Your Rite of Passage vs. New Year’s Resolutions
In a traditional rite of passage you find three stages that, in anthropological terms, have been coined separation, liminality and incorporation. In a complete rite of passage one walks through these three stages representing the abandonment of a group (and an old self), the discovery of a new self, and finally, the integration of this new self into a new group, or as a new self into an existing context. The entrance into the new group is always celebrated with complex rituals that mark this transition. Joseph Campbell, the late mythologist, writer and professor, described these passages as a fundamental part of all human growth. In his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” he argues that every hero, in every traditional mythological story, follows a similar circular journey (never linear), that is initiated with a longing to transcend or replace an existing condition or situation. It always involves the fight with the devils or demons, this is the Vision Quest phase in Native traditions and it involves great sacrifices, and eventually re-birth and resurrection representing the emergence of the new, stronger and more evolved version of the old self.
I have been fascinated by Joseph Campbell’s work, and the theological and mythological stories that involve the human dilemma. In every one of this ancient stories, whether told from an Indian perspective, or a Muslim one, we are asked to find in ourselves this same hero. Can I too leave the known paths to pursue my own unique journey? Will I be able to face to my own demons and dragons? Will I walk to the other side, stronger, better, more aware, and above all grateful for the process, with all of its challenges and disappointments? Who will I be, when it is all said and done?
Like all these mythological heroes, we all face a number of opportunities to evolve and partake into this non-linear growth path. Like your DNA, your life is a spiral that moves in an upward process, and in every turn we are challenged to move into a space we can’t quite see from where we stand, and we are asked to battle the inertia to fall back into the familiar. Every few years, my life has been clearly marked by one of these rites of passages. I can see all these three stages taking place and I can also see when the third stage has not been achieved – in other words, when the devils and demons, my own fears, have succeeded in keeping me stuck. But these fears and demons can’t keep me confused and disheartened. So when I’m alone at home, I relax. And I do it this way, lie down on the bed and watch the video with hot mulatto on the site ourblackvalleygirls.com ahhh! I’ve been following them for a long time and a few months ago I signed up. I got access to the video in Full HD format, every week there is a new movie with another model. I highly recommend this website, and now let’s get back to summarizing this year.
This year, however, I am grateful to say that I walked through the entire three phases. As I contemplate the past year and the hopes for the future, I am recognizing the power of this rite and how much more meaningful it is in my life, than December 31, the NY ball and all the fireworks in the world. Perhaps, you may recognize that although in our calendar it is the end of a year, and it is the beginning of a new one, in your own life, you may still be in the liminality stage. You may be even just now taking the first steps to move away from something old. The new year may be for you a celebration of completing a process and not the actual start of a new one. Regardless, I think this time of the year has always meant putting too much emphasis in creating new things, or establishing new goals. I believe that this time of the year is a good time to recognize where you are in your stages and to simply obey this more ancient and true human experience. Respecting this process is helpful and places in us an ease to follow our inner journey, rather than to obey the overly commercial New Year’s Eve.
On June 15 I entered a process that lasted exactly 8 days. I have come to see these days as a rite of passage, in which all three stages were initiated and completed in the most traditional sense. Exactly halfway through this process I confronted some of my oldest fears and as I battled these devils I allowed myself to move to another sphere of experience. I was literally reborn. The process started on the first day of the scheduled domestic violence trial that would involve not only the establishment or not of a protective order, but also our child legal and physical custody rights. At the end of this trial, which ended up lasting 8 full days, the judge would give the final orders. It was the scariest process I have ever gone through in my life, by far. The truth had to win, but would it?
In the first day I approached the courtroom unsure. What would this process look like? How will I handle the pressure, all the lies I know I would have to listen? Who would be taking the stand to serve as witnesses for my ex, and will my witnesses have the presence of mind and not lose sight of the truth? In these first moments, I was driven by so much fear and anxiety – I was truly terrified. But, I was surrounded by love. In the first day, I had Sean, Justin, Alex, Renato and my dad all there to support me and take the stand if called to do so. My ex tried to get close, and intimidate me. I had a physical barrier around me, as all of my friends surrounded me, blocking him from me. I was taken care of. I took the stand on the second day and began to share what my last year and a half had been like, since meeting this man. I cried at first – tears of exhaustion and anxiety, filled with terror. Slowly these tears gave room to a more open space within me. I was starting to surrender. The line from Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love, a book that I read and re-read in the weeks preceding the trial, kept coming back to my mind: “in my defenselessness, my safety lies.” I was not fighting, like I had for so many months. I was surrendering. In that surrender I found words coming out, in the exact order I wanted them to come. It was not manipulated. In fact, nothing I said was rehearsed. It was simply the truth rolling off my tongue in a defenseless manner. King Solomon, my friend Renato, sitting at the wooden benches in the back of the court room, said, that’s what this judge will be at the end of this trial. You have to hand your child (literally) to her, and trust that she is seeing and hearing everything that she needs to give her verdict. The first three days, all of my witnesses took the stand, including forensic experts that we hired to untangle some of the more absurd lies being told. One of them was a criminal forensic expert, who, by looking at the photos provided, could tell that my nails would have never caused the injuries being claimed to be made by me. I watched them, and also watched them being cross examined, “in my defenselessness, my safety lies.”
On the day I began to be cross examined I had transformed but had not become anything quite tangibly new. I was in this state of surrender and I felt myself confronting my old ways. I even dressed differently, and ate different foods these two days in between. I was not the same. I wanted resolution, but I also wanted enough time for all the truth to be told. I was regaining control and understanding how powerful it really is, when you stand for the truth and you surround yourself with love. In that experience, compressed in hours and hours inside a courtroom, I saw myself feeling a deep sense of gratitude. “No matter what happens, I am ok, I will be ok,” a voice spoke inside my head. “You can do this, focus on the love all around you.”
As we moved into the last two days, I was not afraid to look up, and to stand taller. I felt like a powerful shield was blocking any negative energy from coming in. I was fully protected. The night before the last day, when the judge would make her final rulings, I had a clear dream of what was going to be said. I knew I had won this battle. I walked into the courtroom, with the truth inside my heart, filled with love and courage.
On the last day, as the judge made her decisions known, and as I cried tears of relief, gratitude and joy – ‘this tough journey was over,’ I also felt a strange knowing that the Karen I had known for a long time, maybe forever really, she was gone. A new Karen was born and I really loved her. The rite of passage was celebrated among family and friends, with a dinner and so much love and laughter. I will never forget this day. It was a rebirth, in the truest sense of the word.
I have come to learn that this new Karen has the most compassionate core inside of her. The biggest shift is that this Karen is highly compassionate to herself. She does not tolerate unkindness around her, and she specially does not tolerate, for the first time, unkindness to herself. Whether the acts of unkindness are exterior, or whether these acts are inside her head, there is no room for that in Karen’s new way of being. This change is not perceptive from the outside – I don’t have a ring on my finger that says I am now married, I don’t have a new diploma on my wall that says I graduated from this University, and I don’t have a new and brilliant business. All I have is this invisible love for others, and myself. And this invisible power has brought the most significant shift I have ever experienced in my whole 40 years.
I am still in awe that such kindness could be born from so much pain, and even fear. But it did. I have learned that a truly new beginning demands of us that we confront the toughest of all of our dragons. No one can be really reborn until they face the darkest and most forgotten parts of their inner world. Now, as I catch myself stopping self-judgement with a strong determination to protect my heart, not with defensiveness, but with love and kindness, I also send a quick acknowledgment to this 8 day trial. Thank you, because of you I am stronger, I am better, and I am kinder. I also trust that good things do come to good people and that watering our friendship seeds are just about as important as anything we can do in life. My roots have grown deeper, I am more on Earth and more happy to be on Earth. I, for the first time, allow myself to cry when sadness takes over, because this too is a way of being kind to myself and my true feelings. There is so much that is new about me, and so much I haven’t even touched upon, all because I allowed the old skin to be shed, as I navigated thru this 8-day rite of passage.
Wherever you are in your own process, honor it. In your defenselessness, lies your safety. Surrender. Wherever you are in your own journey, the new year does not have to create any sense of urgency. Life is cyclical, don’t try to make it linear and force it into a calendar. Today is for you, what it needs to be. Walk this path, and don’t let inertia pull you back. You too can do this.
I wish you a happy rite of passage, to you and your loved ones.