Monday, July 29, 2013

The power of ceremony

Le sagre, the local festivals at this time of the year in Italy are wonderfully special.  It is when communities perform their often centuries-old ceremonies, to remember the past and to honour the bountifulness of summer, whether it be medieval jousting or devouring local gastronomic specialities. With friends in their divine Tuscan home this week, we witnessed their town's preparation for the festival next week, and we talked of spiritual informal ceremonies they had undertaken with friends for other reasons.  It resonated with me as I had recently engaged in some of my own ceremonies, encouraged by my coach as a way to help me move forward on some issues.   

All cultures use ceremonies to mark life’s significant milestones, the rite of passages of birth, death, puberty, retirement, and union; to mark seasonal or recurrent events; and as social customs.   In her beautiful book Wild Courage, Elle Harrison offers the use of ceremony as a way to surrender into the richness of life.  To undertake a ceremony helps unite our own personal power, story and needs with the greater power, story and gifts of the universe.  

In ceremony, we can symbolically enact where we are now and open ourselves up to receive guidance on where we might go next.   We use ritual and process to give structure and allow spontaneity to emerge.   Typically the components may be: an intention, a purpose, a question we want to explore;  preparations which are undertaken with that intention in mind;  the opening of the ceremony, the opening of the ‘space’; and ‘letting the ceremony do you’, in allowing it to unfold, trusting your instincts and finding a way to embody the experience which feels meaningful; and when the time feels right, closing the space, and remaining open to what the experience stirs in you going forward.

In the workplace, we can be cynical about ceremonies, either the lack of them or their apparent superficiality.    It is an oversimplification, but one of the reasons so many mergers and acquisitions fail to achieve their desired outcomes I believe, can be attributed to the lack of ceremony, to help people work through the changes.  Rather, such events are underplayed, particularly in companies with aggressive acquisition strategies, and the emotional and psychological transitions which people experience as a result of the change, are ignored. However, those companies that take time to invest in helping their people make sense of the changes and encourage them to enact the transition, can help them move forward into acceptance more readily.  Vase smashing seems to be effective ;)

May you enjoy undertaking your own ceremonies in work or in life, whatever they involve.

And happy birthday ceremony to my gorgeous nephew Larnach who is 6 on the 30th. 


Harrison, E. (2011) Wild Courage: A Journey of Transformation for You and Your Business, Watkins Publishing, UK
 ‘The smoking kiss....’digital artist unknown. As posted by Vivid Greeting Cards on Facebook 18 April 2013.    Vivid Greeting Cards – celebrating the world's wonders with gems found in cyberspace and Gallery Windows of VGC art - Sign up to Vivid Greeting Cards Facebook Page at
With much gratitude to Pam and Greg for a lovely weekend and sharing your beautiful home Fonte La Volta with me.

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