To begin at Part one:
Sunday, our last half day of this ritual experience, Sobonfu had us pick up where we left off Saturday night. First, she addressed potential fears people may be having. She did this in such a wise and complete way. Speaking directly into people's souls. You could feel it. Once the song started, and before the drums started, the process began again.
It amazed me that she could drum, sing, follow all moving parts and instruct our community to help one another all at the same time...gracefully.
The image above is the corner of the grief Alter. Taken before the candles were lit and before we made our bundles. To explain the bundles, I will go back to the day before...Saturday...before the singing and drumming began.
Sobonfu sat in front of us with a big leaf, two flowers, a cloth and a piece of string. She began to demonstrate how to make our bundles.
She lifted up the first flower and began, "This represents...." Her words flowed beautifully and were very detailed. I couldn't possibly share her words. I just got that it was important to speak it out loud and in as much detail as possible. Whatever it was that we wanted to let go of.
Then, she spit on the flower. She explained spitting was not a sign of disrespect or anger. It was how that object and what it represented was sealed. Like a completion process for that particular thing to let go of. After she finished sealing each object, she wrapped everything up in the cloth and tied it with the string.
We were all given a piece of cloth and a piece of string for our bundles. Some of us went outside to collect our objects from the earth (leaves, peebles, little sticks) others brought their objects from home. Whatever you placed in your bundle you would not be getting back.
We all lined up and tossed our bundles into the center of the grief Alter.
I can share it makes as much practical sense as it does spiritual sense. You're actively bringing attention and intention to those yucky parts that no longer serve you. And it's all being done through the container of ancient ritual. It's an honorable way to release. Pretty cool if you ask me!!!
I walked into this ritual empty handed. Which was a product of my inability to read the email that provided instructions on what to bring. I read the times and address and just showed up. (Lesson learned-hopefully!)
So I didn't have any special images or objects that had meaning for me. That was okay though because I just used the earth and the stories.
Sobonfu told us a story about when someone in her community dies, you can collect 3 stones for a man and 4 stones for a woman and create ritual from close to where they died to where the lived by bringing the stones. (I don't know why 3 for men and 4 for women) it just "is."
I really wanted to place something on the Alter for both my grandmother and my son Donovan. So I headed outside and found 3 dark rocks for Donovan and 4 reddish rocks for my grandmother.
Donovan went on the forgiveness Alter and my Grandmother (4 rocks) went on the Ancestrial Alter. Because I did not realize Donovan was considered an "ancestor." I thought that word meant strictly those generations that were born before us. But I learned, Donovan is also an ancestor now. That was a revolution for me.
The rocks above are the four rocks I laid out to represent my grandmother. When we were taking the Alter down, one of the women looked at the rocks, looked at me and said "do you want your grandmother?" It was so funny. And yes...yes I did. :)
There is a lot more still. Yet, I can't help but think it is better to experience this type of thing personally. Below is a link to Sobonfu's schedule.
Somewhere along this experience, it occurred to me...how different our world would truly be if Grief rituals were a part of our culture. As in, just a normal part of our reality where we can go at any time to let it rip.
This may have been one of the most holistic and organic workshops I have ever taken.
Here's what I learned and/or remembered..
Grief is not anything to feel shame about. It isn't a negative thing. It's a natural thing. And no one gets to tell you how long you should be grieving.
Our fear about... if we go deep we will never stop crying or never return or never be happy again is false. If we walk through it, owning it, embracing it and allow it to be released in a safe container-we get to the other side of it and we become lighter people with a new level of wisdom, compassion and levels of empathy we may not have had before. We honor and free ourselves by releasing.
This process was also very respectful to our ancestors. I really loved that part. To honor those who made it possible for our existence. To call them in. To perhaps re-negotiate our Ancestrial contracts, to respect them by asking their permisson or giving them our forgiveness or forgiving ourselves if we were not as present to them as we would have liked to been.
What really grabbed my attention was relationships as spiritual contracts. This resonated with me because I already believe this.
Sobonfu spoke about these relationship contracts in a broad context. She mentioned that very often, when our ancestors realize, no one in the family is showing up to help a family heal, they will bring in someone from outside of the family (like a sub-contractor) and this is called "falling in love" :) the decision to end the contract would be divorce. And you can also re-negotiate these spiritual contracts when they aren't serving your best interest. And very often, being contracted to help a family heal will mean they may not like you very much (that made me laugh because it seems true)
This weekend I walked into the circle very much in touch with my grief. I shared right away- I was both angry and sad as tears rolled down my face. That's how people met me. But that actually isn't abnormal. It wouldn't take a grief ritual to see me crying.
I cry all the time. I cry when my feelings are hurt, I cry when something is very beuaitful, I cry when I'm angry, I cry when I laugh real hard (that one is my favorite cry) and I cry when someone has a big breakthrough that frees them. Heck, I had a cry day a few days before I traveled to this workshop, because it kind of felt like the ritual started several days before the ritual started. And anyone who has ever participated in anything toward enlightening workshops will understand that statement.
Yet, after the first evening and my reading some of Sobonfu's chapters, I felt peaceful for the most part. Saturday, fresh tears came in with the children part but most of my grieving seemed to come out all day in the ladies room!! While I realize this is TMI and not everyone is as fascinated or as intrigued as I am about our colons but that is what happened. That was how my body decided to grieve.
That is how I carry and hold onto my grief. All day Saturday, every hour. All day Sunday. Every hour and all day today too. Nothing painful or rushed. No cramps or uncomfortableness. Just nature calling and calling and calling. Letting go.
Today I experienced something I never experienced before.
In the past 12 months, a lot of my relationships shifted. Some of them shifted with ease, goodness and positivity and others were what I now see as unexpressed, unhealed grief.
One relationship I n particular, I had placed in my bundle as an open concept. In other words, I left it open to re-negotiate or end it. I requested guidance or a knowing to come to me "whenever." Because I really didn't know what would be best, whatever felt right. Everything else I bundled up was already clear to me except this one thing.
This person entered my mind today and I thought "maybe I should renegotiate," but within seconds I became very tired. Not just sleepy but soul tired. So I stopped what I was doing and laid down. An hour later I woke myself up out of a vivid and very heavy dream state. In my dream this person was clearly not good for me.
When I woke up, my whole being felt heavy. Like invisible bricks were holding me down. The minute I thought, "I probably shouldn't re-negotiate with this person," I felt lighter. Then I finally committed "I will let this person go" and I was fully awake with no heaviness. When I asked for guidance, I sure got it!!!! That was quick!!! Wow.
And letting someone go doesn't necessarily mean you will never ever see them again. It could mean, you are just no longer attached to them or their way of being no longer has any power over you.
Maybe. We shall see....
In the end, I'm 5lb's lighter (literally) and energetically a lot more free. I couldn't be happier with my experience.
As an added bonus I got to meet some great people and now have a few people who agreed to write articles for my magazine. And I'm pretty sure I've met some new cool people who may become life long friends.
Mostly, whatever grief comes up for me, I'm going to; as Sobonfu says "Bring it to the Alter."