Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Managing Fear in Times of Uncertainty


“Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but aren’t.” ~Neil Geiman, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”

JournalingMonsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but aren’t.” ~Neil Geiman, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”
In the few weeks since the US election there is tremendous fear amid vitriolic dialog and threats to our rights and safety.  People are triggered which gives rise to defensiveness and attack, causing devastating rifts in families and communities. Yet with all of this divisiveness, the truth remains that we need each other for everything that sustains us each day: food, clothing, cars, gas, electricity, services, education, medical care and more. We can’t avoid others, not even if we live on the land and off the grid. Even in the wild we need the “other’, we need the elements of water, fire, earth, air. We need plants and animals to nourish us. We need shelter for protection. We need.
At the fundamental level of our existence is the fierce instinct of survival and terrible fear that we won’t make it. In nature, the dance of predator and prey is an ancient exchange, life for death. Each of us consumes in some way in order to survive. It’s important to understand this primitive part of ourselves, and ask: What seeks to be fed? Should we feed it? If so, how to feed it with respect and compassion. If not, how to respectfully say no and hold the boundary.
In order to ask important questions and discern the answers with clarity, we must face our fear and quiet it enough to be able to hear. The suggested practices below are not about spiritual escapism and avoiding what needs to be done. They can help us to ground ourselves, calm the amygdala or fear centers of our brain, and engage our pre-frontal cortex; so that we can be patient in sitting with uncertainty, and determine a wise course of action rather than react from fear.
Ritual Practices to Calm Fear and Promote Clarity:
  • Identify the fear and acknowledge it. Not all fears are necessarily true in the present reality, but they need to be heard and sorted through for better understanding.
  • Work with energy medicine to heal and support our nervous system’s resilience. Good resources for this are “Energy Medicine” by Donna Eden and “We Are All in Shock” by Stephanie Mines.
  • Do a simple release ritual to symbolically transform fears: they can be written on paper and burned in a safe receptacle, or ripped up and the pieces buried outside or flushed in the bathroom.
  • Create an altar with meaningful pictures and objects that affirm your courage, strength and wisdom. Spend time regularly at your altar and reflect on these qualities for spiritual replenishment.
  • Explore walking the labyrinth as a contemplative tool to ease stress, and engage intuition and creative thinking. Finger labyrinths are available if walking is not possible. 
  • Connect with nature. As Winter Solstice approaches in the northern hemisphere, darkness will increase until we reach the longest night. When darkness reaches its apex, it will flip over to increasing light. Solstice is a powerful time for tapping into what Taoists call “unmanifest potential”,  to energize our intentions for a more compassionate and equitable society, and summon the courage to stand for these principles. Light a candle if you wish, write your intentions and state them aloud to align with this energy. 

By first exploring our own fear with compassion and understanding, we can then offer the same to others. Rather than divide us, may our needs inspire a healthy interdependence, to co-create sustainable solutions for the good of all and our planet.

Elizabeth Phaire is a New York based Master Life-Cycle Celebrant® and Interfaith Minister.  In practice for 10 years, she officiates personalized ceremonies for Weddings, Baby Blessings, Celebrations of Life and other rites of passage.  She is a repeat recipient of Wedding Wire’s “Couple’s Choice awards” and The Knot “Best of Weddings”.  A faculty member of the Celebrant Foundation and Institute, she holds five certifications from the school. Her creative background and holistic lifestyle includes meditation, energy healing practices, folk herbalism, writing, music, and performance poetry. She draws from these sources to help individuals, families and communities to honor their transitions with authenticity.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

CF&I Celebrant Troubadour

By Elaine Voci, Ph.D.  Certified Life Cycle Celebrant

America is one of the most diverse countries in the world with many different spiritual, religious secular and cultural traditions celebrated throughout the year.  In December, that diversity shines brightly with an abundance of festivals and observances that blend into this festive season that makes the winter feel extra special.  In alphabetic order, let’s visit a few of the festivities:

Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8th which recalls the day in 596 BC when the Buddha sat beneath a Bodhi tree and is believed to have achieved enlightenment, thus escaping the repeating cycle of reincarnation: birth, life, death and rebirth. A descendent of the original tree is the most important of four holy sites of Buddhism.

Christmas is celebrated by most Christians on December 25, and it honors the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Americans, like many of the world’s peoples, have developed their own Christmas traditions and observances, and they include gift giving, attending social gatherings, indulging in special foods and seasonal beverages, performing acts of charity, while at the same time, devoting energy to quiet reflection, rest, inner focus, and stillness. 

One of the most important Islamic festivals, Eid al-Adha (the feast of sacrifice), begins on the 10th day of the last month of the Islamic calendar.  Lasting for three days, it comes at the ending of the annual Hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca.  (Muslims all over the world celebrate, not just those undertaking the Hajj, which for most Muslims is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.)  The festival commemorates the day when Abraham intended to follow the instructions of God to sacrifice his son Ishmael; it is celebrated by sacrificing a lamb or other animal and sharing the meat with relatives, friends, and especially the elderly and the poor. The sacrifice symbolizes obedience to Allah and its distribution to others is an expression of generosity, one of the five pillars of Islam.

Hanukkah is a beloved 8-day Jewish festival (also known as the festival of lights) celebrating the miracle of temple candles which only had enough oil to burn for one day, yet they burned for eight days. It also commemorates the military victory of the Jewish Maccabees over the powerful Syrian Greek army in the cause of religious freedom which was followed by a rededication (Hanukkah) of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah typically falls between Nov.30 and Dec. 26.  Traditional foods include brisket, short ribs, noodle kugel,   and latkes and doughnuts – and lots of smiles.

Kwanzaa is celebrated by an estimated 18 million African Americans and many more in the diaspora, from December 26 to January 1. It is not a religious holiday, nor is it meant to replace Christmas. It was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Black Studies, in 1966 who wanted to design a celebration to honor the values of ancient African cultures and inspire African Americans working for progress.  Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa honors a different principle believed to be key to building strong, productive families and healthy communities: unity, self-determination, collective work, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Celebrations include lighting candles, giving gifts and decorating homes in the African colors of red, green and black, and enjoying a wide range of favorite foods.

Humanlight is a most joyful festival celebrated everywhere on Earth by Humanists and non-theists to pay tribute to the light of life that shines bright in all of us.

December is also the month of the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, respected as a Pagan and naturalist holiday. It marks the time when we trust that the shortest day of the year will be followed by ones in which the light will grow brighter as each lengthens toward spring. Festivals of dance and drumming and great food are enjoyed by those who celebrate the exact planetary position of the Winter Solstice.  Let us each embrace this transition with fervent hope, as best expressed by the question posed by poet Percy Shelley, "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”  We might also do well to remember the wisdom of the Japanese adage that advises “One kind word can warm three winter months.”

Don’t forget to make this time of the year sing true to who you are too. Find time to create a ritual of your own that enhances your precious life and those you love.

Whichever way you enjoy celebrating during this special time, and we hope you get a chance throughout your life to celebrate them all, may peace, harmony and generosity of heart be with you and all of us beings on Earth.

Elaine Voci is a life coach, specializing in end of life services, in private practice in Carmel, IN and a graduate of the Celebrant Foundation & Institute class of 2014.   Elaine is the Editor of the Celebrant Blog for the Celebrant Foundation & Institute.

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.  
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The Celebrant Foundation & Institute (CF&I) is the nation’s preeminent online educational institute that teaches and certifies people as modern day ritual and ceremony professionals called Life-Cycle Celebrants®. Founded in 2001, the educational nonprofit organization headquartered in Montclair, NJ, is a member of the International Federation of Celebrants.  To date, the CF&I has graduated nearly 900 Life-Cycle Celebrants® who preside over 20,000 ceremonies each year throughout North America, Asia and Europe. To learn more about the CF&I, visit