I got my first tattoo when I finished my Master’s degree.
After three universities and enough course credits for a PhD, finally finishing something, degree wise, felt like a big deal… and I wanted to mark the occasion.
Many people (especially my parents!) thought it odd that I chose to literally mark my body. Permanently.
But that was exactly what I wanted—a permanent reminder of who I had become. Because I was not the same woman who had begun degree-hopping six years before. I was craving a way of expressing my inward change in an outward way.
And permanent? Absolutely.
Because, let’s face it, we often take two steps forward and one step back, treating our personal growth like a cosmic cha-cha.
This time I wanted to own it. I wanted it to be inescapable… so I etched a reminder on my skin.
This was the first in a series of tattoos, each marking an important shift in my psyche. The next tattoo came after what I call my Jesus Year, when I went through a personal death and rebirth. The weeks before my marriage brought me again to the tattoo parlor.
Ancient cultures knew that internal changes needed outward celebration. After an initiation into a new way of being, you went through a rite of passage: a ritual that allowed you to see and be your new self within your community.
We have precious few rites of passage anymore and the ones that we do have have become so rote as to be practically meaningless for most people. The exception (hallelujah!) is the wedding ceremony; there we see the kind of creativity that replenishes meaning and brings life to dusty words.
While I can count our culture’s rites of passage on one hand, as individuals we have initiatory experiences often… at least we do if we are on a path of personal empowerment.
For instance, a number of my Sage School students have been working on the final steps toward certification, which includes an interview with me. What we discovered was that Sage School was an initiatory experience: students began to think and see their world differently; they were initiated into a new way of being. And that final conversation, where I welcomed them as a colleague?
The conversation itself was a rite of passage. It allowed them to see themselves anew and be acknowledged for who they had become.
Instead of change being expected and reduced, it was elevated and celebrated.
The transition in these folks from the beginning of the conversation to the end was palpable. They came into the call unsure and left fully empowered and confident on their path.
That’s the beauty of a rite of passage.
Have you experienced a fundamental shift in who you are or how you think?
There is no right answer here: initiations are funny and don’t always come when you expect them to!
You may go on a big retreat weekend expecting an initiatory experience which falls flat and then walk into the grocery store, see a head of lettuce in a different light, and have a profound shift.
So when I ask if you have experienced an initiation recently, there is no right answer; there is only your heart’s answer.
If you have had an initiatory experience (i.e., you were initiated into a new way of being or thinking), I want to invite you to create a personal rite of passage for yourself to acknowledge your shift. And then post here so we can celebrate with you!
I’m beginning to think that our lack of confidence in our own skills and wisdom comes from a lack of these rites of passage: we don’t take the time to acknowledge our shift to ourselves and are not celebrated for our new way of being by our tribe.
I want you to have the experience of acknowledgement (and I want us as a community to begin to incorporate this practice) so take a few moments to be in the glow of you… and then tell us about it so we can all hold you in our hearts and give a big Hurrah!
Love, love, love—