Practicing Rituals When Seasons of Life Change

Practicing Rituals When Seasons of Life Change

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To transition from one stage of life to the next, one theologian and author practiced a powerful candlelit ritual. Explore how rituals can help us reframe life.

I had a sabbatical once, and it was amazing. It was an entire semester spent not teaching. I wrote (a lot), traveled, and had new experiences.

When it came time to teach again, I was grumpy. I love teaching, but there was something inside of me clinging desperately to the sabbatical, and I had no desire to go back to the classroom. I wanted to transition well, but transitions have always been a challenge for me.

So, I try a ritual to help my transition. I write down everything great about the sabbatical in two categories: what I get to keep and what I need to leave behind. Then I buy some candles and set them on an outdoor table. My friend and I sit there on a warm August evening by the shore. I breathe deeply and light the tall, wide sabbatical candle. I light the medium-sized white glass votives from the sabbatical flame, naming and savoring the joy of what I will keep from the sabbatical—such as learning to love aloneness and learning to write well. I place them so that they encircle the sabbatical with their warm flames. I smile again and light the small red tea lights from the sabbatical flame; they form the outer circle. Each represents what I am leaving behind—like traveling more and having a flexible schedule.

I want to savor all of it. My heart rebels against the next step, the one where I blow out the candles that represent what I am leaving behind. I know deeply that the physical act of extinguishing is a profound letting go. I breathe deeply again, overcome my resistance, and one by one I extinguish and let go. My friend prays for me, and we both head home.

The next day—believe it or not—I could not wait to teach.

The previous eight months had formed me, and this simple ritual had transformed me. I thought through what I needed, prepared a ritual, spoke my joys to the flames, and physically extinguished candles. In doing so, I emotionally let go.

Rituals transform. Rituals have transformed me, and I have watched rituals transform others. The transformative power of ritual is available to all of us.

This excerpt is taken from Meaning in the Moment by Amy F. Davis Abdallah, published by Brazos Press. For more information about Brazos Press click here.

Sponsored by: Brazos Press

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