheriting the slowly crumbling remnants of a falling dystopia, still hell bent on sustaining it’s unsustainable model, and on some level, are well aware of the inherent dysfunctions; many showcasing their disgust and disrespect at the current system and those that played their part in creating it, through their own disgusting and disrespectful behaviours.
How do we then address this collective lack of respect towards other individuals and to our planet, in turn, creating healthier systems and more cohesive communities?
Firstly, I can see two different types of respect. One is the fundamental respect that we should consider giving all life forms, animate or inanimate, for no other reason than the right to exist and to play it’s part in complex interwoven relationship dynamics with all other forms of life. So yes, respect should be a given, in this instance.
On the other hand, and on another level, I don’t believe respect is automatically earned, and I don’t believe it’s necessarily a given to “respect our elders”.
As alluded to above, the word elder is thrown around like confetti at a child's birthday party. The demands for respect are shrouded in the flawed assumption that being old is paired with wisdom. And because one is alluded to being wise, or at least, wiser than someone else, generally those younger with less life experience, a call for respect is the automatic siren song. These faux claims of being wise become transparent when behaviours aren’t congruent with what wisdom entails.
Aside from the universal respect for all life forms to exist, try convincing someone of the younger generation that has half a clue towards the current state of the world and how we got here, that the depth of respect being demanded should automatically be given to the olderly that played a significant part, whether consciously or unconsciously, in creating the individual and collective mess of the 21st century.
In a recent talk I attended by elder, author, philosopher and storyteller Stephen Jenkinson, he ruminated on this idea of respect, and remarked that the statement of “Respect your elders” was incomplete. Instead, in my own wording, which lacks the profundity of Jenkinson’s cleverly chosen words (I forgot his exact articulation) “Respect your elders” should be proceeded by, “for they act respectably.”
Respect your elders, for they act respectably.
It seems right to question that when behaviours aren’t congruent with the wisdom found within those of age, and there is an apparent lack of respectable behaviours, how does one earnestly give, or receive, respect?
Merging the Ancient with the Modern to Solve Our Global Problems
Jenkinson also reflected on the heavy burdens that are inherited by those younger in age, due to the lack of wise elderhood.
When olders don’t do the work to become elders, they pass all of their baggage down to the next generation. When the next generation don’t do the work either, the generation that follows accumulates the collective muk; just like dealing with the build up of crust and mud on the bottom of your boot when you don’t scrape it off. Sure, you could acquire a new boot, but the previous one is still sitting there waiting to be addressed.
It’s with great weight that we must do our part in healing the faulty patterns and programs, so generously gifted down the recent and distant ancestral lines. There is much beauty and benefit we have inherited too, however in seemingly desperate times, if we choose to frame things that way, from a humanitarian, and even Gaian lens, it requires going straight for the jugular…
We’re trying to save a planet we actually have no depth of relationship with.
We are part of a complex interwoven network of animate and inanimate relationships that arise directly from our planet, all of which are fundaments of the Earth; all of which are children of a great living organism, just as we too are those children. With great disregard of our deep ecological entwining, we harvest the heart, lungs and soul of our greater body, as if this seemingly exploitable resource is willingly waiting for our pillaging and plundering to continue.
If we are to come back into realignment with wise living, at a broader systemic level, we need to engage in the process of cultivating right-relationship with our planet. And that starts with understanding our planet to be a living organism, and all of life on Earth to be our other-than-human kin.
It also requires an understanding and incorporation of the many ways in which many ancestral and indigenous practices, philosophies, and people relate to our immediate and greater environment, with a merging of this understanding - and furthermore, the embodiment of these understandings - with the many modern tools and technologies we have access to.
To distil that down, it’s a merging of ancient practices and philosophies, with modern tools, technologies, and understandings.
This is not to romanticize all that falls within the scope of indigenous perspectives and practices. But within the evolution of our Westernised culture, we have certainly done a great job of carelessly disregarding the nature wisdom that many indigenous cultures share.
Sure, there are many other complex and nuanced issues linked within this thread of disharmony, just as there are many nuanced factors of coming back into harmony, but without this foundational embodied knowing that our planet is a living, breathing organism, and that we as a collective have largely fallen out of alignment to wise relationship with our planet; with nature, and thus ourselves, for we are nature, then we will continue to spin our wheels in the same old rut that got us into this mess.
Reconnect with ourselves, reconnect with nature. It’s a lifelong process to cultivate and embody, full of learnings and mistakes, with choices ripe for the picking. It’s up to each and every one of us in a position to do so, to continue reconnecting and realigning - whether through separation ceremonies, or various rites of passage - for ourselves, for our communities, and for all our relations; past, present, and those yet to come.
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