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Friday, June 12, 2009

Rites of Passage

Today my eldest daughter Madelynne graduated kindergarten.
This may not seem like a major milestone to some, but to her it was. She had been in a Waldorf kindergarten for nearly two years, and then transferred into a charter school mid-year with an entirely different curriculum.
She acclimated wonderfully and quickly learned all that had not been taught at her prior school. She made friends, bonded with the teachers and staff and endeared herself to other parents.
As she walked to the podium with her paper red graduation cap accenting the red in her dress, she looked beautiful. Her glossy brown hair fell straight to her shoulders and her back was tall and straight. She smiled big as she accepted her "diploma." As an added honor, each child was awarded a beaded necklace that spelled out a quality that was particularly prominent in them through the year. Madelynne received the word "thinker" and was publicly praised by her teacher for her ability to think through problems, to contemplate her learning and lessons and to reason through challenges. She has an incredible mind, surpassed only by her heart. Adding those traits to her charm, friendliness, warmth, spiritual curiosity and beauty makes her a remarkable being. I am honored to be her mother and guide during this phase of her life, and hope that my choices and example will aid her as she grows into the incredible woman I know she will be.
We all need rites of passages. We all need to moments to contemplate what hurdles we have crossed, what lessons we have learned, what strengths we have gained through these efforts. These passages may not all be public. Our culture does not often value such public passages unless to celebrate achievements in sales records or work performance. Rarely do we take the time to honor our own internal growth as beings of the Universe. Rarely do we stake stock in what where we are in the state of our being, rather than in our external accomplishments.
Her graduation wasn't just about learning her ABC's or doing her homework, it was about perseverance, dedication and reflection. It was about Madelynne overcoming many obstacles in order to journey to a new phase in her development in life. She has moved three times in less than a year, lost a father to distance and divorce, lost friends and lost a school with very different values and rhythms. She lost her dog, her favorite secret castle, her large home with big backyard, her climbing tree and her neighbor friends.
But she gained so much more. She learned adaptability. She learned that all in life is transient and we must move with the flow of that life and allow it to be our guide and teacher. She is learning to take each new situation and use it as an opportunity to improve the state of her soul, mind and heart.
She is my teacher, just as I am hers, for these are my lessons as much as hers. I'm proud of her today, just as I am proud of all three of my children, for doing much the same even if they have not received a graduation cap and necklace.
If I had to give a word to each of my children at this time, Bella would receive "tenacious". She never gives up. She loves to help and give and learn. She fights for her beliefs and is strong willed and stubborn. She looks out for others and is a defender.
Lexie is just barely three, but already is showing how highly intelligent and creative she is. She would receive the word "articulate." She processes and understands ideas, concepts and information that just doesn't seem possible for such a little one as her, and she can articulate that in a language better suited for a fifth grader, at least. She uses her mind and her words to communicate in ways many adults have not learned to do yet. She will be a voice for many.
And I am proud of myself. I too have travelled through dark nights and come through to morning stronger. I too have suffered the pain of loss and change, broken hearts and broken homes. I too have had to grow stronger and in so doing have gone through and continue to go through my own rites of passage. And I have my necklace, with my word. It is "Da" which is Sanskrit for "the Giver"). The Name is hidden in the Upanishads, the venerable scriptures of India, in which "Da" is the syllable uttered by the Divine Voice in thunder, and the central syllable of "hr-da-yam", which means "the Heart", "the Divine Condition of all". The Name "Da" also appears in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, where it is defined as "the one who bestows great charity", "the very personification of the great Way of Liberation".
This is my word because my focus in on my guru's Dharma to stay focused on God-Realization and let all of this pain and difficulty bring me closer to God.
This too is a rite of passage, one I am still on and one my children are on as well. It is the greatest rite of passage imaginable. It is about more than just learning, or doing, it is about experiencing the truth of our connection to the Divine spark of Life. Our true identity as One with God.
And so our lessons and journey continue. In the world of ABC's and in the world of the spirit-heart. All are notable and worth contemplation.
I urge each of you to spend a few moments each night reflecting on your day, on how it has changed you, and whether that change is aiding you in your path or hindering you. Begin to make conscious choices about the shape your life takes, and celebrate those rites of passages when you move through the pain and challenge into a new phase of understanding, wisdom and insight.