“What you encounter, recognise or discover depends to a large degree on the quality of your approach…When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty in things.”
– John O’Donohue.
Below are simple examples, invitations and ideas of what you can do with trusted friends and elders. I also included what I did for my celebration. Feel free to copy, edit and adapt it!
The ritual is appropriate for men and women.
It is crucial in our contemporary society to include rituals in daily life again. Not as something esoteric, glamorous, or performed with big feathers or lots of smoke. They can be pretty ordinary, as they belong to our human make-up and their living ancestral memory is inside each of us.
Please note that I don’t refer here to rituals like drinking tea or brushing your teeth (though they can be valuable routines). I refer to a nourishing practice designed with the intention and purpose of creating meaningful change.
Marianne Williamson shares wise words about this theme: ‘Most people in modern, secularised society have little or no experience of the positive value of rituals. Fleeing from the empty feelings of rigid, formalised ceremonies, we have thrown away the baby with the bathwater. Let us create anew the rituals of ancient significance, with respect for ideas that have borne the tests of time and openness to new ideas that reflect the needs of our era. Our modern experience and any maturity we have gained give us the wisdom to go back to ceremonial rites and the courage, when helpful, to do them somewhat differently.
A modern contribution means our contribution. In every area of human society, we must carve out our transcendental ideals. Rites of passage fortify our spirits. They remind us of our oneness and form society’s connective tissue. They are words that take us beyond words.’
There is something very potent about marking this transition into midlife consciously and intentionally.
It reminds the person and the community of the relevance of this life cycle. It is an invitation to step into one’s wisdom.
Moreover, rituals provide simple structures where the psyche can recognise that something relevant is taking place. Many people suffer tremendously and face various midlife crises because their soul is intuitively looking for maps and meaning. We collectively lost our ceremonies. Rituals are maps for the soul that allow the emergence of archetypal forces and the rise of imagination.
They allow us to notice subtle shifts in our consciousness and achieve a state of higher sensitivity. They help us open all our senses and become big antennas, so we can feel more and tune in with the signals and synchronicities the Universe send us. We can hear messages and listen to our inner voice.
We waste a lot of energy in our society trying to avoid death and ageing and dissociate from ourselves and the world around us. Rituals help to free a lot of suppressed life force in our physiology.
Last but not least, they offer a container to hold challenging experiences, so the soul-body-mind can be more resourced to make it through the storm. Entering midlife can bring a lot of turmoil. So let’s dance with it creatively. I know it is not easy.
You can use your imagination and create a simple ritual to honour your rite of passage according to your needs and wants. Play and experiment!
You can invite your elders and also younger people of course. You are not meant to do this alone but with companions willing to walk alongside you.
So, my dear friend, if you decide to do something like this for yourself and celebrate your midlife transition, I invite you to be brave and ask for what you need. Give yourself that celebration that perhaps was not given to you in earlier years. Make it meaningful and sweet! Whether you want a song circle, some improvised music, sharing food or even baking a cake, there are no limits to your imagination.
When I did my ceremony, I asked some older women I respect in my community to be present. They felt honoured to be invited and acknowledged as wise elders.
I also included two younger friends who were still bleeding to energetically and symbolically represent the younger generation. This latest aspect was vital for me; I wanted to gather and plant new inspiring seeds and dreams for the next generation as we lost our rites of passage. Old structures are collapsing, there is a lot of polarisation and turmoil, and we need to unite as a community to weave our visions into being.
Another essential aspect was the freedom and permission to ask for what I needed and what I wanted. It was an opportunity to be able to make statements and requests! It was a way to tell myself that my needs matter and can be met.
I invite you to do your ritual outdoors in a place you love, where there is an ancient tree, a hill, a stream or wildflowers. You could be on the beach or make a pilgrimage to a powerful archaeological site. Being in the land is a way to remember the interdependence of life and reclaim our kinship with the other-than-human world.
I celebrated my rite of passage on the outskirt of my village where there is some spring water and a little river. We crossed it, so it was as if we also drew an imaginary boundary between us and the field on the other side and created our protected space.
There was something essential about being close to spring water as a way to honour all life.
You can ask your friends to bring some food and seasonal fruits to share so you can have a little fiesta!
When I gathered with my little tribe, we also brought flowers, stones, incense, and candles and decorated the space at the feet of a tree. This was a gesture to thank and make an offering to the ancestors of the land.
Once you settle in the space and feel comfortable, you can sit together. Depending on your preference, you can have a talking circle, share stories or make some music, dance and sing.
You can open the circle and share your intention for this gathering and what is important to you. Make it yours and allow yourself to do what feels right for you. You can also adapt this ritual if facing other transitions, such as the end of a relationship, a job or moving into a new place.
When I met with my friends, each of us shared a song. We also brought drums, rattles, a guitar and little bells. The sound of the winds, the birds chirping, and our chants softened our hearts and made us feel connected to one another and the elements around us.
After that, we experienced something exquisite that some women described as a truly unforgettable and profoundly moving experience.
I wanted to be welcomed as I stepped into the second part of my life. Firstly, I asked each woman to share wisdom, advice, inspiration and hope about midlife and post-menopausal life. They spoke about loving and trusting oneself fully, finding the courage to express oneself more boldly, making poetry, laughing more, and not giving a s*** about what other people think. This way, I felt their blessings.
Afterwards, I dared to ask each woman to celebrate me and share some appreciation and encouragement. And in return, I then shared words of appreciation and gratitude for each of them. It was such a tender moment, where many of us were in tears, and we felt showered by love. We recognised the importance of simple things in life. Good friends. Clean water to drink. Meaningful moments and conversations. All spiced up with making space for sadness, grief and laughter.
It was genuinely moving to hear the number of details each person remembered about me or the simple things we did or shared. I could feel the challenge of opening myself to receive so much beauty, validation, and acknowledgement. I loved it; there is a great healing force in being seen and witnessed.
When you offer somebody words of appreciation, please be as specific and detailed as possible. There is some potent medicine in describing the qualities of a relationship, person or events versus being very generic (i.e. saying, ‘you are such a nice person!’). When we manage to do this, magic happens, and new worlds open up.
What special moment do you remember about this person? How did that make you feel? What are the gifts that this friend brings to your life? What are their unique colours and quirkiness? What would you say to them if this was the last time you met? What can you celebrate about them?
And when you ask your friends to also share words about you, as I mentioned above in the example of my ritual, you can remind them as well to be very specific.
This way, you can dance with giving and receiving.
My gathering was small and intimate. I live up to you to decide what you want to ask your elders and circle of friends. Make it yours; find your recipe!
Once you feel complete with words, you can add something symbolic, depending on where you are. You could cross a bridge, for example, draw an imaginary line, or even create a corridor with stones.
You can make this metaphorical walk, representing your passage into midlife, and choose objects to leave behind.
You can ask the elders to wait for you on the other side.
When you do that symbolic walk, I invite you to stand tall. Do it slowly, savour the moment, feel the ground under your feet and open your chest.
Do it as if you are truly showing up for yourself and your life, and allow yourself to be received and seen by the elders.
Wear your prayers on your sleeves.
Make it a declaration to the Universe.
Whisper your heart desires to the wind.
In my gathering, I crossed the stream. I asked my younger friends who were still bleeding to be at my back, representing the women who still have their menstrual cycle. I asked them to drum for me to feel their power behind me.
And the elders waited for me on the other side, singing a welcome song.
These are the simple words (I put a link to listen to the melody at the end of this letter. You can obviously create your own.)
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
As you are, we welcome you..
I did the ceremonial walk slowly, allowing myself to feel the celebration. When I arrived, the elders, in a semi-circle, hugged me and welcomed me. There is a specific area of the brain that ‘thinks in pictures’. I will never forget that image of being received.
I guess many of you reading this love letter, like me, had received little support in other main areas of your life when you were younger. In that case, an intentional ritual can help you rewire, mend and update something essential inside of you and rewrite the story of being alone and needing to do it all yourself.
When your elders welcome you, allow yourself to absorb that support, like sweet nectar, in every cell! Feel it in your body, and create a new muscle memory of connection!
Let it in!
You can recall this experience of beauty when you need extra strength later in life.
Once the ceremony is complete, you can feast on food, yummy cakes and fruit! Or put some music on and have a boogie!
When we completed mine, we ate some local juicy mangos. The women decorated my hair with petals and sprinkled water on my head as a symbol of renewal and cleansing.
We then put some flowers in the stream, giving thanks to the land.
We dedicated all that we received, the blessings and the healings, to our friends, family, and community and to the thriving of all life on Earth.
I have included a simple recording of the welcome song I mentioned above.
You can also sing it to yourself as a mantra; I often do it daily!
I recorded it on my computer, so please forgive the amatorial quality of the audio.
While assisting her during the workshop Initiation, I learned this song from one of my teachers, Susannah Darling Khan. We sang it when we were welcoming women in a ceremony to heal the wounds related to memories of the first menarche, which for most of us, has been quite traumatic. It is an invitation to welcome and accept yourself as you are. It was significant to share this chant, as it has been sung in many ceremonies I attended throughout the years, and many women felt held by it. So if you choose to include it, you can imagine and feel the women behind you who celebrated themselves and prayed to step into their authority, maturity and power while listening to this gentle invocation.
This above is just an example of what you can do. I would love to hear what would resonate with you. Feel free to get in touch if you have some ideas or questions.