Holding up the Mirror: Rituals for Self-Reflection

Holding up the Mirror: Rituals for Self-Reflection

By Holly Pruett

Years ago, I had the privilege of facilitating weekly support groups for battered women. People often said, “That must be so depressing!”

Yes, the violence the women suffered was depressing; their lack of options, even more so. But the women themselves were a daily miracle of inspiration. Despite the abuse and degradations, some small place inside held enough self-worth that they got themselves to a support group. They broke the rules that kept them isolated. They pushed back the smothering cover of shame and secrecy.

What happened in that group was very simple: The group was a mirror for each woman to see herself reflected back. Not as all the terrible things the abuser called her. But as the brave and precious survivor she saw seated in the circle around her. How beautiful to witness their awakening: “I’m not the only one. You deserve better, and so do I.”

Today as a celebrant, I witness the power of the community mirror in all kinds of settings.

One young woman, a star in her 20s, entered a painful crisis of confidence in her 30s—what Joseph Campbell would call “the Road of Trials.” She chose to embrace this journey with a transition ceremony. Her closest friends each chose a word from a basket—patience, resilience, fearlessness—and in turn embodied the word. “Curiosity” became a wondering look around; “community,” an embrace. Enacted around the circle, the words became a potent dance that reminded our heroine that she had everything she needed within herself.

At the other end of the life spectrum, a fellow turning 70, newly divorced, chose to mark these milestones with a ceremony inspired by John O’Donohue’s “Blessing to Come Home to Yourself.” To release “all that was unforgiven,” he and I conducted a private ritual on a bridge over a forested stream. But to welcome him back into his community, he was accompanied by a booklet of poems and blessings sent by his friends, reflecting their support and deep regard.

What distortions prevent you from seeing the love and the hope that beat in your heart? Invite your allies to share what they see in you. They can contribute long-distance to a scrapbook you compile from their offerings. Or they can join you in person, for a ritual of support. How you might call on your community to hold up a mirror when your reflection becomes clouded?

About the author: After 25 years as a community organizer, non-profit leader, and consultant, Holly Pruett is thrilled to have found her next calling. A certified Life-Cycle Celebrant, she offers creative life ceremonies from cradle to grave from her home in Portland, Oregon. Visit her at

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