Thursday, November 2, 2017

“Conscious Aging & Ceremonies for Seniors”






“Conscious Aging & Ceremonies for Seniors”
By Elaine Voci


By 2030, the US Administration on Aging predicts that there will be about 72 million people aged 65 and older which will represent 19% of the population.  The senior years of life can be a time of great spiritual, emotional and psychological growth, a time to celebrate a life, to harvest the wisdom of our years of experiences and a time to share our legacy and our stories with others.  Mixed messages from society about aging, how seniors are viewed and the value they bring can add confusion and challenges that lead to frustration.  As a friend recently said to me “Approaching a ticket booth and being automatically given a senior ticket to an event can feel like being handed a card that says “No longer relevant.”
In response to these societal attitudes and influences, a social movement referred to as Mindful Aging, or Conscious Aging, has emerged and it offers seniors support in being proactive about their own aging by:

  • 1.     Making a personal choice, using the will to change, and setting an intention to make positive, life-affirming changes and build daily mind-body practices that bring awareness and attention to what is life-giving and healthy.
  • 2.     Adopting daily habits of mindfulness, building new neural pathways and behaviors to strengthen resilience, create a healthy lifestyle, and an intentionally positive outlook as a senior citizen.
  • 3.     Seeking guidance from wise teachers, inspiring books, and getting together with like-minded peers, to strengthen the resolve to surrender to life gracefully while maintaining a positive self-image and dignity.
I would advocate for one more important element to be added to that list:  using the services of a Celebrant to help reframe self-limiting beliefs and cultural stereotypes; to harvest the meaning and wisdom of life experiences, and to enhance the sense of connection to others while recognizing our shared humanity in the aging process.  Because Celebrants are trained in the art of ceremony, they can design and facilitate meaningful rituals and celebrations to help support these mindful activities.  Here is an example is drawn from my own practice of how I was able to help and support a senior in need of a new and clear vision for her life:
My client was a woman who lost her husband to cancer in her sixties; after a few years of struggling to find meaning and purpose again, she sought me out for life coaching.  Once we had met for several months, I suggested that we do a ceremony at her kitchen table with the intention of allowing her to bless and release her former life and welcome her new life as a single older woman with conscious awareness of her choices.  Because she loved art, I included in the ceremony a Mandala art project, along with her statement of intention, and a life plan to celebrate.
In the center of the table was spread a mandala tablecloth, a variety of small votive battery candles and colored glass hearts, along with some of her favorite angel figurines and a small framed photo of her husband.  We opened the ceremony by me striking gently a Tibetan singing bowl and reading a short poem about New Beginnings by John O’Donohue.  We discussed the changes she had already been through, and how she had arrived at this point in her life, looking ahead to at least 20 more years of living.  I asked her to speak to her husband about this time of her life and to ask for his blessing and acknowledgment of her widowhood.  This conversation was emotionally freeing, and tender, recognizing that, while he would always be with her in spirit, she no longer had his living companionship.

I had asked her to prepare ahead of time a written intention statement that described how she wanted to age and live in the remaining chapters of her life.  I asked her to light the candles on the cloth and then read her statement aloud.  She wrote something along these lines, “I am a strong, courageous force for good in this life, talented in loving myself and others with benevolence and kindness to all.  What I say and do matters, so I choose to speak and act mindfully, with intention and purpose.”

She then colored and personalized a Mandala chosen from a Mandala coloring book which took about 20 minutes to complete, during which she shared thoughts and feelings as they arose.  I listened actively, asking for clarification when needed and encouraging her to express herself fully.  To companion with her, I also colored a Mandala page taken from the book.

When she was done coloring, I asked her how to describe how the Mandala drawing symbolized her intention statement and her vision of aging with purpose.  We discussed how she could let this drawing and her written intention statement continue to inform her plans going forward by placing them somewhere in her home where she could access them regularly, even daily.

I read the poem about a new beginning once more, and I asked her to describe the most meaningful insights she would take away from this ceremony.  As part of her awareness, she told her husband’s photo that she would never forget him, or their life together and that she would live with purpose in part because that is what she felt he would have wanted her to do.  We then closed the ceremony with a simple prayer of gratitude, and she turned the candles off, one by one, consciously.  We drank tea together and ate some small cakes I had brought, with music in the background that she had chosen, and we talked and reflected on how life calls us to our destiny, through sadness and joy, as part of our shared common humanity.  




Elaine Voci is a life coach in private practice in Carmel, IN and a graduate of the Celebrant  Foundation & Institute.   Elaine is the Editor of the Celebrant Blog for the Celebrant Foundation & Institute.



Elaine Voci 's NEW BOOK: Soul Sketches: How to craft meaningful and authentic eulogies. 








Life-Cycle Ceremonies: A Handbook for Your Whole Life 


How do you commemorate momentous events? Memorialize people who have shaped you? Draw support from those you hold dear? This primer offers methods for honoring the special occasions in your life with humor and grace. Its ceremonies help ground each day in the wholeness that supports our entire lives. Each ceremony has been vetted by a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant® affiliated with the Celebrant Foundation and Institute, which offers training and support for celebrants worldwide. Visit us at www.celebrantInstitute.org.







Please direct all request, comment or concerns about our CF&I Blog to our 
Social Media Manager ~ Marcia Almeida, Master Life-Cycle Celebrant. at  celebrantsocialmedia@gmail.com    
Or to the Celebrant Foundation & Institute’s director, Charlotte Eulette at: charlotteeulette@celebrantinstitute.org 
call us at (973)746-1792.  Visit us at http://www.celebrantinstitute.org/?p=business
Non-profit Educational Organization

Celebrant Foundation & Institute

Official Member of the International Federation of Celebrants



Celebrant Foundation & Institute Facebook:   www.facebook.com/CelebrantInst
Blog:  The Celebrant Troubadour:  www.celebrantfoundation.blogspot.com
Magazine Celebrancy Today:
Twitter:  @CelebrantInst




Tuesday, October 3, 2017

One Night When the Dead Cross Over to the World of the Living


 By Elaine Voci, Ph.D.

In October the popular “Halloween” takes place, and another, known as “All Saints Day”, is, also, celebrated.  Both relate to those who are among the deceased and are remembered on those days, and both earn the attention of celebrants throughout the world.

 Halloween (shortened from “All Hallow’s Tide/Eve” which was used to first honor the saints without the feast days and then later to  honor the Christian dead is celebrated each year in America on October 31st.  It’s become heavily commercialized; the average American family spends between $88 to $100 on Halloween “stuff” including treats for trick or treaters, costumes for the kids, their adult parents, and even the family pet, as well as for outdoor decorations.  In 2016, we collectively spent $7 billion (yes, with a “B”) on these things! Imagine if all that money could be used to help build communities with a focus on gratitude towards our ancestors.


Of course, it didn’t start out that way, the origins of the holiday are humble.  In fact, Halloween began in Ireland, and largely belonged to pranksters, hence the famous call: “Trick or Treat”. Instead of pumpkins as jack o’ lanterns, the Irish carved turnips.  The celebrations crossed the ocean and American pranksters played their version of tricks for about 30 years, costing cities millions of dollars in damage.  At one point many American cities considered banning Halloween altogether, which caused parents to came up with a new custom of costuming their children and sending them door to door to ask for treats with a vague reference to “tricks” if treats were not forthcoming.
Then World War II took place and sugar was rationed, which meant sweets were severely limited, or unavailable. Out of necessity, people created new and inexpensive customs such as apple-bobbing and hosting modest Halloween parties held at home; these became popular ways to mark the day.


The other October event is All Saints’ Day which they say first began in a monastery in France and quickly spread to Christians around Europe and European colonized countries.  Immigrants from Scotland and Ireland brought the holiday to the U.S.  Today it is observed globally in certain faith practices; in U.S. Christian churches it often occurs on the first Sunday after Pentecost in remembrance of deceased members of church congregations.  A candle is lit as each person’s name is spoken, followed by a prayer for each soul.  In the U.S. the congregation might also organize a church supper that evening featuring homemade comfort foods.


In Latino communities, the autumn months of October and early November hold celebrations that link All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day (November 2nd) with the Day of the Dead (November 1st).  Symbols associated with these services include a sheaf of wheat, a crown, colorfully dressed skeletal figures, and framed images of various saints who tend to be shown wearing the color white for purity and piousness. Families also gather at the cemetery to honor their dead in a spectacular and moving ritual to behold.

Celebrants enjoy taking part in both types of events in their communities.  There is an overlap between the two occasions because they both serve to connect the spiritual and the physical worlds.  Symbols of Halloween include ghosts, goblins, walking skeletons, black cats and images of witches on broomsticks flying across the night sky.  It is also considered a political charged time to celebrate with masks and dance for those who have fought for independence.  These occasions help mark the single night of the year in which spirits and the dead can cross over into the world of the living. Foods served at October parties can include toffee apples, caramel corn candy shaped like corn niblets, pumpkin pies, cookies, breads and even beer!
Remembering the Dead around the World, Sonny Lawrence D. Alea writes…
“Halloween is just one of many traditions that honor the dead. Death is, of course, a reality of all living beings and human cultures around the world typically ponder on this cycle of life through special observances and traditions. The majority of these traditions focus on remembering lost friends and family members and honoring them for the impact they made in the lives of the living."

 Dia de los Muertos,  or Day of the Dead, is a popular Mexican tradition that celebrates the souls of the dead on November 1st. It is believed that remembering the departed in sadness would upset the souls of loved ones, so instead of mourning, the departed are celebrated with food, drink, music, and dancing; making for a uniquely exuberant celebration of life and death. The dead are celebrated and remembered with Oferendas, which are individual altars and offerings of food.

 Araw ng mga Patay, also translated to Day of the Dead and held on November 1st, is a similar tradition in the Philippines in which Filipinos take time to remember passed family and friends by visiting their graves and praying for their souls. After cleaning the tomb of debris and weeds, celebrations are often held around the grave site of the departed. The dead are included in the celebrations with food offerings and prayers. Many people spend entire days and nights near the burial place of their departed loved-ones until the celebrations are over.

 Mahalaya Amavasya (Pitru Paksha), is a tradition in India that also celebrates the dead. The belief is held that the people of the present owe a great deal to people of the past for providing them with the knowledge and tools to continue the cycle of life. The living honor the departed with offerings of food as a way to thank them for their contributions and continue to celebrate through community festivals.

 Chuseok or the Harvest Moon Festival, is a traditional holiday celebrated in South Korea on 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. Though the holiday mainly focuses the season of good harvest, traditional practices include traveling back to ancestral hometowns and honoring family ancestors. In preparation for the celebrations, the graves of the departed are cleaned and decorated. A special breakfast and memorial service is also held to commemorate the dead and thank family ancestors for their guidance.

Honor Your Ancestors
Indigenous peoples and cultures all over the world honor their dead ancestors in one way or another. In fact, many indigenous cultures invoke their ancestors daily through ritual. This is because without our ancestors, none of us would exist at all! Our ancestors also hold great wisdom; they each lived and learned before us, and we can call upon our ancestors to guide us with that wisdom.

These types of celebrations are an important part of various – if not all – cultures, as it reminds us of our human connection to the natural cycle of life and death. In our daily life, it is easy to forget and even harder to accept that death is a natural part of life; scientific advances and efforts to contrast natural processes instill in us a fear of death.

On this week, take time to remember the friends and family who have died. Think about how much they have contributed to your life and remind yourself of their role in your life and the community. Celebrate our ancestors who have paved the way for us to be present where we are today, and honor them by being a positive force in your communities.” Honoring our Ancestors: The True Meaning of Halloween – by Sonny Lawrence D. Alea for Pachamama Alliance

Celebrants may incorporate ceremony and ritual, both serious and also fun-loving to these important celebrations to remind us  of our interconnectedness with life and death and all those who came before us. 


# # #


Celebrant Marie Masciovecchio is the Celebrant and artist who created our Celebrant troubadour. The troubadour was created with our code of ethics in mind. The troubadour character is gender, color and age free. 





October 2017 Celebrant Troubadour
One Night When the Dead Cross Over to the World of the Living by Elaine Voci

Elaine Voci is a life coach in private practice in Carmel, IN and a graduate of the Celebrant  Foundation & Institute .   Elaine is the Editor of the Celebrant Blog for the Celebrant Foundation & Institute.
https://www.ebookit.com/tools/pd/Bo/eBookIt/booktitle-Soul-Sketches--How-to-Craft-Meaningful-and-Authentic-Eulogies. 






Life-Cycle Ceremonies: A Handbook for Your Whole Life 


How do you commemorate momentous events? Memorialize people who have shaped you? Draw support from those you hold dear? This primer offers methods for honoring the special occasions in your life with humor and grace. Its ceremonies help ground each day in the wholeness that supports our entire lives. Each ceremony has been vetted by a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant® affiliated with the Celebrant Foundation and Institute, which offers training and support for celebrants worldwide. Visit us at www.celebrantInstitute.org.








Please direct all request, comment or concerns about our CF&I Blog to our 
Social Media Manager ~ Marcia Almeida, Master Life-Cycle Celebrant. at  celebrantsocialmedia@gmail.com    
Or to the Celebrant Foundation & Institute’s director, Charlotte Eulette at: charlotteeulette@celebrantinstitute.org 
call us at (973)746-1792.  Visit us at http://www.celebrantinstitute.org/?p=business
Non-profit Educational Organization

Celebrant Foundation & Institute

Official Member of the International Federation of Celebrants



Celebrant Foundation & Institute Facebook:   www.facebook.com/CelebrantInst
Blog:  The Celebrant Troubadour:  www.celebrantfoundation.blogspot.com
Magazine Celebrancy Today:
Twitter:  @CelebrantInst




--

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Apples and Honey,



Apples and Honey

In these days when the earth opens a New Year
An apple spins on the Book of Life
While Fukushima spills death into the sea
And Syria's children continue to suffer

I will do my part for making things whole
Cast the crumbs of my named misdeeds
Into the currents of conscience and forgiveness
Small offerings from the loaf of accumulated days



Later I will set on the table
A bowl of apples
A knife
A plate with honey poured on



While the roundness of the year
Passes through our endings and beginnings
I will invite family and friends
To rest a while

We will cut wedges from the apples
Dip them in honey
Sink our teeth through
Smooth skin to crisp flesh

And wait for the honey
To mix with the tartness on our tongues

So that for the time being we will know

The world still has sweetness for us to savor.



-Dina Stander





“In my Celebrant work I have discovered purpose and genuine service. I am always learning, from the families and communities I work with and from the life stories and spirit of the loved ones we honor.”   - Dina Stander

http://www.dinastander.com/Welcome.html