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21 minutes | a month ago
S2E1 Welcome to Womanhood
Being a woman in this world brings challenges. Susan wanted to prepare her daughter Nikole for those challenges in the best way possible. So she invited several of her closest friends to a non-religious ceremony and asked them to present Nikole with some of the things that had supported them in their own lives. Notes: Susan Burgess-Lent Susan's Book: Trouble Ahead: Dangerous Missions with Desperate People Music by Terry Hughes ------ Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony ------ Full Transcript Burgess-Lent: I think that's the key is you have to decide, "Okay, this is a milestone." And we can do it fast and furiously. We can plan it out. But either way, the marking of the experience is what counts and the community that forms around that discovery, that realization, is really valuable, especially for women. In her book "Circle of Stones", author Judith Duerk asks, "How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you to go to be with your mother, with your sisters and aunts, with your grandmothers, and the great- and great-great-grandmothers, a place of women to go, to be, to return to, as a woman. How might your life have been different?" This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome, welcome to the second season of Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. I am so glad you've come back to join us for season 2, and if you're new to the show, welcome! I'm especially happy to have you here today because this season we will begin to branch out and talk about rites of passage people have created for events beyond weddings. Weddings are amazing, don't get me wrong, but there are many more life transitions that we can honor with ceremony. We're going to start off today with the life transition that probably comes most readily to mind when I say the words rites of passage. Today we will meet Susan Burgess-Lent and her daughter Nikole Lent. Susan and NiKole will tell us about their welcome to womanhood ceremony, the one that Susan created when Nikole turned 16. The setting for the ceremony was their home to which Susan invited her closest women friends to bring a symbolic gift to honor her daughter. The ceremony was 17 years ago, but you can hear how it is still an important part of their lives today. Thomas: Susan, I wanted to start with you and ask you what inspired you to create the Welcome to Womanhood ceremony for Nikole. Burgess-Lent: It was a process. I think I was discovering what it meant to be a woman more profoundly at the time than I had before. And when we had Nikole, I decided that my purpose was to raise a competent and compassionate human being. And I realized that at the same time, she'd also be kind of a captive of her gender. There were bad things that would happen because that's what happens to women. And much to my grief, I couldn't prevent them. And so, you know, this was an initiation into another level of the sisterhood. You know, my generation dealt with a lot more... we were more thoroughly indoctrinated into deference. I didn't want that passed on to my daughter. So, you know, and I think also her struggle during her early teen years exhausted both of us. And I wanted to celebrate the end of that, as well as this new phase that she'd come into that seemed somehow more grounded. Thomas: Wow. And what background did you have with ritual at that time, Susan? Burgess-Lent: Not a lot beyond, you know, the usual holiday things and birthday celebrations that... the normal ones that we have. But I also felt that some kind of maybe subconscious need to translate the more religiously oriented rituals that I had grown up with into something that was secular and to the point of providing Nikole with some real tools. Thomas: And can you put into words the kind of tools you wanted to provide her with? Burgess-Lent: I think that it was that first of all, that there were a whole lot of women out there who come before her, who knew the path had suffered many of them, some of the things that would happen to her and got through it and figured out what to do next. Plus their gifts were... were sort of iconic, you know things to carry, things to wear, things to listen to, that had provided some support for them in their lives. And I I feel like the ceremony had as much impact on them, as it might have had on Nikole. I asked Susan and Nikole to take a step back for a moment and describe what happened in the ceremony. Burgess-Lent: Nikole, do you want to do that, or should I? Lent: You can go ahead. Burgess-Lent: Well, okay. I had invited my women friends. I had a circle of about 10 women or so. And I told them that I wanted them to share with Nikole, the wisdom that they had acquired over the years being a woman. And that if they wanted to bring some gift, it would be in the form of something that was symbolic. And they could read a poem, or they could play some music, or they could dance or they could have an object, it didn't matter. I left it up to them. Thomas: And what were some of the gifts that showed up? Lent: I can speak to that, because I still have many of them. [LAUGHS] One was this gorgeous woven, very intricately woven, basket that our friend had made by hand. And I've used it for so many things over the years and it's held strong for... yeah, pretty much like 15-17 years at this at this point. Susan: Yeah. Lent: And it's like a... it's just a gorgeous bag that I've used for produce when I'm at the farmers market and carrying important... I've like kept precious items in it. And it was... it's just sturdy and very... Like it... it looks like she had spent hours on it. But I think she was, you know, adept in these weaving skills. So maybe it was... it was very thoughtful. And another friend gave me Joni Mitchell's album "Blue" which I love and I've listened to like in times of heartbreak and in times of you know, just the... she's... She wrote a card that said something like, "These songs are tattoos on my soul and have been with me for like, you know, profound moments in my life. And I hope that they can be there for you the way that they worked for me." And I listened... that album was like... it was like a friend to lean on. And then another friend made this beautiful... she's a mosaic tile and glass artist and she made this... a mirror that was like specifically crafted and tailored towards like a young, kind of like angsty teenager artsy vibe. [LAUGHS]. But that I loved and that I had in my room. And I forget which... Another friend had made... she did a painting of like, it was an image of a woman that was kind of in transition that I had in my room for a long time. And there was also the crown... I wore a crown, like, it was like kind of a bramble and with flowers, you know, while I was in the middle of this ceremony, and that... It just felt like an honor to be celebrated and cherished, and that was a symbol of that. Those are some of the gifts that I can think of there... I am sure there's more but, you know, it's been some time. But a lot of good stuff. A lot of precious, thoughtful, deliberate offerings. Thomas: Wow, that sounds amazing. It sounds like the people who showed up really had prepared and were really fully present with you. Lent: Yeah, everyone seemed to take it very seriously. And it... you know, it was light and we had we had... we enjoyed ourselves and we had, you know, some... a nice breakfast and... But yeah, everyone... like it was like the experience of transition into womanhood was something that everyone present took very seriously. Thomas: Was it something that you talked with your friends about afterward? Lent: I did. And I was the only person that I knew that had had something like that aside from, you know, friends that had ceremonies related to religion or cultural background, be it a bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah, quinceañera or things of that nature. But as far as like a non-religious based rite of passage ceremony, I was the only person that I knew that had experienced such a thing. So my friends are really curious and excited and intrigued by that. We'll be right back. If you value what you hear on the show, you can become part of the Shame Piñata community by getting on the mailing list for all the upcoming events and news and don't forget to subscribe to the show in your favorite pod player if you haven't already. [Music] Thomas: We spoke a little bit about this before, but I'm curious if you can say more about how... well the broad question is how did the ritual change you, but specifically, I'm curious how, how it changed your relationship with ritual, if at all? Lent: I think just the importance and significance of getting women friends together for me personally is really profound. And at one point, I was in a fashion collective and we... One day, I was just like, you know, "It'd be really... I'd love to just go somewhere where I could scream and not be heard. That would be nice. Do you guys want to go to the top of a mountain and just scream if you need to and..." We had other like sage burnings and four directions... just release ceremonies or spreading ashes of friends that had passed. These things became a regular activity in my life. And I think that... having... ritual being a thing that was important to me in my teenage years, like, carried on into my adult years and still is important to me. Thomas: Same question to you, Susan. How did your relationship with ritual change, if at all, after the ceremony? Burgess-Lent: Well, I took it very seriously that this sort of thing ought to be incorporated in many more ways in our lives. I spent a lot of time in Africa and I know that the sense about rituals of all kinds was a really important part of lives. And it was both a pause and a reset that said, okay, we have something to celebrate, to grieve, to whatever it was... There was a whole way of doing it that honored the community, not just women but men and women together. And I felt that rituals that women can have in particular around major events. Certainly a birth... welcoming... you know, the transition to womanhood, motherhood, menopause, all of those things. We have some ceremonies, and I'm not sure that I qualify a baby shower as a ceremony, but it sort of is. And these are major points of change in a woman's life and gathering more women together just makes it better. Thomas: [LAUGHS] Yeah. I'm curious, Susan, from your perspective, did the ceremony 17 years ago changed Nikole in any way? Burgess-Lent: Oh, I'm sure it had an impact. I think the thing that I noticed right away is that she seemed to begin to take herself more seriously as a woman. And I felt that, you know, she's become, partly because of the support around the issue of being a good human being, she's become a really extraordinary individual who is in intelligent, beautiful and fierce - in particular about what she thinks is fair and right. And all those things are honored when you say, "these are the values that matter in the world... in our world, in our women's lives." And taking yourself seriously on that is real big deal. Thomas: Is that something you were aware of, Nikole? Lent: I think it, it felt nice to be taken seriously, at that ritual. Like it felt like I was being taken seriously so it seems natural that I would shift into feeling in my power, having women acknowledge what a powerful, you know, moment of transition, this is for you... You don't get that... I wasn't getting that in school. [LAUGHS] I was getting a very different way, which is not always welcome. Having that acknowledged by, you know, elder women who I respected along with... accompanied by wisdom that was helpful... definitely was encouraging to step into my power, I would say. Thomas: That's wonderful. And that's a such an intense time, such a potent time to be given... shown that mirror and welcome to stepping into our own power. So what advice would you both have for somebody who is considering maybe doing this for their child, a coming of age sort of ceremony? Burgess-Lent: Well, I would say that you have to start wherever it is you are. You know, you... you don't have to be elaborate. You just have to be honest and creative. Do what works for you. And really, there's wonderful research all over the place about, you know, customs for women. Some of them aren't so good but the ones that are have, you know, objects and scents and foods, and you can integrate a whole lot of things in this. I think we did have cake, [LAUGHS] and some others. But I can't recall now. It's all it's a total sensory, if you want it to be. Thomas: How about you, Nikole, any thoughts on advice for someone considering creating one? Lent: Yeah, I would say, I was thinking along the same lines of just making sure you meet your child where they're at. Like, you know, tailoring it specifically to who they are like it... you have to get to know get to know what your, what your child is into, and what things might appeal to them and, and that will kind of guide you in how to arrange something like this so that it's not, like a scary, terrifying... it's an inviting thing to be a part of. Like, I was I felt comfortable and like it was like something to look forward to and something I was excited to participate in. And I think it was important, like, you know, we talked about maybe, wouldn't it be nice if we had some of my friends my age there. But I think for me, the powerful element in it was that I was being welcomed to womanhood by elders. And that was a unique experience for me that stands out is just having women that have lived it that can share about it and and have fun with it. Like it should be a fun thing. [LAUGHS] Burgess-Lent: Yeah, most of all should be fun. Yeah, I do remember that little crown it was it was grapevines intertwined with flowers, as I recall, and you looked so cute in it. Lent: But on a final note... that it's... I just want to emphasize how important I feel that rituals and ceremonies marking rites of passage are in this day and age. I feel like it's becoming even more important with just like how time moves more quickly and rapidly with technology especially having just those moments where you celebrate and honor like, wow, this is a major pivotal life thing. And it's gonna go by really quick. And let's take a moment to just honor this together. I think that's really important. Thomas: I do too. I think you said it very well. Thank you for saying that. [LAUGHS] Lent: Yeah. Burgess-Lent: Thanks for inviting us to re... re visit the time and the thoughts that went with it. If there is a young person in your life who is approaching a coming of age milestone, there are so many resources that can support you in creating a religious or non-religious ceremony to mark that transition. I hope that Susan and Nikole's story has widened your ideas about what that could look like. And if listening to this story brought up any sadness about missing an opportunity to celebrate coming of age for yourself or someone else, know that ritual transcends space and time and it's 100% possible to create retroactive rituals. We'll talk more about those this season too. Susan Burgess-Lent is a veteran international aid worker, warrior for women’s rights, author, mentor, and public speaker. She is Founder and Executive Director of Women’s Center’s International, an Oakland-based non-profit that creates safe resource centers for women affected by conflict and poverty. Nikole Lent is studying to become a trauma-informed substance abuse counselor. Pre-pandemic, Nikole worked as a Chef for musicians and events. Nikole is passionate about dance, comedy and performance art. Our music is by Terry Hughes. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast player to make sure you're notified when new episodes are released. Learn more at shamepinata.com. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
1 minutes | a month ago
S2 Mini Trailer
On Season 2 of Shame Piñata, we'll dive into what it looks like to create rituals for the important moments in our lives. Music by Terry Hughes Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Transcript I’m Colleen Thomas. I help people make sense of life through ceremony. On Season 2 of Shame Piñata, we'll dive into what it looks like to create rituals for the important moments in our lives. Lent: The experience of transition into womanhood was something that everyone present took very seriously. Thom: But there was so much variety and people were totally involved. So you weren't just watching. It was like, you were in it. Find us on favorite player or go to shamepiñata.com to learn more.
2 minutes | a month ago
S2 Trailer New Beginnings
On the second season of Shame Piñata, we explore rites of passage for real-life transitions such as reaching a certain age, facing a significant loss, receiving a diagnosis, or choosing to reveal our true selves to the people we love. Music by Terry Hughes. Links: Be sure to catch up on Season 1 as well! Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript Four of my closest friends watched from their computer screens as I put on a small pile of t-shirts, each one on top of the other. Before putting on each shirt, I read aloud the words I had painstakingly written on the fabric with a ballpoint pen. Words of grief. Words of loss. Words of shame. [MUSIC] The thing about shame is that it thrives on secrecy. So I'd created this ceremony to share it in a safe space, to expose the shame and take some of its power away. Putting all those t-shirts on felt awful. But it was an important beginning of the ceremony that ultimately freed me. I’m Colleen Thomas. I'm a ritual artist and I help people make sense of life through ceremony. This is Shame Piñata. It can be difficult to keep going through the hard times, but the good news is that as human beings, we are so amazingly creative. We can reframe major life changes as initiations and we can do it on our own terms. Lent: The experience of transition into womanhood was something that everyone present took very seriously. It just felt, like, an honor to be celebrated and cherished. Venegoni: A ritual passage ceremony I wish I could have had would be something along the lines of a coming out ceremony. You know, I think that for so many queer people that not only is it not honored, but it's something to be ashamed of or to hide. Taylor: I didn't die. I survived. And I really do... from the ancestral work that I've done in my life... time is not linear in that world. Like, time is a spiral. It's past. It's present. It's future all at once. And so the healing that I did on that day and continue to do ripples back to my Ancestors. On Season 2 of Shame Piñata, join me to explore how to honor each change as a new beginning. Episode 1 launches on February 5. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Radio Public or go to shamepiñata.com to learn more.
15 minutes | 3 months ago
S1E17 Dancing in Liminality
What if I told you that it's possible to find grace and flow in the middle of chaos? What if I said you could learn how to dance in liminal space and be a rock star, a liminal kind of rockstar. It's all about releasing expectation and connecting to the things that matter the most. Music by Terry Hughes Links: S1E9 COVID-19 A Ritual for Flow Upside Down & Inside Out OK Go - Upside Down & Inside Out BTS - How We Did It Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript We're nearing the end of the year. It's been 9-12 months in the COVID space, depending on what part of the world you're in. And we're not done. What if I told you that it's possible to find grace and flow in the middle of chaos? What if I said you could learn how to dance in liminal space and be a rock star, a liminal kind of rockstar. It's all about releasing expectation and connecting to the things that matter the most. This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. I've been thinking a lot lately about peace and grace and COVID sanity. I was struck by something I heard from recently from Dietician and Chef Alicia Connor. She said, "Let go of the past. Accept the now. Hang tight." There's so much wisdom in that. Because we can't go back. Even though we might be wishing with every fiber of our being for restrictions to be lifted and life to go back to normal, really, there's no going back. We've come so far in this weird COVID journey that we know things will never be the same. They'll just be new and different at best. Today we're going to break down Alicia's statement and spend some time reflecting on each part of it. We'll look at what letting go can mean, both in terms of COVID and in terms of regular life. We'll explore the now, with all of its discomfort and liminality. And we'll talk about what hanging tight in the strangeness of that now can be like, and how we can find our balance there. As we move toward the end of the calendar year and those of us in the northern hemisphere deepen into the winter season, the stage is set to support us in a natural process of letting go. Winter is a wonderful teacher for rest and hibernation, releasing what's ready to fall away with the leaves and rest beneath the snow. At the same time the winter holidays focus us on light, life and connection, the earth grows quiet. If we create some time to sit in the quiet, maybe even in the darkness which begins so early now, and notice what's ready to be released, we may find old things, old beliefs, old hurts, hard feelings that are still hanging around from old relationships, bits and bobs we haven't forgiven others for (or forgiven ourselves for). And we might even find some deeper things like old blankets of shame we've walked around in for years, or things we've carried that maybe aren’t even ours. Letting go can mean many things. Letting go can mean honoring ourselves for holding these things, honoring the people at the other end of cords, grudges or miscommunications. Letting go can mean laying some things down, letting them drop into the earth. Releasing attachments. It can also mean releasing expectations. Expectations for a return to normalcy, expectations for simple answers to the complexity of our world today. It can mean allowing the mandala of this moment to exist, all things existing at the same time in the same place. Happy things, joyful things, sad things, heart-wrenching things... all woven together as part of the whole. Letting go is important for our mental health, our nervous systems, and our basic ability to cope with change. Releasing any rigidity in our body, our mind, and our heart can help us soften and flow with what actually is. But as we've been exploring this season on Shame Piñata, being in the now is not always comfortable or fun or even doable. We may find, when we try to quiet our mind or body that we're quickly distracted by thoughts or sensations. Similar distractions may pop up when we learn of some new scary fact or hear a hard story. Our nervous systems protect us. It strives to keep us in balance and to block out overwhelm, at least mine does. Sometimes if something is just too much, or there's been too much intensity for too long, I kind of leave the room. My eyes glaze over. The person I'm with knows I'm not really listening anymore. I'm just beyond my tolerance level at that moment. This is normal. Especially now. I'd love it if we could give ourselves permission, and give others around us permission, to stop for a moment when we pop a nervous system fuse and take a break. Maybe take a breath. Because resistance to overwhelm is actually a healthy and sane response to a crazy situation. The thing about the now is that it's sort of timeless, right? It's "this now moment", which makes it both a single moment and all time and space at once. How do we make sense of a long string of "this now moments"? We can get kind of lost. It all can become sort of gelatinous. Most of us are used to a schedule or a rhythm of events.... this could be daily... this could be annual. We're used to making sense of things through life rhythms. Summer travel plans, weekly health routines, a daily schedule of meeting or other events. Liminality itself can be kind of brutal. Marking time, floating... it's almost like we're treading water while we hang out waiting to see how things will land. I was thinking about navigating liminality and an image popped in my head from a music video by the band OKGO. Stick with me here because I know this is a bit of a jump. If you haven't seen the OKGO video for Upside Down & Inside Out, you need to. Not only because it will help illustrate my point, but also because it's an amazing video. It's the only music video I've ever seen that was filmed in zero gravity, excepting of course Commander Chris Hadfield singing Space Oddity on the International Space Station. When I think of liminality, I see the OKGO band members swimming around the inside of a plane as it flies in parabolas in the skies over Moscow. The video was filmed on a jet plane that was flying up and down in great sweeps called parabolas. Each parabola gave the band 27 seconds of weightlessness to perform a piece of their zero g choreography. They filmed the video in one take as the plane completed 8 parabolas, pausing in place in between weightless peaks and then cutting out the paused sections. The video was directed by lead singer Damian Kulash and his sister Trish Sie. In one of the many behind the scenes videos, the two spoke about the process the band went through in learning to move around in a zero gravity environment. Damian said, "Most people's response to weightlessness is just to start swimming," to which Trish added, "It takes some time to train your body not to flail around. Kicking and paddling when you're in the air is not the same as kicking and paddling in water. You just look panicked." And there are many frames of the band members kicking and flailing around, looking pretty uncomfortable in their first test flights. But by the time they filmed the video, they had found their way around and learned how to glide here or push off that thing to head over there. They were doing complex choreography in periods which bridged the divide from double gravity into weightlessness. They moved almost as efficiently as the aerial dancers they brought in as flight attendants. I share this image with you to illustrate that it takes some time to find our grace and flow in liminality. We're not born to it. We're used the reliable gravity of our everyday lives. When that basic force is gone, we can feel lost within the task of simply moving from point A to point B. But once we get it, we can do it. We can even find grace in liminality. And as song says, "Gravity's just a habit that you're pretty sure you can't break." So here we are hanging tight. In this moment. And now in this moment. How can we support ourselves in keeping on going as the moments go by? Here's a simple ritual sketch you might try out and adapt in any way that support your current situation. So first we might take a deep breath and sit with the concept of centering. What does centering feel like today? What is center? Where is center? And then we might ground down into the earth and allow our bodies to land and quiet a bit. As we sit in the stillness, we can begin to notice any energetic cords we are connected to, cords that others may have placed on us, cords we may have put out into the world to keep track of things or to keep our balance. Things we love. Things we fear. Things we're attached to. We can notice those and let them dissolve, connecting instead to ourselves and to the earth, growing a bit heavier as we connect again down. Amongst the cords we may find expectations or attachments to outcomes. Rigid expectations we might have for ourselves or for others. Rigidity. Need. Attachment. We can play with releasing those, just play, and see what it feels like to be floating safely in the now. Then we might call to mind a place where we feel safe and good. Maybe a place we've been, or a place we've seen pictures of. A place where there are no worries. A place where we can vision and dream for a bit. And in this place we can ask ourselves, "What's important? What do I know in my core? What's one thing that really matters to me?" and see what comes. And as images arise, we can quietly let them wash over us. Things we love. Things that matter. Things that define us because of our unwavering connection to them. Timeless things. True things. Core things. And we can welcome these things into our consciousness and thank them for being part of our life and our heart. And then we might make sure we're still connected to the good earth, take a few deep breaths, and return to the room where we can do some journaling about how to create more connection to those things on a daily basis. How to let them become our anchors during this floaty, liminal time while we're still paddling around in zero gravity. We can't go back. And there's no forward to go to yet. So for now, we wait. And we float, and we Zoom, and we knit or bake, and wash our hands, and wear masks and make thoughtful choices. There's kind of really just the now. There is simultaneously no return to what was, to the life we had before COVID, and no next life yet. Let go of the past. Accept the now. Hang tight. Our music is by Terry Hughes. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast player to make sure you're notified when new episodes are released. Learn more at shamepinata.com. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
24 minutes | 4 months ago
S1E16 Inviting Grief to the Wedding (Tria Chang)
It's the big day and there's a lot going on. Relationships are being redefined. Power dynamics are actively shifting and yet, in the words of wedding planner Tria Chang, "It's taboo to acknowledge or to express anything but joy." What would it look like to make room for some of the more complex emotions? To let everyone acknowledge the effect a wedding has on their unique relationship to the couple? Music by Terry Hughes Links: A Joyful Wedding Can Still Make Room for Grief The Cosmic Mass What is Creation Spirituality Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript Chang: I was actually talking to a young woman the other day who is thinking about becoming a wedding planner. And she had one hesitation, she asked me, “I heard that people act irrational and crazy on wedding days, is that true?” And I had to be honest with her and tell her it's partly true. People behave in ways that seem bizarre and irrational on wedding days, but if you really strip away what's happening, to me it makes perfect sense the ways that they're acting out. So it's the big day and there's a lot going on. Relationships are being redefined. Power dynamics are actively shifting and yet it’s taboo to feel anything but joy. What would it look like to make room for some of the more complex emotions? To acknowledge the effect a wedding has on their unique relationship everyone has with the couple? This is Shame Piñata. I'm Colleen Thomas. I'm so happy to welcome Tria Chang and her wisdom back on today’s show. Tria and I met last year when she was in the process of planning her second wedding. She was working through a rich and complicated experience of weddings, being a former wedding planner who had participated in over 100 ceremonies and who had gone through a divorce during those years. As she looked ahead to her second wedding, she wanted to create a unique ceremony that was a perfect fit for herself and her partner. At the time we met, I shared with Tria some of the details of my own wedding, specifically how it was designed to make room for all of the feelings, both happy and other. Weddings bring up a myriad of feelings and yet we're taught that there is only room for joy on the day. There's no above-board acknowledgment of how the new union will shift the family dynamics or sometimes push friendships to the back seat. We are not encouraged to sit down and have meaningful conversations about these things with our friends and family, about how the new union will change things for everyone. And when something is not brought into the light or given room for expression, it can take on a life of its own. Think people behaving irrationally at weddings. Think Bridezillas. Shortly after that first interview, Tria and I sat down again to explore what all is happening at a wedding - the many people, the many perspectives, the many feelings. The big mash-up of everything happening at once and the things that may not get acknowledged. We typically think about the couple when we think of a wedding, but there are so many more people involved and each person brings their own perspective, expectations, and life experiences to that day. There's the couple, their parents and siblings and maybe even children, their friends and family who make up the wedding party, and the guests. In addition to people we could look around the room and see, there are also invisible forces that can influence the day. There's that phenomenon I call the female legacy, which women can be acutely attuned to by the mere fact that marriage has been a survival tool for women historically. I'm not sure how else to describe it other than to say weddings can be heavier for women. There also may be some acute losses going on, such as the loss of a father to give the bride away or the loss of a close friend missed by the entire community. And there's often this idea that it all happens in one moment, there's this wedding, and it happens in a day and boom, you're married and it's all transitions are finished. Chang: To add the behind the scenes perspective even for the vendors, for most of the weddings that I planned, there were at least 8-12 different vendors working on things. And each of those vendors come in with their own goals and agendas. So for example, the makeup artist will of course be wanting to make the bride look beautiful because it's her day, but she also has her portfolio to think about. So she'll be wanting the photographer to get certain shots of the hair and makeup, be sending that to her or be recording it for herself for her own social media or website. The photographer's obviously working on a portfolio as well and they want to get a certain type of shot that can help them get on wedding blogs or gain the trust of other clients. And the planner or stylist has a certain look that they're trying to achieve so that they can also show their best work in their portfolio and attract future clients too. So there are a lot of desires going on on a wedding day, not just the personal, also the professional. And then there is that feeling of transition, as you said, and transitions don't happen in one moment that you're not a completely different person right after you have the ring on or right after you kiss. It's just part of the process. So there is a lot going on in the wedding day, and that you're supposed to pack all of these things in, and you're supposed to be thrilled about it the whole time. So everyone is really supposed to be on their best behavior, and it doesn't usually turn out that way. Thomas: Right. And we've had quite a few conversations about the other feelings, the feelings that are harder maybe, the feelings that don't fit in the pretty package, the feelings that we're not allowed to have at a wedding, they get discouraged, and maybe the even the unconscious losses that folks aren't even aware that they're feeling. What tensions have you seen come up at weddings? Chang: Yeah, there have been a lot of tensions that come up, I think the most common one I've seen is usually between the couple and their parents. So sometimes there are mothers of the bride who are feeling protective, or like they don't really want to let go. So they start trying to control small things like the way the bride is getting her makeup done, or trying to change menu items last minute. It can really come out in ways that seem unrelated, but are just things that catch their attention and show them a way of having more control in that moment. I also had a client who… they were a slightly older couple and so they didn't have their parents involved in the planning at all. And when the mother of the groom showed up to the ceremony site, which was an art gallery, she was furious. She just hated the venue. She thought it was so ugly and she told me, “These pictures on the wall, they're awful. They have to go. There aren't enough flowers!” And, you know, in an art gallery you can't change the display. It's off-limits. We did end up moving some flowers around for her. And she didn't like the concrete floor which was part of the modernist look. But I talked to the bride and groom and told them I think it would really help her if she could have some say. And so they were comfortable with us putting down an aisle runner, so at least having something cloth for them to walk down - f or whatever reason that became important to her in that moment. Thomas: Right. And would you say that with a lot of these people, that these attempts to regain a little bit of control, feeling uncomfortable, that it was unconscious? Chang: Yes, I definitely think it was unconscious, I think they were really focused on that tangible thing. Because that seemed rational to them that seemed like something they could handle. Whereas going within and taking those steps inside and recognizing I'm losing my son or my daughter in these small ways. That's a really daunting thing to look at. And you don't really want to look at that on a wedding day, because what if it breaks you? What if you break down and end up inconsolable? You don't want to be that person at a wedding. You want to be supportive and joyful. So yes, I definitely saw a lot of unconscious outbursts at things that were probably not the real problem. But after those outbursts, people did seem to be able to feel a little bit better or maybe they felt a little embarrassed about how they acted and were able to let go and get into the joy of it more. Thomas: How do you think it would have been different for those in those situations, if the couple had said, "We don't want you to hold it together. We want you to just be here and have all your feelings." Chang: I like that idea a lot. But I've also seen the dynamics between parents and their children can be so hard to change that even if their children tell them, “Be yourself, let go,” if that's not their personality, I'm not sure they would be able to do that. But maybe even just having that permission would have felt good. It's hard to say. Thomas: Right. Tria wrote an article for the Washington Post about the wedding my husband and I created, specifically how we worked in a section for grieving. To explain how our wedding came about, I need to take you back 20 years. In the year 2000, I moved to California to attend Matthew Fox's graduate program in Creation Spirituality. Fox is often described as a renegade theologian and it was his unique event called the Techno Cosmic Mass that drew me to his school. The Techno Cosmic Mass, or Cosmic Mass as it is now called, is a multimedia rave-like community worship experience that brings prayer and devotion off the pages of the hymnal and into the soles of the feet. During my years in school I attended almost every mass. One thing I didn't know was that my future husband was also attending those events. But we wouldn't even meet each other for another 5 years when the masses were no longer being produced. So we met. And then 10 years later, we decided to get married and began considering what kind of ceremony might be a good fit for us. We were actually kind of stuck because we come from different traditions and nothing seemed to come organically. But as synchronicity would have it, Matthew Fox and his team began producing the Cosmic Mass again right around that time. And on a Sunday night, in a room full of people sweating their prayers under flashing dance lights we realized we found it - we'd found the way we wanted to get married. We were going to create the first ever Techno Cosmic Wedding. The structure of the Cosmic Mass follows the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality. To give you some context, the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality are: The Via Positiva, a time of joy, awe and wonder; the Via Negativa, a time of darkness, letting go, and grieving; the Via Creativa, honoring ourselves as divinely creative beings; and lastly the Via Transformativa, a time of preparing ourselves to go forward as spiritual warriors. While we structured the entire wedding on these four paths, it was the Via Negativa that was most unusual to have in a wedding. Matthew Fox defines the Via Negativa as "a time of communal grieving for the suffering of the planet and all beings." Here's how Tria described the Via Negativa section of our wedding ceremony in her article: "The room was dimly lit. Wedding guests were seated on the floor, eyes closed, some crying, some reaching out in comfort. Bodies swayed gently to a melancholic chorus, and a woman’s voice crescendoed with emotion... The speaker invited guests to summon feelings of loss - whether those be for the loss of loved ones, of faith, of youth, of passion - and to embrace feelings of fear, for the world or for themselves." It was important for us to include time for these harder emotions in our wedding ceremony because we wanted to make room for our full selves to show up both at the wedding in the marriage. Thomas: And we've spent some time too talking about the idea of the Via Negativa which comes from the wedding that my husband and I had where we actually had a section of the wedding dedicated to grieving and we've talked about how that was very unusual. Chang: Yes, and wonderful, I think. Thomas: And you and your fiancé are planning something a little bit like that for your second wedding. Chang: Yes, so we have such a small wedding and I think our guests tend to be on the more conventional side. So instead of having it at the actual wedding and having an orchestrated section of going through Via Negativa like you did, we've been spreading it out over the months leading up to the wedding, and we plan to continue making space for it after the wedding even in the years to come. Because I think it's important to realize that negative feelings, especially grief, they don't go away after one session. They can't be addressed very quickly. But if you make space for them in an ongoing way, I think it makes it easier to make joy the forefront of a certain day, in this case the wedding day. So what we've been doing is having conversations with people close to us and asking them what kind of fears they might have about how our relationship going forward might be or any fears for us as a couple, or just anything on their mind really that may be different from the regular congratulations. And then inspired by you and Rodrigo, my fiancé and I did our own kind of private Via Negativa with the two of us. We did it last week and we lit candles and turned off the lights and played some music and then I asked us to write down in a notebook all the things that we were scared about or nervous about for the wedding day. And then all of the things that made us have those fear feelings for marriage in general. And so we wrote for a little while and then we took turns sharing things and it lasted about two hours actually. We really got to talk about a lot of things. Anything from just where would we spend Christmases, like which family gets us at which time of year, to how will the dynamic change when we have children, and what will happen if, you know, one of our parents passes away, how will we take care of the other one? So we really covered a lot of ground and I think felt a lot better afterwards. But we also recognize it's a conversation that will continue. And then we had a special song to us and did the eye contact for a while to kind of let it all settle in. Thomas: That's wonderful. That's so wonderful. Chang: Yeah. Thomas: So you've really laid the groundwork, then for yourself, each of you individually plus you as a couple plus the people in your life, to have space to share any fears, any, any worries... Chang: Yes, yeah. Because we are both at a point in our lives where we recognize marriage is difficult, because life is difficult and you're attaching yourself to someone else's life. So you will get all their difficulties plus all your difficulties. And that is something to celebrate, because you'll have someone with you, but it's also something to be a little bit nervous about and having space for all of that really feels a lot better. And I do have you to thank for that because it kind of didn't click for me until I saw your wedding ceremony from the video you showed me. And seeing that Via Negativa and seeing the space you made made me realize that was what was missing in my wedding planning. Because I had been going to a bit of therapy and trying to deal with my own feelings of worry because I was married before and it didn't work out. And so I knew I had to do this second wedding and marriage differently. But I wasn't quite sure how. So seeing your experience really helped me. I asked Tria how she worked with couples around the loss of a loved one at the wedding. Chang: With acute losses, or grief in general, that can be a really difficult thing to handle at a wedding because, as we talked about, a wedding is supposed to be all joy and it feels scary to invite something in that will bring you grief and sadness. But sometimes people are important to us and when they're not there, to kind of brush it under the rug, it doesn't really feel real. So I think, in some ways, it could be interesting to expand what happens at a wedding to include some of the things that happen at a memorial or a grief ritual. So we can look to other cultures, for example, like the Day of the Dead. You know, they have these beautiful altars and flowers and favorite foods of that loved one, and they really presence them. And at most weddings I've been to where they've lost a loved one, they either have a line about them in the program or a picture or two kind of on a shelf in a corner that you can easily bypass if you want to. And they are honoring them, but they're making it really kind of optional and something that's easy to ignore if you're not comfortable with that. But it could be really lovely to actually invite that deceased loved one in and really have them there with a favorite food or some tradition that they loved. At my little wedding ceremony, we are having our... instead of place cards with people's names, we're writing cards to everyone with our heartfelt sentiments to them and we're writing them on watercolor painted envelopes and cards. And my mom was a watercolor artist and a lot of weekends, we would spend painting big sheets of watercolor together and then cutting out envelopes. And in those days, people used to mail each other letters often. So we would use those envelopes. So I had my fiancé make these envelopes with me and I really felt her there with me. And he's never met my mom so it was a great way for me to introduce her to him and show him this is how I would spend my weekends with my mom. And I know that having those envelopes there on the day, it's small, it's not going to be very distracting for people who didn't know her. But I will make a mention of the meaning that they have to me. And I think I'll feel her there more in that way. Thomas: Hmm, that's a really beautiful way of including her. As the interview came to a close, Tria and I touched on inclusivity at the wedding, how to include everyone even in a small ceremony. Chang: We are actually having a very casual meetup at a cafe, the week after our wedding ceremony for all of those friends of ours who we didn't feel like we could accommodate at the ceremony because it's so small, but who we still wanted to celebrate with in some way. So we're just having some snacks at a cafe and a tarot card reader and a watercolor portrait artist. And that’s pretty much it we're just gonna hang out. For me, I'm so... I think I have a caregiving aspect to my personality that I have not been able to shake. So when I think about holding an event for people, I literally think of it from every single person's perspective and think of how to make it comfortable for them. So we're having 25 people at our wedding. And that's, you know, me thinking through the day 25 times and that seemed like my limit. I feel like I don't want to think through this in 125 ways, just 25. That's all I can manage. Thomas: Is that something that you ever recommended to your clients when you were a wedding planner? Chang: Oh, no. That's just a problem that I have. I don't recommend it at all. Yeah, I've even tried to imagine for my two year old niece, like, okay, she's gonna get bored around this time. So I'm like... put Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes on our playlist for the wedding. Like, make sure to have something for everybody. Thomas: Oh, wow. That is super personalized Chang: A little kid playlist just for the cute little ones. Thomas: That’s so wonderful. Well, thank you so much for your inspiration and for sharing your story of your, your second wedding, and all that you're learning and doing and experiencing and all that you bring from everything you've done before. Chang: Thank you as well and, to use your term, for holding space for all of these conversations. And I think that there is such an automatic track that people get on when they wedding plan so I hope that hearing stories on your podcast will help people realize they don't have to follow an automatic track. They can do it as they want to. They can have a Via Negativa if they want to. Thomas: They can! Thank you so much for joining us today for this conversation about making room for all of the emotions on the wedding day. To hear more in Tria's wonderful written words, check out her piece entitled, “A Joyful Wedding Can Still Make Room for Grief” listfed in the show notes. While you're there, check out some footage of the Cosmic Mass on the Cosmic Mass website. Tria Chang is a writer and organizer. Follow her on Instagram @tria_chang. Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you got something out of this episode, please share it with a friend. Learn more at shamepinata.com. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
13 minutes | 5 months ago
S1E15 Deep Rest
What does your body need in order to rest fully? What does your heart need to soften a bit? What would it feel like to rest - not with one ear out for the next crisis - but actually fully rest? Basic Steps of a Ritual for Deep Rest 1. Set aside concerns 2. Nest building 3. Set an intention 4. Invite guides/guardians/Ancestors 5. Rest in the space 6. Listen in the space 7. Return slowly 8. Have some water Music by Terry Hughes Links: Reparations for Black People Should Include Rest Black Power Naps ----------- Full Transcript My coworker described how she spent some of her time this past summer. She said she just needed to be on the beach staring at the water. So she did that, while her kids built sand castles and looked for shells. She sat there for several days, just slowing down and doing nothing. Listening to her words, I realized I'd done my summer break completely wrong! Life is super dynamic right now. There's never a dull moment from the election on the horizon to health issues, natural disasters and a huge leap forward in social justice. How can we be our best? How can we show up as fully as possible? Maybe resting is part of the picture. Not resting with one ear out for the next crisis, but just fully resting. This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. Today we're going to talk about resting deeply. Like, actually letting go for a whole series of minutes. Putting the world on pause. Putting the phone on do not disturb. Noticing any aversions we might have to letting go and actually doing it. We'll talk about why rest matters, why we avoid it sometimes, and create ways to find out what is truly restful to us. If resting isn't a challenge for you but you know someone who's chronically on edge, please share this episode with them. So, what is the point of rest? I often find myself wondering that when I'm feeling short on time, or in crisis mode. Sleeping and even eating can seem like an awful waste of time. Why can't I just get on with it? Rest actually has several functions. It allows our body to do some basic healing without the added strain of pushing forward. It helps to create a little more space in our heads. It gives us some breathing room. And, it also allows us to process our experiences. Years ago I was checking out a graduate program in spirituality. During my first visit to campus, I asked several of the students what they wished they had known before they started. They all said hands down they wished they'd taken their time with the program, to have had more time to absorb everything on both an intellectual and a personal level. That was a huge insight for me and it turns out that they were right. That program offered some deep lessons that it would have been a shame to rush through and lose the chance to fully absorb. This wisdom on integration aligns with what I learned from my favorite yoga teacher about savasana, or corpse pose, which is often done at the very end of yoga class. He said that savasana is actually half of the yoga practice, because it allows our body to integrate the work we've just done. So without those 10 minutes of lying still on our backs on the floor, significant benefits of the class would have been lost. If resting is so great, why is it difficult sometimes? I invite you to pause for a moment and look around the space you are in. Check out the colors and shapes. Notice a few sounds. Notice your breath. Notice any tension in your body. And I invite you to take a breath that's a bit of a deeper breath than usual or maybe experiment with any wiggles or any small movements that your body might like to make in this moment, in “this now moment” (as the saying goes). Throughout this pandemic, I'm learning that “this now moment” can be a pretty uncomfortable place. The liminality, the uncertainty, the watching, the waiting... all bring challenges I've never had to deal with before. And they can be very unsettling and uncomfortable. And I think that's why rest has eluded me. Because resting is an in-the-moment thing. Deep rest, where I'm not trying to figure things out, or creating small problems as a distraction from the bigger ones, or distracting myself with excessive work or eating or television. But actually resting in “this now moment”. Alongside thinking about rest I’ve also been thinking about how to unpack my white privilege. I decided to learn about how rest is different for different people. I know that white people can have expectations of safety and comfort that are not shared by black indigenous and people of color. I found a great article by Janine Francois who researches race, racism and cultural heritage. In her 2019 piece called "Reparations for Black People Should Include Rest", she writes the following. "Time, as we know it, is a colonial invention and forms the backbone of American society, making the racial distribution of time inherent to white privilege. As whiteness dictates freedom, education, pleasure, and social mobility, have you ever wondered why so many of those considered to be our “greatest” artists or philosophers are white men? Who among us has the access to time to make “masterpieces” or to “think,” without dealing with the impacts of oppression? Racism robs us of our time to be creative, to dream or simply be." Janine goes on to share an elaborate description of her experience of the Black Power Naps exhibit at the Matadero Madrid Contemporary Art Center in Spain. Black Power Naps, created by Navild Acosta & Fannie Sosa, is a sculptural installation, vibrational device and curatorial initiative that reclaims laziness and idleness as power. I encourage you to learn more at https://blackpowernaps.black/ When I think about what kind of rest I need right now, I notice that I need different rest than normal, deeper rest than normal. With so much going on that's so heavy and important, I need extra time to process right now. I need a serious savasana. I need time to, as I call it, stare at the walls. That time needs to be very slow. So I made a list of thing that are slow and nurturing to me, things like reading, bird watching, cloudspotting. Being at the beach, being in water. Wordless time. Time in silence. Time surrounded by the music I love. At my graduate school, there was a room called The Cave. It was an interior room with no windows, and it was kept very dark. It had an altar with a few candles burning all the time and some beautiful Tibetan wall hangings. When it wasn't being used for drumming circles or meditation classes, it was available to just go sit in. I loved walking into it in the middle of the day, feeling the quiet pressing in on me. Getting lost in the dark. Sometimes I could hear a bit of conversation at the front desk, because there was a vent in the wall right there, but usually it was quiet. The Cave was the heart of the campus, because we all knew how important that deep, quiet, personal resting place was. That place where we might better hear the wisdom inside of us, that place where we could process the experiences of the day. If the first step is making a list of the things that are deeply restful, the second is to schedule time for them. I've been playing with this for a month or so and am finding it to be a rich source of self-support. So I encourage you to consider calendaring some deep rest. Maybe a half hour a day of deep rest? Another way to drop into deep rest is to use ceremony as a container. Here is a simple ritual sketch to do just that. A first step might be to make a quick list of everything we don't want to forget, everything that we need to hold onto. Make a list, honor the things we wrote down as very important and worthy of our energy, and make a conscious decision to set them aside for a while. Let them go, let them be held by something or someone. We could set the list in a box where we know it won't get blown away or lost, or even give it to a friend to hold (in real life or in our imagination). Then, when we’re ready, we might do some nesting. Gather everything that we will help our body relax completely. Pillows, blankets, cover the windows, put on some relaxing music, maybe a bath would be nice. Maybe if we have a stuffed animal, that might even be nice to hold. What feels deeply nurturing? What helps us feel safe? Then we might create sacred space or create the container in whatever way feels right to us - calling the circle, casting the circle, saying a prayer, lighting a candle - creating the container. I think with deep rest it can sometimes be helpful to have some company. We might call in a beloved Ancestor or Spirit Guide or a deity we work with. Call them in, invoke them, welcome them to the circle. And then we can rest, relax the body, do some deep breathing to balance out the hard edges, follow the flow of any emotions that arise, let ourselves drift, dream, imagine, journey. Rest in the space. Listen in the space. Allow some of that deep healing to filter up through us in the space. There is no one way to do it. There's no right way to do it. Our intuition will lead the way, allowing our breathing and our body to follow. When the music ends or we feel complete, we want to come back very gently. If we're lying on our back, we might roll to one side and lie there for a bit. Then sit up slowly and have some water and maybe journal. Just as we took time to create the space as we went in, it's really important to come out slowly. And it's also nice to thank and release anyone we called in, and then open the container. The very last thing we might do is to really honor and appreciate ourselves for having taken the time to do some deep resting. I encourage you to think about what would be most nurturing and restful to you this week. It might be nature, some kind of making or crafting, dance, movement, meditation, taking a nap in sacred space, taking a nap in regular space, anything that helps you slow down and be in the moment - your moment that you create as your "this now moment". Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you like the show, please take a minute to review it on Apple Podcasts. That’s one of the best ways we can help other people find the show. Learn more at shamepinata.com. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
19 minutes | 5 months ago
S1E14 The Programming Language of the Soul (Betty Ray)
A discussion with Betty Ray on the three phases of a rite of passage & the tools they offer us for composting our grief. Music by Terry Hughes Links: The Center for Ritual Design Betty’s talk: We Must Initiate the Young People Arnold Van Gennep Lisa Miller of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute Menarche ritual Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript Ray: And then there’s the whole midlife crisis and a porche and a girlfriend and whatever and all that, but we don’t really talk about what’s going on psychologically or spiritually. The transitions in our lives can bring up difficult feelings. It’s easy to see the lay of the land when we’re walking a straight path, but when the sidewalk ends, all kinds of confusion can come up. We may lose track of where we’re going and even start to question our values. How can ceremony help us through the transformations in our lives? Join me for a conversation with Betty Ray. This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. Today we’re going to slow it down and really look at rites of passage. Where did that term come from? What’s the anatomy of a rite of passage? And what can these ceremonies be used for? Our returning guest Betty Ray helps parents design customized ceremonies to help their youth go through a coming of age process, something that is deeply needed in American culture today. But she understands that all big transitions are worthy of the same process, whether it’s coming of age, approaching midlife, or even experiencing a significant loss. Betty and I had a conversation recently about using the rites of passage structure to design a healing ceremony. This could be any kind of healing ceremony, but I asked her how the rites of passage structure could be useful to design a ceremony for someone who had lost a child. Ray: I think the language rites of passage to me is more structural because rites of passage articulates a structure. There’s a three-part structure to rites of passage which is immutable and across all these different cultures. And that is really a benefit because that gives us a way in which we can design meaningful personalized rites of passage or healing rituals or however you want to describe it, there’s lots of ways. But I think the language around rites of passage for me has been to articulate this tripartate model which is so powerful. The first one, the first phase of totes of passage is called separation and this is from the work up in Arnold van Gennep and this was from 1909. So this guy a long time ago studied all these different cultures and found across cultures and across time and space that people were using the same three phases. And in fact, Joseph Campbell was really inspired by Van Gennep’s work and used his rites of passage work for the hero’s journey work which is amazing. Like I didn’t know that. Did you know that? My God, I was so excited about that, I was like “Oh, you’re kidding me!” That's so brilliant because it makes sense that rites of passage would make a good story. So the three steps are separation, where the initiate leaves the comforts of home. And whether that’s a young person going off to figure out who they are and discover their identity or a middle-age person who has to leave the sort of the structure that their life has become. So then the second phase is called liminality or I’ve also heard it referred to as metamorphosis and that’s the phase where once they’ve left there kind of betwixt and between as Victor Turner said. It’s this time when you don’t know what’s going to happen to you and that’s when this beautiful phase of ego death comes in. You don’t know. You die. Who you are, who you were, is no longer who you are or who you want to be. And then there’s design elements I can make liminality more or less... that’s a design challenge for those of us who want to do these. And then the reincorporation phase where the young person for the young middle/elder whoever comes back to wherever they were, to the original, you know, container and then takes what they’ve learned and bring it back to... so that they may be in their community once again. So there’s kind of a, you go off into the netherland, you go off to the wyrd world, the forest, you know, in our mythologies... all kinds of heroes journeys there. Yeah, so those three phases I feel like are really valuable as design elements. So that’s why I was talking about that. And we can talk about how to put this into someone who’s lost a child. How do we manage that, those feelings and the grief and the identity and all of the elements, the psychological elements, that go into holding that and how does one release that and reinvent themselves to be able to move forward and to not just be completely paralyzed by that loss? I think what I love about rites of passage, however you talk about them, is that they do offer tools for composting our grief, or our fear, or whatever - getting it out and turning it into something else. The transformative nature is really powerful. Thomas: What's the benefit in designing our own ceremonies? Ray: I think that our 21st century culture has become so individualized that certain kinds of rites of passage, the generic thing, just don't resonate. And so the benefit of a personalized sort of self designed DIY rite of passage or ceremony, transition ceremony, is that it can be something that is deeply meaningful to you. And I don't think these work if they're not deeply meaningful to you. So I would argue that there is no reason to do this if it isn't personalized. It's really important that it be meaningful, and that it come from a place that has such heart and meaning that it can that it does the sort of psychological lifting. When it is individualized, it's a creative process. It's really fun. It's really fun to think about what is the thing that nurtures me. It's really fun to think about what is the thing that I'm trying to heal. It's not fun - that's not fun. But it's healing. It's healthy to look at what is the thing that I want to let go of and how do I design something so that I can take back my power over this thing that has really hurt me or has humiliated me or that I want to leave behind. And that can be anything from a relationship to a mindset. You know? It's a lot different than talking about in therapy and I love therapy, I go to therapy. It's valuable. But again, getting into this psychic space of ego death, right? You’re kind of more open and vulnerable and you kind of like you, you're working with the programming language of the soul. And it's a lot deeper than just the cognitive stuff. We don't... cognitive is important. But this when you're working at the soul level, it's more potent. I love that way of describing it: that what we’re doing in ritual is working with the programming language of the soul. Does that make sense? We’re getting into an area where words don’t work, so it’s a little bit difficult for me to use words to describe it, but think of the rituals you’ve participated in in your life and remember what they felt like in your body. There’s a reason we do devotional ritualized practices in religious settings. Taking the bread, stepping into the Mikvah, casting a circle with the athame. These are physical things we do to connect, ritualistic soul-level actions we take. They are separate from our thoughts. When we hear the phrase “rites of passage” we may think of life stages such as coming of age, getting married, or having children. But life transitions are not always predictable or planned. A sudden illness or loss can knock us off our game and create a need to withdraw and heal. That’s where rites of passage or ritual can become invaluable. Ritual can provide a space of deep healing where our pain can be witnessed and honored. Ray: When I was about 25, I was involved in a bike accident. And I was not wearing a helmet and I was unconscious for a day or two. And I woke up in the hospital and I was all like, double vision, concussion - a real mess. And I got out of the hospital and I was like in bed, you know, I couldn't work, I was out. And I was just really just discombobulated. And I had this major double vision, and I was so like, I couldn't even, you know, literally couldn't see straight. And my mom called me, you know, and she said, "I would like to offer you a rite of passage at my house." And I was like, I don't know what that is but it has to be better than this wherever I am right now, this sucks. And I'm in bed and I would love to... sure whatever that is, do it up! And so she said, "Okay, I want you to invite somewhere between 6 and 10 women that are older that you look up to and that your respect," and I was like okay. And so I know she knows some cool people and I know a few cool people and I put together this list and they all came to her house at the winter solstice. And one of her friends had made me a paper machine a mask to wear for the ceremony. And it was like this beautiful thing that had a butterfly at the mouth and like flower up at the head and like these beautiful beads... and it was really... it was like, okay, so I put that on, we came to her house and there was a fire in the fireplace and all these women were sitting in a circle and I wore the mask. And they proceeded to each tell me a story, or read a poem, or kind of reflect me, or reflect the world so that I could kind of titrate it and understand it, some things about the world things that were, you know, through poetry and beautiful writings and pieces of art. And I just sat there and just absorbed this giant mirror of all these older women that were so wise and so loving and so interested in helping me heal. And I could just feel that energy and I'm wearing this mask. And then at the end of it, I had to, I had to write, based on everything I had heard, I had to write a series of commitments to myself, and like things I wanted to keep, things I wanted to nurture, things I wanted to deepen and explore. And then I had to write a series of things that I was ready to release. And she had a fire in the fireplace and at the time, I took the things I wanted to release and I put them in the fire. And we said a prayer. And then it was over and it was probably about 20 minutes. It was a short thing, maybe more - I don't remember maybe it must have been more - but anyway, it was really powerful to me. It was a really, to have all these older women hold me in that way taught me the power... and to and to experience the intentionality of that moment, the gravitas, the beauty, you know, she... the home was beautiful, it smelled nice, it was people you know, it was just a sensory experience of being in this kind of like other world. And the kind of the grace that I felt afterwards was just like, wow, I knew this was powerful! And I was really interested in doing more of it. I was in my mid 20s. And I remember kind of putting it out there and sort of doing a little bit of research after it was over, like kind of getting out of my depression hole and going down to the bookstore and researching a little bit. And I got this clear picture that this is too woo woo for the world. I can't do this now. It's not ready. It's too weird. And so I took a hard turn and I went into writing about popular culture, and, you know, teaching myself technology and HTML and like, I kind of went there. But it always stuck with me, it was always part of my soul. You know, it was like I was awakened. Wow, that's a cool thing! You can do this stuff and it really helps your soul! It helps you get out of, you know, self pity and suicidal ideation and you know, kind of loneliness and all this crap that I... and my physical thing didn't change. I still have the crazy double vision. But I was just, it was something that changed in my being. So, you know, but over the years, I sort of dabbled in it, you know, I kind of come back to it and I found it on the dance floor. And I really found like, dancing really helped me with the soul work and, you know, I would take an astrology thing here and they're like, kind of like closet woo woo, you know. And then I found this program at, you know, at Columbia, right, like, fancy-pants ivy league school has this weird little thing called the Spirituality Mind Body Institute. And it's actually not woo woo. It's a bunch of researchers who have found evidence for the benefits of spiritual exploration and spiritual experience. And I was like, okay, it's coming out. Now it's time. You're going in! So I took that program, I quit my job and I am now working on the rites of passage stuff. Lisa Miller, the woman who founded the SMBI, the Spirituality Mind Body Institute, has done all kinds of really interesting research on the power of intergenerational spirituality. So she's she says that when a young person has a container, a community, you know, who are holding them in a place where they can explore "lowercase s" spiritual practices they're so much healthier, they have a much, much higher rate of... a much lower rate of depression, anxiety, self harm suicide, and it's like 60-ish percent; it's ridiculously powerful. Yeah, yeah, it's a big deal and it's sort of free. So it's kind of, you know, it's not like you have to like build a new school or have a mountain that you know... going off to the mountaintop or anything, you can just change your practices. So it's important for families and communities to know about that. One of my favorite things about ritual is that it can transcend space and time. What I mean by that is if there is something that happened in our past - maybe a hard time we went through all alone or a significant personal accomplishment that got overlooked by our friends and family - we can actually do ceremony for it now and bring some healing to both the past and present versions of ourselves. That may sound strange if you are new to the concept of ceremony. But if you do this work regularly, you know what I’m talking about. My first experience with this was when I read a book called “Red Flower: Rethinking Menstruation” by Dena Taylor. It inspired me to create the menarche ceremony that I never had. Because ritual transcends space and time, it didn’t matter that the ceremony took place 15 years after my first period. My inner 12-year-old was fully present and felt fully welcomed into womanhood that day. I asked Betty to reflect on her past and think of any transition she wished she had had a rite of passage for. In answering my question, she spoke about a very personal subject. She spoke about healing from an abortion. I’m pausing to give you a heads up now in case this subject is close to home for you or in case you are listening with children. Thomas: Are there any experiences in your past that you wish you could have had it rite of passage for? Ray: There are several. I had an abortion and that was the biggest source of shame ever. And I had no way of... I mean, I had… it was very difficult to like make peace with that or understand, you know... nobody talked about it. So, having some sort of a, you know, there's an Amanda Palmer song about an abortion… it’s a ceremony and it's beautiful and I sobbed the first time I heard it. I think having that would have been a good idea. It would have been a way to heal that in a way that was good for me. Although what I did do is I ended up moving out to California from Minnesota to honor that. It was like, I'm not ready to be a mom here. I'm gonna to go do whatever it takes for me to know that I can be a parent. And that means going out to California and sort of following an instinct that there's work out there for me that will not only be meaningful and enrich me but it will help others. Like I wanted to be able to have to have an authentic sense of myself in the world and I just had no way of doing that where I was. So coming out here was sort of that for me, but it wasn't the same and it was certainly not witnessed. No one knew about it. You know, that was my own sort of thing. Yeah. Thomas: Wow. Thank you for sharing that. I've heard that in the blood mysteries for women, that that's one of the blood mysteris, you know, that that's got that same depth as, or is considered in some circles by some healers to be, in the same depth of you know, menarche, menstruation, menopause, birth, and abortion, miscarriage even, you know, just that it's that it's that really deep, really, really deep place. Ray: It is. Thomas: Yeah. Ray: Well, yeah very confrontative because it forces you to look at your life in a way of like you're at this giant fork, right? And like, what are the resources over here? What is my capacity? What does that what does that life look like? And what is the life look like on the other direction? And they’re… you can't go through it unchanged because it causes such reflection and it causes such anguish and it's so... it's very complicated. So it definitely, you know, I think it just transforms you and so for me moving out here was like, “Thank you, Little Spirit.” You know, it was all in the attempt to, well, to be able to welcome that little spirit back someday. And I don't know that I did. I don't know if my daughter is the same little spirit, but certainly there is a little spirit now too. Thomas: Wow, thank you. I’m so very grateful to Betty for giving us the low down on the anatomy of a rite of passage and for sharing with us so vulnerably. I encourage you to think back and notice if there’s anything in your past it might have been helpful to have a rite of passage for. It’s not too late! Together with a close group of friends and family, people who can take your healing seriously and honor your story, you can go back and have the transition witnessed. Betty Ray is a speaker, author, and consultant who uses design thinking to co-create meaningful rites of passage to help her clients navigate transitions. Learn more about her work at bettyray.net. If you’re a parent or work with youth, be sure to catch her talk “We Must Initiate the Young People” on YouTube. Check our show notes for links to that plus more information about Arnold Van Gennep and also Lisa Miller of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute. Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you like the show, please take a minute to review it on Apple Podcasts. Learn more at shamepinata.com. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
13 minutes | 6 months ago
S1E13 Being in a Body
Even if it's not our natural disaster, even if no one we know has COVID, all of the chaos of this moment is affecting us. It's affecting our body. What can we do to begin to work with these strong feelings, these strong events, fears, moments, dynamics? How can we let our body help us find a way through? Music by Terry Hughes Links: When Loss Hurts: 6 Physical Effects of Grief When Grief Gets Physical Between the World and Me Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript The unique challenges of this time are affecting us at a survival level. They may be bringing up feelings we've never felt before. It can help to realize that some of their potency comes from the fact that they are landing on a very foundational piece of who we are and what it means to be alive. Even if it's not our natural disaster, even if no one we know has COVID, all of the chaos of this moment is affecting us. It's affecting our body. What can we do to begin to work with these strong feelings, these strong events, fears, moment, dynamics? How can we let our body help us find a way through? This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. With the uptick in natural disasters lately, I realized that this might be a good time to talk about how very fragile being in body can be. And how important and how amazing. You might be one of those people who never thinks much about your body, maybe you live in your head a lot, or you're young and carefree, or you just don't think about it. And you might have a body that's talks to you loudly and in no uncertain terms with, a body with which you've had to develop a relationship. Either way, your body is affected by your thoughts, your stress levels, your hormones, and also what's going on around you. The 1st chakra is where body meets spirit. I often find that when things are happening, the more serious things, the more base-level survival-type things, we can get triggered at the 1st chakra level. The 1st chakra, at the base of our spine, is all about being in a body. It's about food, shelter and clothing. It's about safe passage and basic survival. It's one of the first chakras to awaken when we're born. It's all about being alive. Some of us are lucky enough to live in a world where we don't need to worry about basic survival needs on a day to day basis. Instead, our energies are free to move on into creative expression and philosophy and critical analysis. But when those moments of basic needs arise, they are the sole focus. How am I going to pay the rent? Where will I source food I can eat? I have to find a safe place to sleep. These are all basic needs. So in these moments when basic needs are going on for us or even just around us, we can get tripped up and kinda stuck at that first chakra level. Things like COVID, which brings not only fear of illness, but also fears of losing our loved ones. And for some of us, that trips up other base-level need considerations because losing a loved one could mean losing our home if we can't afford the rent or mortgage on our own. We've also seen massive job losses with COVID, which can directly affect where we can afford to live and what kind of foods we can purchase. Body. These considerations are all about being in a body, a body that needs food and shelter, a body that can get sick. A body that can die. Stress and pressure from the ongoing isolation and vigilance and social distancing can have physical manifestations. I know for me and many of the people in my life, stress is starting to take a physical toll. Flare-ups of long term conditions, new aches & pains, a changing relationship with food, insomnia. We can't get a massage, the gym is closed, we are having to learn and sometimes create new ways of caring for our bodies. And, the big one, physical touch is now dangerous. How crazy is that? Body. These considerations are all about being in a body, a body that needs deep breathing and calm, a body that needs touch. At the same time, we are in a moment of profound change where black bodies and white bodies are becoming more visible. Protestors of all races are putting their bodies directly in the path of police brutality, some for the first time. And the words of Ta Nihisi Coats are still echoing from his 2015 book "Beyond the World and Me", a letter to his son. '"But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience... You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body." Body. These considerations are all about being in a body, a body that can be subject to cruelty and fear, a body that has the right to exist free from violence and threats of violence. And then also, the natural disasters going on this month have brought their own 1st chakra challenges and wake up calls. Hurricane Laura hit the southern states as one of the most powerful storms to ever hit the US. A fire in a chemical plant after the storm spread toxic smoke throughout the area. 1.5 million people were told to evacuate, during a pandemic. And in the west the wildfires sent even more people away from the shelter of home, some unable to return. And thick smoke turned skies gray and the sun red for weeks. Again, body. These considerations are all about being in a body, a body that lives on a planet going through great distress during climate change, a body that needs safety from the natural elements. And lastly, grief. I don't know about you, but I'm not always present to the grief in the world because it can be a little overwhelming. There's the personal grief of losing a friend, the communal grief of losing a community held together by a business that closed, the collective grief of watching so many people die from COVID, and the global grief of watching our planet in so much pain. Grief shows up in the body. Grief is not just about crying, anger and depression, grief can bring a host of physical reactions. It was a huge relief to me to learn after my dad died that physical reactions were a big part of grief. I'll include some links in the show notes about this if you'd like to learn more, but suffice to say grief can cause inflammation, increased blood pressure, chest pain, nausea, confusion, headaches and muscle weakness. Body. These considerations are all about being in a body, a body that is connected to the whole, a body whose heart aches when it sees grief and loss. So what we do with this information, this rather sobering list of all of the ways our bodies are being triggered right now? Probably one of the best things we can do is stay connected to our bodies, by bringing a gentle awareness as we live our lives. Directing a bit of our attention and compassion to our body, just like we would to a friend who was hanging out with us. Just a soft presence, a sense of, "Hey. How you doing? I'm here." And it can also be helpful to notice our dialog with our body. What kind of words are we saying in our head about or to our body? Do our words come from a place of lack or judgement? And if so, what might it be like to give our body the benefit of the doubt, to treat our body like a friend? I know that pain, weakness, and illness can sometimes feel like our body is betraying us. Like, "I want to do that thing but I can't 'cause of my friggin' body!" and that's a real thing. It's frustrating. Believe me, I know. And maybe our body isn't trying to hurt us or limit us. Maybe there's some kind of wisdom in there that we can benefit from if we can listen to it. There are ways we can create sacred space and ritual around honoring our body too. If we want, we can grab a journal and take it to a quiet place where we can be alone for a while. Maybe do some deep breathing or light a candle to create an intentional space. It might be interesting to write out a list of any items that are affecting us at that 1st chakra level. Then we can feel into each of them and see what we can discover. Maybe some of the fear isn't ours. Maybe we're holding old, Ancestral energies around some of the challenges. We can choose an item to put on our altar for each concern, or perhaps pick a tarot card to gain deeper insight into it. We can journal about them and ask ourselves, what do I need for each one? Love, movement, tears, support? Something practical? Something energetic? What am I learning about each one? The idea would be to really honor each concern, each deep life event and let the energy around it move. Then we could rest, reflect, journal and open the space. So I encourage you to spend some quality time with your body. Almost like going on a date. Do something you body wants to do. Or don't do something your body doesn't want to do. Take a long walk in the evening when it's cool. Get takeout from your favorite restaurant. Skip the alcohol your brain is saying will make you feel better. Stretch more. Breathe way more. Take that online improv class you're scared of. Put on your favorite music and dance. Your body knows how to process the extra energy at the 1st chakra. In fact, nothing can process it better than your body. Just listen and learn. Before we go, we're taking a survey of our listeners, and we'd love for you to participate. It will help us learn more about you - no matter how long you've been a listener or how frequently you listen to the show. So please take a few minutes and visit our website at shamepinata.com. You'll find the listener survey link right on that page. To offer our thanks to you for taking the time to share your reflections on the show, we'll send you a 5-minute centering meditation. Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you like the show, please take a minute to review it on Apple Podcasts. Your review will help more people find the show. Learn more at shamepinata.com. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
21 minutes | 7 months ago
S1E12 Why Weddings Make Us Crazy (Jocelyn Charnas)
How can life transitions make us stronger and wiser instead of just stressing us out? Dr. Jocelyn Charnas shares insights from her work in guiding couples through the wedding transition and beyond. Music by Terry Hughes Links: Why Stress When You Can See a Wedding Therapist? Dr. Jocelyn Charnas Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript Charnas: I often use the analogy of a shopping cart. You know, when one wheel is off, the shopping cart doesn't move right, right? You're swinging to the left and you're swinging to the right... So you know, I see that as sort of a good analogy for transition. One of the wheels has shifted around. And in order to keep going in a positive direction, sometimes we've got to shift those other wheels around. Sometimes we have to change as a whole, or adapt as a whole, or adjust to get back on track. Transitions are our friends. Transitions bring us new things. Transitions can also bring discomfort, but that discomfort offers us a chance to grow - if we are willing to let it have a seat at the table. What would happen if we embraced the discomfort, embraced the difficulty, embraced the challenge? What would it be like if all parts of us were offered a place at the table? This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. Before we get started today, I want to invite you to take our listener survey. It doesn’t matter how long you've been a listener or how frequently you listen. We need your feedback to grow and improve. So please take a few minutes and visit shamepinata.com. You'll find the listener survey link right on that page. And if you like, we’ll send you a 5 minute centering meditation to thank you for your time. Our guest today is Dr. Joceyn Charnas, a psychologist based in New York City who works with couples navigating transitions, especially the wedding transition. She explains why weddings can be so crazy-making, not only for the couple, but also for those around them. And she also shares some of the tools she offers her clients to help them stay sane and healthy during life changes. Thomas: Can you tell me a little bit about your work, sort of in broad strokes and how you touch on transition in your work? Charnas: Sure, sure. Well, I'm a clinical psychologist in private practice. I've been in practice on my own for about 10 years now. I see individual clients and I also see couples. And I have a little bit of a niche in premarital therapy. So I see a lot of clients who are engaged to be married and come to me to help them navigate and manage that transition. And, you know, being a psychologist in general, I see a lot of people in transition. In fact, that's often a sort of inflection point in terms of when people decide to come into therapy. You know, for the most part, people don't come to therapy when they're comfortable and everything's great - even though that would be wonderful and everyone could benefit from it and la la la… Most people, most… you know, typical people come in when they're when they're in distress or in discomfort. And so often distress and discomfort come around transitions, you know, life is... when life changes, that's when we struggle. So, both in my work with individuals and in my work with couples, we're spending a lot of time talking about transitions and managing those transitions, and particularly doing a lot of work around trying to reframe those transitions as opportunities for growth and for self knowledge and for evolution of the self, you know, as opposed to seeing them as roadblocks. We really try to reframe them and see them as opportunities for growth and that's a lot of the work I do. Thomas: I love it. Because I've been thinking about transitions and how... why ritual can be useful in the time of transitions and it's almost like we're programmed to be the same and when we have to change... it just throws everything out of whack and brings up all this extra stuff that we don't want. Charnas: I think that's absolutely right. The idea, as I try to help people to see, is to try to embrace that discomfort, embrace that difficulty, embrace that challenge rather than push those feelings under the rug… and because they're uncomfortable, push them underground and disavow them. I really try to work with my patients to do the best they can to embrace the changes and embrace the discomfort because I think from... in my experience, positive growth only comes from discomfort, right? We have to be in a position that's difficult for us or challenging or uncomfortable in order to change and grow. I mean, this whole concept of growing pains, I think is a true... is a truism. So, you know, to me, it's really about even though it's difficult, even though it's scary, even though it's uncertainty unknown, I really try to help people to embrace those difficult feelings because this is how we grow and this is also how we learn about ourselves. So you know, it's almost like okay, how do we take advantage of the situation instead of looking at it as a negative? Thomas: And are there tools that you share with your clients around those issues? Charnas: Yeah, there are. I mean, mostly it's about... You know, this word mindfulness is thrown around a lot and I think it's sort of become a little bit of an umbrella term. But I really honed in on the idea of mindfulness around our emotions. So I think that one really important tool that I encourage clients to try to make use of is to embrace the whole range of emotions and be mindful, be aware of what you're feeling, whether it's positive, negative, whatever it is. If we can really tune into what our emotions are, particularly in those moments of transition, those times of change or on milestones in life, whether it's having a child or getting married or graduate... college graduation is a huge one, work with a lot of clients around all of these milestones usually generate both positive and negative emotions and we're taught to really pay attention to the positive and tune out the negative. And so I really try to encourage couples and individuals to pay attention to the full spectrum and really get in there with those negative emotions because we can learn about ourselves from them and they're useful and they're as valid as the positive ones. So that that's a big one that I use, particularly with couples. Because you know, negative emotions in a couple, especially when you're preparing to get married, can be very uncomfortable. Nobody likes to feel doubt. No one wants to feel uncertain. No one wants to feel scared, but you know what? Everybody does. I haven't met anybody that's planning to get married that doesn't have, on some level, those kinds of feelings. So the idea of bringing them out, normalizing them, validating them, I found goes a really, really long way to help people. Yes! Making room for all of it. Making room for all of us. Even when transitions bring up big feelings we might not know what to do with or how to handle, we can make room for them. So then at least we just have the feelings and not an additional layer on top of the feelings telling us we shouldn't have them. I love that Jocelyn brought us to this topic, so I asked her to take us a little deeper. Thomas: Why are the negative emotions so scary? Charnas: I mean, I think nobody likes to not feel good, right? I mean, we all want to feel good. And as I said, I think there is this sort of push in this, you know… Wellness movement and positive psychology and things… You know, 100 ways to be happy and find happiness every day… And again, there’s… Those things are wonderful, okay? But they're just one side of the coin. And I think generally we're socialized away from you know… Don't cry... All the things that are connected... Don't be afraid.. All those all these things that we sort of take for granted that are sort of so much you know, like baked into the ether in terms of our emotional lives. I think that we become… You know, I call it affect-phobic. We can become afraid of our feelings, particularly the negative feelings because we are worried that they’re signals that we're making a mistake or this is wrong, or we're somehow bad or not good enough… All those things. I think those negative emotions can be signals of those sort of myths we tell ourselves. And I really again, I'm really, really… Try to work with, with individuals and with couples to be able to sit with those negative emotions, allow them to the surface, talk about them, explore them as a way to detoxify them. You know, I think so many people are afraid of anger. People are afraid of being sad. But as I said, those are on the healthy and normal range of human emotions and so we are allowed to, and should feel all of it. Well, and you know, in particular, as I said, when it comes to, to weddings, in this period of engagement, people get really frightened of uncertainty and doubt, you know, this myth that we're supposed to be sure and, you know, so many of these myths around weddings... Happiest day of our life myth, all of these things They really push us into a corner of the way we're supposed to feel. And if we don't feel that way, then we again go back to the broken record of what's wrong with me? You know, is this a mistake? What's wrong with my partner? And that, you know, rarely does that. Take us good place. Right? Thomas: Right. Charnas: Right? I mean, that's, that's that's rarely a good thing. Thomas: And all of that is, is amplified by the people around us, you know, our mother, our sister, our aunt… often the women, you know, who have their own stuff. Charnas: I think that's right. You know, as I said, I think that I think those messages are typically well-meaning and I don't think there's negative intention behind those messages that people that love us want us to be sure and want us to be happy and want us to make good decisions. But I think it's more complicated than that. And it's less black and white than that. As I said, I really... I don't know any couple that has ever stood on the precipice of marriage, which is supposed to be, we hope, a lifetime commitment, and not felt some uncertainty and not had moments of doubt. I mean, those things are healthy and normal in a thinking, functional brain. Weddings have been fascinating me this year in terms of their potency. I mean, there's so much happening on so many levels, but at the same time, it's just a wedding. I took this opportunity to ask Jocelyn what is actually happening at a wedding. Charnas: Weddings are amazing, right? They're... they're this very interesting amalgam of all of the things that are complicated and challenging and evocative and emotionally loaded, right? They have this amazing ability to tap into, kick up, stir up some really intense dynamics, right? Because think about, think about all that a wedding and a marriage entails. It's love, its money, it's family, its identity, it's transition, it's appearance, its expectations... It's all of these things sort of wrapped up into one intense moment. And I think that as a result of that, people react very strongly to those things… And look, understandably so. Right? Those are the things in life that do kick up the most emotion. So I think that the wedding is sort of at the crossroads of all of these things. And as such, they really have an ability to sort of shine a very bright hot… white hot spotlight on the things in life that we kind of struggle with as humans anyway. You know, I sort of came to this work because of my own experiences and also sort of observing and witnessing people in my life around this time... a lot of friends getting married... and colleagues and all of that, and sort of starting to see that, oh, this makes everybody crazy. And yes, it makes everybody crazy in their own special, unique way. But this seems to make a sane person crazy. And so what is going on here? So I started to think about this as something that needs to be addressed and needs to be normalized and validated in a way that I really didn't find it was being talked about. I mean, when I was preparing to get married myself, I remember looking through, you know, a stack of wedding magazines. And I remember just sort of flipping through them. And there was no reference at all in probably 800 pages of bridal magazines about the emotional impact of getting married. There was, you know, 800 pages on flowers, but not a blurb on, “Oh, do you feel crazy? Are you nervous? You know, you're normal or you're not alone.” There was none of that. And I thought, gee, this is a real sort of hole in the market here real gap where people are given guidance on everything from what, you know, what color pale pink your nail should be, but nobody was talking about how you feel. So I really sort of threw myself into working with couples and to put myself out there as a touchstone to help couples try to navigate this, this time that's both difficult and also a tremendous opportunity to work on the foundation, to build tools for marriage... because a wedding is not the end the wedding as some people see it as the end. It's just the beginning. It's just it's just the beginning of the whole relationship of the marriage. Getting couples in my office for this period of time when they're sort of embarking on this transition, helping them to see it as normal and healthy that this is... this is a difficult time and to start working on the skills that make for a good marriage. Thomas: Hmm, yeah, that's wonderful. Yeah, I can, I can totally relate to that, that it's like, “Hey, we're done. We got through this big thing!” Charnas: Everybody's planning that you do nothing for a year plan for this party, right? And then the party comes and goes and that's lovely. But then what, right? And that's something I really that's sort of one of my basic tenets of the work I do is okay. The wedding is important, and it's and it's a symbol and it's a ceremony and it's meaningful and all of that, absolutely. But we cannot only focus on this, we have to be able to pay attention to the marriage, what the wedding symbolizes which is the beginning of a marriage and the relationship and the partnership. And so I really, really work with couples to try to shift their focus to the wedding as the beginning to the wedding as a symbol and then get into what are our expectations of marriage? What our expectations of family life and lifestyle and you know, partnership and... because that's really that's the meat of it, that's the important stuff. The wedding is just it's just a symbol. And look, at and... it's everything is easy, it's easy to get lost in it right I mean, I it was easy for me to it's easy to to to focus on the details, you know, get very, very caught up in the details of the wedding. We all do and I think we all fall victim to that. But if we lose sight of the bigger picture, I think we lose... an opportunity is lost. Thomas: Yeah, definitely. Touching more on the idea of the big picture, I asked Jocelyn how the other family members come into play. What might they be feeling? Because by creating a new family unit, the couple are separating from their family of origin and that brings up stuff for everybody. Charnas: That's a huge, huge, huge part of it, in my experience and working with couples. And it's not just weddings, it's, it's... with any real significant transition in life, it often entails a redefining of the relationships in our lives, right? We grow up, we graduate from school, and that might change our relationship a little bit with our parents. We have children, we get married, all these things, they require a little bit of a redefining of the existing relationships in our lives. And again, that is not always easy, but it's an opportunity to sort of embrace that transition and maybe let your parents know that you need to be treated as an adult now, just as an example, or that you're going to be making decisions that maybe are different from the decisions that they might have made. So dealing with the sort of family around us, you know, I think of... I think often use the sort of analogy of the couples that if this is an atom, the couple is the nucleus and and the people in their lives are the protons and neutrons, whatever it is… Don't quote me on the science of that… But you know what I mean… the surrounding, you know, the sun versus the rest of the planets. So, I think that we first have to focus on the strength of the relationship and the couple is the nucleus. The couple of the most important thing. But we do have to take into account the other people in our lives that we love, because this is happening to them too, right? For the mother of the bride, her daughter is getting married, that's a meaningful moment. Or for our best friend or brother or father… You know...or for a child sometime watching their parents get remarried. I mean, these are life changing situations, not just for us, but for the people around us. And I think to find that line where we are not being completely driven by the desire to please those people around us because that's not good either. But where we can see our partnership as the center but also pay attention and be sensitive to the people... to the needs and the desires of the people around us and recognizing that this is change and transition for them too. I think that's really important and it's sort of a balance to strike. Thomas: When I was recording the trailer for the series, I had a story popped back in my head, which I shared atthe beginning of that... which is that my mother's a very forceful person, but she's always also very gentle. She's just like, forceful underneath. You know, you don't normally see that… like unless she really... Charnas: Unless she has to pull it out? Thomas: Yeah, exactly! And so we literally got married and then walked out of the room and we're in the, like, the hallway outside for like... I don't know, maybe three minutes with, you know... hugging and kissing. Like, as like now we're married, and we're bonding for like three minutes. And my friend kept knocking on the door. And we were like, “Wow, what, dude, like three minutes, you know?” And he was like, “Your mom wants to see you.” And I was like, I was like, “No, I'm sorry. But no, not for three minutes. Just no, no right now!” And then... and then he came back and he's like, “She really wants to see you.” And he told me later that he said something like, you know, “Hey, do you need anything?” And she's like, “Yeah, I need Colleen.” And then... and then he like went back over and he's like, “Sorry, she's... she's not available.” Right? And she's like, “No, I need Colleen.” And I'm just like, “Oh, God!” And I asked her later... I said, “Gosh, what did you need?” You know, she's like, “Oh, I don't know.” Charnas: And there you go, right. I mean, everybody's gonna, everybody's gonna be themselves. I'm laughing because my mother... the same thing happened to me basically. We were up in the hotel room for the two minutes between the ceremony and the party, and my mother came into touch with her makeup. I was like “Really, really? There wasn't anywhere else you could come to touch up your makeup, really?” So... so I can... I can empathize with that. And I'm sure everyone in these stories is well intended, but the thing is, it's something to navigate, it's not easy. And you know, in those moments, maybe both of our mothers, whether they were conscious of it or not, were experiencing that... those pangs of loss, or those fears of loss. In our better moments, our best selves can be both firm and setting boundaries but also sensitive to that, which is not always easy. Thomas: Yeah. I'm so glad that you're here and you're doing your work and, and everybody gets to benefit from it including people like me who just get to talk to you for 20 minutes. Charnas: Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate it. Dr. Jocelyn Charnas is a clinical psychologist based in New York City. She works with individuals and couples in all phases of relationship. She was featured in Newsday and New York Weddings for her work with engaged couples - work that has earned her the title, "The Wedding Doctor." Our music is by Terry Hughes. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast player to be notified when new episodes are released. Learn more at shamepinata.com. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
11 minutes | 7 months ago
S1E11 How To Be Strong
How do we keep moving forward in a world that doesn't feel like ours anymore? We need grit to stay strong and we need resilience to stay flexible. Join us for a simple ceremony to do both. Music by Terry Hughes Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript There's a quote that really speaks to me right now. It's by writer Catherine DeVrye. It goes, “Like tiny seeds with potent power to push through tough ground and become mighty trees, we hold innate reserves of unimaginable strength. We are resilient.” It's turning into the long haul now, isn't it? The daily push to make it day to day with COVID is getting a little draining and we're all getting a little worn out. But we need to stay strong and keep our focus. There's a way to reconnect to our strength and build resilience. All it takes is some time and focus and maybe a strong Ancestor or two. This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. So, it's been a while now that we've been doing the COVID dance. It's not so scary and new anymore, but it's still a big wildcard in our lives that might get us at any time and that can be pretty draining. It creates that kind of tension where if we sit still with it for too long, it gets overwhelming. Ever since this saga began, I've been thinking about my Ancestors who lived through wars and other extended times of great difficulty. How did they do it? How did they keep going when things were falling apart around them? Did they ever feel like they just couldn't do it anymore? Did they ask questions like, "When will it get better? When can we get back to normal?" Was there any point at which they stopped asking those questions? Today we're going to talk about grit and resilience. How do we keep going over the long haul? How do we keep moving forward in a world that doesn't feel like ours anymore? Merriam-Webster defines grit as "firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger". That's what our Ancestors had to have had, or developed over time. We need these traits today to stay the course right now. To keep taking whatever precautions the CDC is recommending, to continue to carefully follow the safety routines we've established at home or work, to get out of bed and figure out another day in liminal space. But that firmness of mind and unyielding courage needs to come from somewhere. Most of us are digging deep into our reserves to pull that off so we also need to develop resilience in order to bounce back from the stress of day to day life right now. Merriam-Webster defines resilience as "an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change." Yes. That's what we need. So how can we develop that ability? Sometimes simple things can help. I put a sign on the wall when pandemic started that says: breathe, hydrate, blood sugar, sleep, laugh, cry. It helps me to remember to return to basics on a daily basis - and every day I need the reminder. Another thing we can do is ceremony. If we were going to build a ceremony focused on grit and resilience, you and I, we might first want to look around and identify an object or image that speaks of courage to us. You might dig out something a bold friend gave you, someone you really admire. I might grab a picture of a hearty Ancestor or an image of my favorite superhero. We could also grab something we could wear, or keep in our pocket, like a bracelet made of beads or even just a cord, or a rock from the shores of a lake that's seen tough winters. Something that makes us feel stronger when we look at it or hold it. We might bring this object to a quiet space, somewhere we won't be disturbed for a little while, along with some pen and paper. Once here, we might just sit and breathe for a bit. Deep breaths like this. Notice what we're sitting on. Notice what we're hearing. Notice how our clothes feel against our skin. One way to transition from everyday life into a more ceremonial space is to make a list of current worries and concerns, especially right now, to get them out of our way for a little while. We might set a time for 2 minutes and just write down everything that's banging around in our heads. When the timer goes off, we can look at the list and think, "Wow, that's a LOT!" and put the paper down. Then we might begin to welcome any feelings of resistance in us that just don't want to do this anymore. We can breathe into them. Yes, this is hard. So hard. It's sad. And it's heartbreaking. And it's infuriating. And it's... you fill in the blank. This is a chance to really get in touch with any voice inside us that says, "No. I'm not doing this anymore No, no, no, no, no, no!" There are so many strategies we have for not being present to something that is hard. Shopping, overeating, drinking too much, zoning out on social media. The parts of us that engage in these behaviors really do need a break. They need an opportunity to say no and have that honored. So, we can let them say no. And if we feel moved, we can write from their voice or get up and stomp around, or punch pillows, or anything that lets out some of that No energy and doesn't hurt ourselves or anyone around us. And when that process feels complete, and that voice feels really, actually heard and taken seriously, we can turn to our object and see what it sparks in us about courage and strength, about moving on when that feels super hard or even impossible. This might be a time to drop into a meditation focusing on the strength we are wanting to call into our lives or do more writing or movement about that. A meditation might look like remembering what our body feels like when we feel bold, strong, and brave. We might call to mind a time when we took a risk and came out on top, when we survived a big personal challenge and really bring that feeling back into our body. What did it feel like to survive? What was going on in our body the moment we realized, "I made it. I did the thing, the incredibly hard thing I thought I couldn't do!" What did that feel like? When we have a true sense of the strength we are calling in, we can send it into that object, imbuing it with all of that good, strong, solid energy - really bathing the object in it. Maybe inviting in some extra energy from that strong Ancestor or from the Spirit realm, if we work with the Spirit realm. Just letting the object fill up with our intention. This is called programming an object. It's something that's often done with crystals. It's a powerful process of charging an object with an intention so that it will forever be a touchstone of that intention. When that process feels complete, we might take a few minutes to thank the object and send gratitude to that strong Ancestor or friend or the creators of that superhero. And we might also send a bit of gratitude to ourselves for being willing to keep going even when it's hard. Then, we can close by taking a few more centering breaths and having something to eat. After the ceremony, we might place this object somewhere where we will see it often, maybe on our desk, maybe on the mantel, or in the kitchen window. If it's wearable, we can wear it or keep it in a pocket. A neat thing about filling an object with this kind of intention is that no one else has to ever know. To them, it might look like the old DVD of our favorite superhero movie is just around for decoration. But when we see it, we will shift a little deeper into that knowing. So as you move forward with grit, I encourage you to find ways to build resilience through weaving ceremony into your life. It's a wonderful tool that is always there for you at a moment's notice. Before we go, you're going to hear me say this for the next couple months: We're taking a survey of our listeners, and we'd love for you to participate. It will help us learn more about you - no matter how long you've been a listener or how frequently you listen to the show. So please take a few minutes and visit our website at shamepinata.com. You'll find the listener survey link right on that page. To offer our thanks to you for taking the time to share your reflections on the show, we'll send you a 5-minute centering meditation. And there is a way to complete the survey anonymously and still receive the meditation! Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you like the show, please follow us on Facebook where we share engaging resources about ceremony in our everyday lives. I'm Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
22 minutes | 8 months ago
S1E10 My Self Marriage
What if you could find the most amazing partner in the world, someone who loves you unconditionally, who respects you, admires you, and has your back through thick and thin? What if that person was you? Music by Terry Hughes Links: Self Marriage Photos: https://ever-changing.net/#/self-commitment/ Pretty Little Foot - Rising Appalachia & The Human Experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPyHS4d-I5o Chakra 101: https://blog.mindvalley.com/7-chakras/ Tria Chang: http://triachang.com/ Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript Thomas: It's the transition of me from little girl who wants to get married and wants to be the bride in the big white wedding dress to me as the grown woman who stands in her power, who knows who she is, who knows that she's complete with or without a partner, and is connected most deeply with the sacred inside of herself. What if I told you that you could find the most amazing partner in the world, someone who loves you unconditionally, who respects you, admires you, and has your back through thick and thin. A person who really understands you and gets it. In fact, a person that knows you so well, being with them is just like being home. Where could you find this person? Just look in the mirror. This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. Today we're going to switch things up a little bit. My good friend Tria Chang is going to interview me about a ceremony from my life, a ceremony I held about 5 years ago in which I married myself. If self-marriage is new to you, I invite you to give it a listen. Chang: So hello, Colleen. Thomas: Hi Tria. Chang: It's so nice to talk to you about your ceremony because it is the reason that we met in the first place or not, actually the reason we met with Shame Piñata, but I think what made me feel really connected to you was hearing about your own ritual and how you have created something that I think a lot of people could take into their own lives. So I'm excited to talk to you about that today. And as we mentioned, there's a lot going on in the world right now and it's... it can be hard to be centered and present. So if you don't mind, I thought we could do a little exercise to start off before I start asking you questions and that is just to kind of put yourself in the place of your self-commitment ceremony. And I'm going to ask you questions in the present tense as if we're there. And if you don't mind answering the questions in the present tense as well just to like, help bring us there and I might go ahead and close my eyes while we do this, just so I can really be there with you. So, it's the day yourself commitment ceremony. And you wake up in the morning. How are you feeling? Thomas: Nervous about the details coming together because there's a lot of details and really excited that the day is finally here. Chang: And what time of the day did the ceremony begin? Thomas: It begins... I think... I forget... I think it begins around noon or two in the afternoon. Chang: Okay, perfect. So let's put ourselves in that space in the afternoon. And how are you opening the ceremony? What do you hear and who is there? What do you see? Thomas: Well, it takes a while for us to get ready and it takes a while for everybody to arrive. And we have I think we have 13 women in person attending... we have 13 women in person attending and we have three additional women attend on Skype. They think it's cute and fun that I'm wearing a big old wedding dress that I got to Goodwill. It doesn't fit me and it's pinned closed in the back because it's way too big. Chang: And how do you open the ceremony? Thomas: I brought in an officiant so that I wouldn't have to officiate it myself. So how we open it is that she does a welcome and an introduction. She introduces everybody, everybody to themselves and to each other. And then she leads us in a meditation, a short meditation just to arrive. And then I chose to cast a circle because that's the tradition that I come from to create sacred space, to open it into a ceremonial space. And then we invited in Spirit and we began doing... I think we had one reading in the beginning... oh, yes, a friend of mine read the Charge of the Goddess and then we went into check-ins... The ceremony began with casting the circle, calling the directions and inviting in Spirit and then moved into readings, check-in and a circle dance. After the circle dance, we went into a performance art piece that I created specially for the ceremony, which was kind of the heart of the ritual. It symbolized my transition from the little girl who wanted the fairytale wedding to the grown woman standing in her power. The performance art piece was comprised of many elements woven together, visual, auditory and movement. But at its heart it was basically me taking off the froofy wedding dress and stepping into a more earthy, Goddess dress while a modern rendition of Woodie Guthrie's 1944 song "Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet?" playing in the background. The lyrics of that song are: Who's gonna shoe your pretty little foot? Who's gonna glove your hand? Who's gonna kiss your red ruby lips? Who's gonna be your man? Tria asked me about the significance of that song in the context of a self-commitment ceremony. Thomas: For me, I chose to do the self-commitment ceremony when I was just about to get married to a person... to a man. And I had always wanted to do a self-commitment ceremony and had done some small things, but it felt really important to me before marrying somebody else to marry myself first, because I've had a tendency to give myself away and to sort of run roughshod over myself and not pay attention to what I needed, but to become what I thought I was supposed to be for somebody else... which maybe sounds like a good idea, but really, ultimately, it ends up with me being kind of a shell person for that other person and not somebody they can really rely on and trust in, because I'm not being authentic to myself. So I took the opportunity of using the self-commitment ceremony as a time to shed a little bit more of that because I knew that I could say, "Oh, I'm going to be my full self, I'm going to marry you, I'm going to be my full self." But yet there was going to be some residue of the old ways and the old beliefs in me. So the performance art piece was a chance to enact taking off the dress, setting it aside, honoring it, and just being like, yeah, and I'm me. And this is who I'm connecting with and this is who I'm going to walk out of the ceremony being so that I can walk into the next ceremony as that person. Chang: Yes, that really resonates with me. Yeah. Thomas: And having it witnessed was extremely powerful. Chang: That's beautiful. Yeah, that resonates with me and I think so many other people, and perhaps women especially feel a great sense of loss during a relationship or a marriage especially. And I think that's so powerful to commit to yourself before doing that. So, my particular self marriage ceremony was focused heavily on the concept of the Chakras, which are energy centers in the body. As you’ll hear in the next section of the interview, the chakras are important to me, so I wove them into my ceremony. For reference, if you’re not already familiar with them, the chakras run in a line near the spine beginning with the 1st chakra at the base of the spine and extending up to the 7th chakra at the crown of the head, with a few additional chakras above that. Each chakra is correlated to a particular energy such as safety, love or intuition. Chang: What was the importance of the chakras in your ceremony and how did you represent each? Thomas: My spiritual practice at that time was slowly going through each chakra. So, I had a daily meditation practice where I was working on whichever one. I started with the first chakra and I worked through them all. And I worked through them... I spend about three months on each or longer... So I would... every morning I would have a meditation where I would just sit with like the concept of the first chakra, say, and I would just sort of notice if I could feel it in my body, and I would just sort of sense into it. And I had lots of different things that I did around staying focused on the chakra. So I was... basically over a long period of time, I was learning myself deeply at each level, and each chakra level. So I thought a rainbow in the ring would be perfectly aligned to my spiritual practice and it would bring me home to me, which is what I wanted the ring to ultimately do is when I look at it, "Oh yeah, that's me. I got this." And the ring I ended up with does have rainbow sapphires in it and I wrote several vows for each chakra that I took in the ceremony, but I have sort of one master vow for each chakra. And it's a very nice meditation. When I look at the ring, I can actually just go through and I can look at the red stone and say the first chakra vow, and look at the orange stone and say, the second chakra vow and I can just do them really quickly... and I just remember boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. "Okay, those are my eight ways that I am me now," and then I can go back to what I'm doing. Chang: Wonderful. And can you tell me a little bit about how you represented that in your ceremony. Thomas: Mostly through the ring and through the vows. And as prep work for the ceremony, once I finished my... I was calling it a self-guided tour of my chakras, which took about two years... once I was finished, once I had finished that process, that was about the time I was beginning to plan the self-commitment ceremony and I reached out and found one woman each in my life, who could be a guide at the level of the chakra. So for example, I thought, "Who's my most grounded friend who's just grounded, it's effortless. She's just there," "Who's my friend who's just in her heart It's, you know, it's simple for her. That's just how she, how she is." And so I found these eight women, and I asked them each to meet with me twice, once just to have a conversation about like, "Wow, you really are amazing at this level and I want to get amazing at that level and how do you do it? And you know, what does it feel like to you and here's my issues... and help me..." You know, and, and so, the first meeting gave us a chance to talk and plan a little they gave me like an assignment. So my first chakra goddess had me map out some things about being grounded and finances and safety and I did some I did some writing on that and some graphing and we came back and we visited it together. My third chakra goddess, which is all about being bold and brave, she sent me to a Bikram yoga class, which was really intense. And my heart chakra Goddess talked a lot about fears, the way our fears come up and get in our way. So I started doing a video journal for her about whenever I noticed fears were really getting in my way during the day, I was moving into noticing those a lot more clearly. So, each woman met with me twice and helped me kind of deepen into myself at that level. And then each one of those women attended the ceremony either in person or on Skype and they were the ones who asked me, you know, "Do you take yourself with this? Do you this? Do you do that?" with my vows. And I said, "Yes, I this, I that," with my vows. So my first chakra goddess let me take my first chakra vows and then put a red ribbon around my neck... and... around my shoulders. And my second chakra goddess, same thing... second chakra vows. And it was interesting that it turned out that the upper chakra vow goddesses were on Skype - those were all on Skype and the eighth chakra one, the highest one, she was on a video. She didn't even show up on Skype. So it's kind of got more ethereal as you went up, which is funny. Chang: That's great. I also love hearing how you incorporated the women into your life in the process leading up to it because it sounds like it was so fortifying for you and also probably felt really nice for them to feel recognized for that quality that you saw in them. Are you standing in front of everyone for the vows or maybe just take me through where you are in the room and how you were feeling at each vow. Thomas: I was standing with sort of the women in sort of, I'm sorry, I am standing in a... against the wall with the altar behind me and the sort of a horseshoe shape of women in front of me. And the officiant calls each chakra one by one and then each chakra goddess comes up to have me take the vows and the chakra goddesses are wearing stoles that I made for them in the color that they're representing of the chakra, and I made them on my my grandmother's sewing machine while I was visiting my mom, which was really nice. And so there's somebody in each of the colors and the goddesses who couldn't be there for the ceremony, I mailed them their stoles, so they were on Skype wearing their stoles. And the officiant... I was just looking at the pictures this morning of the stoles and the officiant had a white stole that had rainbow... it had a little piece of the fabric from each of the other stoles so had like rainbows on either side on her stole. And yeah, one by one the the chakra goddesses came up and they said, "Do you promise to this or that" and then I responded and then they had a cord that they put over my shoulders to signify that I had taken the vows. And my friend who was the first darker goddess did the physical filling in for the people who were on Skype who couldn't physically put a cord around my neck. Chang: Wonderful. So by the end of the vow piece of the ceremony, you have all these cords to symbolize the vows that you've taken on. Thomas: Yes. After I took my vows, the ring was passed around for all of the women to bless. It was in a little pouch and I hadn't seen it yet. When it came to me, the officiant removed it from the pouch and handed it to me. I shared with Tria the words I said as I put it on my finger. Thomas: I said, "As a sign of love and respect for myself, I give myself this ring. I wear it as a reminder of my enoughness. In flowing times and in moments of stillness, in fullness and in emptiness, in fear and in courage with all that I am and all that I will become, and so it is." And then I put the ring on. Chang: That's lovely. Did you write that? Thomas: I think I did. Yeah, I think so. Chang: So you're putting the ring on? What shifts in you or what do you feel? Thomas: Just just crazy gratitude to be manifesting it because it's something I've been wanting to do for a very long time. And I just feel really excited and happy to have the ring on and that everything went really well and that I'm finally at this moment. And then she says to me, "With a sense of abundant joy that you have found your way to this moment. I now pronounce you married to yourself." Chang: And then did everyone cheer? Thomas: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, there was a lot of cheering and I was jumping around and we're super happy, just super happy. I think the next thing we we do is we have some sharing, and there's another poem, and then we have just, you know, the closing and releasing of the directions and opening of a circle and then we had rainbow cupcakes. Chang: Delicious. Do you feel like years later that you pick the right vows? Thomas: Yes I do. I do. I really love my vows still. I have them on my wall and I recite them when I look at my ring and they're very much... I probably had too many for each chakra really, but I tried to narrow it down and there were just so many aspects of each chakra that felt important. So I think in the end, they were perfect. Chang: And just to go back a little bit, we talked about the importance of the chakras and then I heard you mentioning your grandmothers and mothers and friends and it sounds like it was all women that were part of the ceremony. Is that right? Thomas: That's right. Chang: And what was the significance of that for you? Thomas: Well, it feels to me that there's a thing about being a woman where we're expected to, I suppose if we're straight, we're expected to give up our, you know, our autonomy to a man and to marriage at a certain point in our lives. And that if we don't do that, it means that we couldn't get it together or we failed, or, you know, we didn't do it right or whatever. And I did a lot of thinking and feeling into how much the institution of marriage was a survival tool for women. And for me, it really wasn't so much because my partner and I were happy together, we didn't need to get married, I would have been fine... I could be fine as a woman in this society without a partner because things have evolved so much for women. But, I mean, in my mom's era, you know, it would have been a lot different and my grandmother's, way different. And so, looking back through my ancestry, it just feels like so many women maybe relied on it as a survival tool. And that felt very heavy to me. So with this ceremony, as with a lot of things that I do, I kind of dedicated my work to shift an old paradigm in me to go back as possible, right, through time to heal my Ancestors, to help heal my line. So, so that, you know, as I liberate myself from these old beliefs that are limiting, it helps to liberate them. So that was a big part for me... and in fact, when I started in the very beginning of the performance art piece, during the musical beginning, before the lyrics started, I had a picture come up on the screen because there was a visual piece to it as well, each one of my grandmother's, and I think there were about maybe 13 or 14 of them that I have pictures of who were on there who showed up one after another. And while I was sitting there watching that during the beginning of the performance art piece, I just felt the power of each... it was like... because we were in ritual space... and it was just like... Boom, there's that grandmother. Boom, there's that grandmother. Boom... and it was like they were showing up. They were walking in the door. They were coming into the space. Chang: Wow. really powerful. Wow. That's amazing. Yeah, there's even more depth and power in that answer than I was expecting. So thank you for sharing that. How are you feeling after the ceremony compared to before? Thomas: I felt so different inside me. I felt like a lot more grounded in myself and who I was and a lot more sure of myself and just like something really important and momentous that happened in me and I shifted, I just felt like I shifted, a different person. Chang: Thank you so much for sharing all of that with me. And I'm sure the listeners will love hearing about self-commitment ceremonies through your eyes because it's certainly something that I never really considered or thought about before meeting you. So I'm grateful for the introduction through you. I hope that after hearing this story, you feel inspired to create something for yourself. I chose to go pretty much all out, but there are many ways to do self marriage, even down to simply choosing a special ring that you know is YOUR ring. If you create your own ceremony, let us know. We’re available at shamepinata.com. Tria Chang is a writer based in San Francisco whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the NYT Now app, and Narratively. When not writing, she co-runs Make America Dinner Again, and has spoken on NPR, BBC, and at SXSW to discuss and model how to build understanding across political lines. She is working on her first book. Learn more at http://triachang.com/ Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you like the show, please take a minute to review it on Apple Podcasts. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
12 minutes | 9 months ago
S1E9 COVID-19 A Ritual for Flow
In these less than normal times, when the world is crying out for change, it can be difficult to tell which way is up, let alone make decisions on how to move forward. But liminality offers us the opportunity to slow down and look within. What if we could find a way to flow with the chaos? What if, inside, we actually know what we need to do next? Here are some steps to create a ritual for flow: 1. Create a quiet space. 2. Slow down and center. 3. Notice the words, phrases and images in our head. 4. Find ourselves in the center of the chaos. 5. Follow our intuition and go with the flow of the moment. 6. Jot any ideas or plans down to consider later. 7. Rest the body for a few moments if possible. 8. Eat! And review the list of ideas we made earlier. Music by Terry Hughes Links: Community Rituals: https://ever-changing.net/offerings Color Me Conscious: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/e-maire-fowler/color-me-conscious The Stoop: http://www.thestoop.org/ Code Switch: https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/ About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge: https://www.aboutracepodcast.com/ Love Shame Piñata?Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript We are in a liminal space. We are between the worlds. We have left the pre-COVID world behind us and moved onto the path toward a new reality. What will it bring? In these less than normal times, when the world is crying out for change, it can be difficult to tell which way is up, let alone make decisions on how to move forward. But liminality offers us the opportunity to slow down and look within. What if we could find a way to flow with the chaos? What if, inside, we actually know what we need to do next? This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. If you've been listening to Shame Piñata for a while, you know that we began season 1 with a focus on weddings & commitment ceremonies. However, since COVID-19 came on the scene, we have been dividing our time between talking about the commitment ceremony we might one day plan and building ceremonies we can do right now to help with day to day life in the middle of a pandemic. We started with a simple ceremony to release fear and center in our strength as the pandemic began in March, then moved on to a ritual to release overwhelm. That one has been very popular, by the way, as it continues to be a useful practice. I'll put a link in the show notes if you'd like to know more. Today we are going to spend some time talking about flow. And chaos. And flow. Because we are now not only surfing a pandemic but also birthing a new world. The protests that are happening in response to the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many other Black people have pitted protesters against the police and changed the focus of everything. It's been a whirlwind and continues to be. Today we will create space to find out what this chaos and flow is offering us, and how we can learn, grow, and move with it. But right now, before we go any further, I want to point out that I am a white person with a white voice. And it's wonderful that you're listening because I love to talk ritual with you, but I want to make sure that you are also surrounding yourself with Black voices right now and always. So check the show notes for links to four of my favorite podcasts: Color Me Conscious, Code Switch, The Stoop, and About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge. Go ahead and check the show notes now, while we listen to some music. In creating ceremony, the first thing we want to do is to find a time where we won't be disturbed, in this case maybe an hour. If this is unrealistic for you, given your whole family is under one roof 24/7, maybe try for 20-30 minutes. It will also be helpful to have a little bit of space to move around and you might also find it useful to have access to music, a journal, and some water. Once we're in a quiet space, we want to just slow down. Just sit. And breathe. Notice. What sounds do we hear? How does the floor feel against our bare feet or our stocking feet? What does it feel like to have a closed door in between us and the rest of the household? Or what does it feel like to be sitting still and listen to the sounds of an empty house? Notice. How are we breathing? Can we count from 1-10 on our breaths? After we begin to quiet down a little bit, we can expand our noticing to what is going on inside of us. What words and phrases are swirling through our head? What images are still there from something we saw this morning or last night? The words of a friend, a voice from the protests, an image from the news, an image from our worries and fears. We're just noticing, still. We are making little piles of the things that are in our heads, like making piles of coins on the table as we empty our pockets. The things we have collected over time, the images we have been carrying around with us. We can write them down or speak them out loud to witness them. So, we take time for that. These things, words, phrases, images are part of the mandala of this moment, this expanded, crappy, wonderful, awful, beautiful moment. Each moment is always so many things at the same time. We're just noticing. Noticing and setting a few of these things down as we gently look through them all. It's important here to be organic. Let it be messy. Yes, we're setting down each thing, but we're not trying to organize them. We're in process, everything is moving. We allow everything. We allow all of me and we allow all of you. Now that we've slowed down and taken a simple inventory of some of what we've been holding, it's time to center. It's time to find ourself in the midst of chaos, find ourself at the center of the wheel. What can be helpful here is to bring our attention to a single thing. The tip of our nose. A pinkie finger. One thing about ourself that feels true. A memory from earlier in the year, a simple, clear moment, maybe a boring moment. And now that we're centered, we become conscious again of the chaos and change swirling around us. We feel into it and notice what wants to move. What's already moving and inviting us along? Where are we being led? What's the pull? What do we want to do with this energy? Now, this is a moment when the mind will most likely jump and start thinking of Things. To. Do. That's fine, that's what the mind is for. And that's what the journal is for - to jot those ideas down, ideas like take a class, attend a protest, read a book, call a friend. So we willwrite those down to save them for later, and return to the intuition. For now, we will be intuitive, let our body lead, follow our impulses, let whatever wants to move be birthed through us. We can cry, move, dance, scream, connect to the Ancestors, make art, pray, or just sit and notice the energy of the moment. Once we get into the intuitive flow, we want to really give ourselves a chunk of time to stay in it. This is the healing part of the ceremony, this is where the change is happening. This is where we are making sense of the chaos, where we are letting go of the river bank and giving in to the pull of the water. We want to do lots of deep breathing because energy moves on the breath. So we follow the flow as long as it asks us to, and when we're ready, we allow the activity to come to a natural close and give ourselves time to fully feel any emotions that have come up. To transition out of the ceremony, we will take time for lie down and rest if possible, to allow the shifts to integrate. Maybe give thanks or think of things we are grateful for. And then when we feel ready, we will be sure to drink lots of water and eat something! While we're eating, we can review the list we made of all the things our mind suggested we might want to do next and scratch somethings off or add some new ideas. It might not be a bad thing to add some ideas for self-care, things like remembering to keep breathing, get good sleep, keep our blood sugar even, stay hydrated, and make room for laughter and tears. While we're are at it, we can pick one or two of the podcasts from our show notes to check out this week. As humans, we are not comfortable living in liminality. We like things to be straightforward, known, and predictable. Right now we are all in between the world we used to inhabit and the next one. I hope this simple ceremony provides you with a template to build one for yourself or for your community so that you can recharge and center and return to the important work of building the new world. Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you like our show, please take a minute to share it with a friend. That is one of the very best ways you can support this new baby show. Learn more at shamepinata.com. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
20 minutes | 9 months ago
S1E8 A Whole Other Layer of Self-Love (Jennie Taylor)
We hear all the time that we should love ourselves more, but what does that actually look like in real life? Can self-love be more than buying ourselves flowers? Jennie Taylor shares the tools in her self-love playbook and speaks honestly about loving herself through a deeply personal surrender. Music by Terry Hughes Links: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-self-love-playbook https://expand-coaching.com/ Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript Taylor: We all have that one thing. We all have that thing we think we're supposed to be, that we think will bring us happiness or will make us worthy of love and joy. What I've learned is that one of the deepest ways you can love yourself is just letting go of that thing. What does it mean to love ourselves? To have our own back and be on our own team as we make the tough decisions? Is self-love really just narcissism? Is it just a new age thing? We'll speak today with Jennie Taylor, who has been on a wide and deep journey to understand what self love means for her, and who will share with us how we can learn to actually do it. This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. As you know, in this first season on Shame Piñata we are focusing on weddings & commitment ceremonies, a type of ceremony we are all familiar with. And we've also touched just a bit on the idea of self-commitment ceremonies, where a person commits to being their own best partner. Today we're going to look at little more deeply into the idea of self love. I came across a wonderful article by Jennie Taylor which helped me understand that self love can be an action instead of a feeling and also that it's really a practice from moment to moment, ever-evolving as we learn to know and trust ourselves more. This idea of self love as an action reminds me of one of my favorite Mr. Rogers quotes, “Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like 'struggle'. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now – and to go on caring even through times that may bring us pain." So, self love can look like us accepting ourselves, no matter how we're feeling in the moment. And when you think about it, isn't that really the way you'd want someone to love you, to just accept you the way you are in this moment? I also learned from Jennie's article (and this shouldn't be a surprise) that our ability to be in our body and feel our feelings has a huge impact on our ability to accept ourselves and show up for ourselves in the moment. Because if I'm not in touch with my body, I won't be as able to identify my feelings and listen to what they're telling me. I'll be disconnected from the cues that help me make decisions like should I stay or do I want to leave? Is this job a good fit for me? Is this relationship meeting my needs? Jennie and I had a wonderful conversation a few months ago. We spoke about self love within the context of the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. Thomas: So what does self love mean to you? Taylor: So for me, self love has really been a journey of discovering that it's really a practice. When I first started out, I was looking for this feeling of self love. And what I've learned in going through so many layers of it is that it's a ritual, it's a habit, it's a practice. It's a way I show up for myself. Specifically, I'd say the most important thing is allowing myself to feel my feelings, setting boundaries with people. That practice, you know, includes being mindful of how I spend my time, how I talk to myself, how I care for my body, it's those... practicing compassion and acceptance. So all of those things are more doing rather than a feeling. Thomas: So I know that you've been on a journey to find self love and to concretize and weave it into your life. Can you tell us a little bit about what that journey looked like? Taylor: Yes. I feel like the word that comes up is resistance. It's just this big journey of resistance. And me like fighting it and then giving in and fighting and giving in... And so yeah, I mean, I think, for me, it's always peeling back new layers. It started with things like, you know, trying to really like myself in my 20s, buying myself flowers, allowing myself alone time, cooking myself a nice dinner. So there were these things that I was like, yes, this is a part of self care. And I'm just going to have a special time with myself. But then what I realized when I peel back that layer is like, I still had really harsh self talk and I still was really hard on myself if I would make a mistake, sort of beat myself up. And so that led me to this other layer of like doing the work on that part of me. What was driving the the negative self talk? How could I shift that, you know? So becoming conscious of that. And then once that shifted, it was like I stopped being overly critical of myself, I stopped doing things that were bad for me like, you know, drinking a decent amount or you know, eating badly, hanging out with people that were just blatantly not good for me. But then I really still was disconnected from my body. And so when I would be stressed, I wouldn't leave a situation, or when I would be feeling really not good physically, you know, sometimes you can get yourself in a situation and you're, you physically just feel like your energy is capped or it's being drained. And I realized I wasn't criticizing myself but I was also still putting myself in these situations where I didn't feel good about myself. So that was this whole 'nother you know, layer and I would say, where I am now is sort of... it’s feeling all of my feelings, the light, the dark, the things I'm nervous make me a bad person or make me unlovable. It's feeling all of that with a really deep level of acceptance and then checking in with my body on like, how well I'm doing. You know what I mean? So if I still feel anxiety, I know I'm not there. Because when I'm in my truth and when I'm in my aligned place of self love, my body feels free, it feels clear, it feels good. Did you get that? Jennie lets her body tell her how well she's taking care of herself. She makes the best decision she can from moment to moment and then checks in with how her body is feeling to see if her decision was a supportive one. Thomas: I love that idea, that metric, of listening to the body checking in with the body. How does my body feel? Because the body doesn't lie. Taylor: Absolutely. And your intuition speaks through your body. And it's funny because I actually run a triggers... like a workshop on triggers. So how to help people process these stuck beliefs and through the body. And one of the things coolest things is when you do the work, you can actually have a feeling that really triggers your body and it dissolves the more you work with it and dance with it and love it and play with it. So it's a check-in and you can sort of feel the progress within your body to over time. Thomas: Yeah, I was always taught that it was mind, body, heart, spirit, but I've only recently realized that the emotions in the body are and so much in the gut as well. When my father passed away, that was probably one of the biggest grieving times I had and, and a lot of times when I was crying, there was no content. I wasn't thinking about him. I wasn't missing him even I was just... my body needed to cry. And yes, and it was it was almost like, you know, throwing up or something. It was just like, I had to just stepped back and let the body do it. And it helped if somebody was there to hold space, so I didn't feel like I had to stop. And then I just would go and go and go and go and go and go and go and go, go, go, go go... just just let it go. And just until it was done, and like, okay, that had to happen. Taylor: Yes. What you're talking about is so helpful when we when we start talking about using the body to process emotion. When we're in our heads and we're creating story and we're crying and we're making it worse and making ourselves sad, that's a different type. What you're talking about is absolutely hands down the body just processing and moving on emotion when there's not a lot of thought, there's not a narrative. You're just getting it out. I felt like that with this virus as well going around. Have you? Thomas: No, I think I'm still in my head. Taylor: You're still in your head? Thomas: I'm still... I'm still making plans, making plays. Yeah, you know, worrying and calling people in the you know, I'm still in that place. Taylor: Right, right, right. Yeah, I have there been a couple of days where I am not sure what I'm crying it out, but I just have to release. It's like there's this collective angsty typing that is just heavy. We've got to get it out, you know? I think a big part of my practice has been is this useful for me to feel this or is this creating more of this negative energy? You know, so checking in on what the intention behind feeling the negative emotion is. Is it ego? Is it my body processing? Thomas: Nice. Yeah. And how do you how do you tell? Taylor: Usually it's a head versus - and a lot of thought - versus that body feeling that you're talking about. And for me, when I'm processing emotion, in my body, it feels like it sort of wells up and then I have to get it out, usually through tears, a lot of times breath or sound. Like if it's energy in my throat, that's usually not ego. But when it's my head sort of making me inferior making a victim, making me... you know, where there's like a strong narrative around it... Thomas: Yeah. Yep, I hear ya. Taylor: Yeah. So. And, and fear also, I think lives in our head when we're down that rabbit hole of like all the things that could happen. Yeah, we're in fear and fear is ego. So when we're scared and we have scary thoughts in our heads, maybe ones that keep us awake at night or steal our attention while we're at a stoplight, those moments can take us out of our body, into our head. And the weird thing is that we can't really release that tension or resolve the feelings when we're in our head, because the emotions are in the body. I asked Jennie what she discovered about herself over the years. Taylor: I mean, there's so many things what immediately came to mind was that I am lovable. I feel like that sounds very trite. I've also discovered just how hard on myself I was. But I think overall, which includes both of those things is that I'm human. You know, this is all part of it. And the ups and the downs and the dark and the light that's it's all safe. You know, and the truth is, it's between me and me. I don't need to expose it and to put it out there and make sure other people love my dark. I'm the only one that has to love that and accept that and explore it and so from that place, it's a lot safer and easier to explore. Because it's between me and you know, what I believe is my Creator source energy like the divine that's within me and in the universe. Thomas: Wow, that's the lesson right there. I love that. Thank you. Taylor: Yeah. Thomas: So you and I had spoken a little bit before that one of the things that you went through in your life was coming to terms with the reality of not having children. making peace with that, with that reality. And I'm curious how self love was part of that process what that process was like for you and how self love was part of it. Taylor: Yeah. So this was a big one in 2019 for me. I have always identified with being a mom, always. Like from the time I was six years old, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" "A mom." That was me, you know? And so I had cultivated self love and I'll be honest with you, part of it was in preparing myself to be a better mom, a better wife a better you know, the head of the family. And so when you're when I was doing all these things, and I still wasn't feeling like I was any closer to becoming a mother, I started having a lot of suffering. And it was self inflicted. It wasn't because society was telling me I should have a baby because I'm a woman, you know. It just it wasn't that. I was genuinely... it was like a real internal identity and a pull of like, what am I, if I don't do this with my life? It feels like this is my purpose. I feel so called to do this and I can't... I felt like I can't create it. So that awareness of the suffering, and how much I was creating that for myself, I think, opened up this bigger discussion for me with myself around surrender. And it was this sort of come-to-Jesus moment of like, I cannot create this much suffering for myself and this much self judgment and love myself at the same time. And so what needs to happen is a place of total like radical acceptance and surrender, that my life has value and meaning even if I don't even know Know what it is yet? And that's profound. To sort of like yes, you love yourself for what you know of yourself but to then peel back this layer and have to love this part of yourself that you trust has value because, you know, if you have a spiritual practice you you believe that. But you don't even know what it looks like yet you don't know what your contribution is yet. And I feel like it really was a twofold practice of like A: noticing the shame and the suffering and the thoughts, and finally just getting a place of saying, "No, I will not treat myself like this anymore. I won't". And even though I want it so badly, and I feel so called, there's something else and I trust with I trust that divine within me that knows there's some purpose here, why this hasn't happened. Thomas: Right Taylor: And yeah, I mean, again, that's a practice, that's showing up every day for myself. And of course there are some bad days, you know, but in those moments, it's... it really is just a call back to trust and surrender. And knowing that that's the kindest, most loving thing I can do for myself. And I'm still obviously open to it. You know what I mean? Like, I'm... it's not too late. I certainly could still have children, but it's... there's no attachment to it anymore. There's no... there's not like that need to, to have me be worthy. That's sort of how I know that I've healed that part of me, is because I don't have a narrative anymore around how it's gonna go or like why it hasn't happened. You know, sometimes I think when we're insecure about things or we are resisting things, we have a narrative around why it hasn't happened to sort of cover up our shame. And for me right now, it's just, I don't know. I really have no story anymore. I have no... I have no ending one way or the other. It feels so good to be in this place of such tension and such pain and suffering right in my body to then move through it and claim this other part of my power. Thomas: Right. Taylor: And yeah, just feel sort of lighter and still open but not attached. Thomas: Right. Right. You've like moved beyond the story in the detachment. Taylor: Yes, yes. It's just... I'm very much in trust. And I think I think one common misconception or mistake is that people will surrender in order to get there. And there's still that attachment to... "Okay, but I have to let go of it all and then I'll get it!" You know, that's all I think it's common right now where there's a lot of talk around manifestation. And the purpose with the context of self love is: Do it because it's kind to yourself. Don't do it to get it. You know what I mean? Thomas: Well, thank you so much. It's been so awesome just getting to know you and absolutely continuing to have a conversation. Taylor: Back at you and I hope you know our conversations continue on and on. So yes, yes. I'm so grateful to Jennie for sharing her wisdom with us, not only on her ever-deepening explorations of self love, but also for her reminders on the wisdom our bodies offer us right now, in this moment. I hope you can take a minute today to take one or maybe even two deep breaths and notice how your body feels. You might even see if you can sense your body's response as you make decisions like working another few hours or taking a break, reading a book or taking a walk. Just noticing. You might notice if you can even feel your body today. And if you can't, it's okay. Your body is there, just waiting to connect. Waiting to accept you in this moment, no matter how you are. Jennie Taylor is a certified leadership coach and founder of Expand Coaching, an organization aimed at helping clients deepen connection and authenticity in the workplace and with oneself. Her Expand Within program focuses on the components of Self-Love and gives practical ways to cultivate it to impact all areas of life: career, relationships, purpose. Before coaching full-time, Jennie spent 16 years in the healthcare and technology industries as a sales leader. You can learn more about her and book a free session at www.expand-coaching.com Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you like the show, please take a minute to review it on Apple Podcasts. Learn more at shamepinata.com. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
13 minutes | 10 months ago
S1E7 COVID-19 Releasing Overwhelm
With so many things happening at once, it's easy for the nervous system to become overwhelmed. When this happens, it's hard to think, it's hard to function. We have the power to gain a bit of distance from what is coming at us by doing a simple ceremony to release overwhelm. Music by Terry Hughes Links: https://ever-changing.net/offerings https://www.virusanxiety.com/take-care https://www.besselvanderkolk.com/ Love Shame Piñata?Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript Thomas: Maybe never returning to school... people dying which is going to happen... not being able to save people from dying... This is me typing out a list of my overwhelm. In the closet at 11pm at night. Thomas: Just feeling so small in all of it... my chest hurts... There are so many things happening at once. So many things we cannot control. So many fears and concerns. Thomas: Him losing his job... How do we make sense of the chaos and honor the deep emotions coming from our bodies while simultaneously holding it all together for the people around us? Powerful, strong emotions can flow through our bodies during times of transition as stress hormones are released and our nervous system goes haywire. This is kind of day to day life right now during COVID-19. But we don't have to keep swimming in overwhelm. We can take time to get a bit of distance from it. Join me for a simple ceremony you can do to release today's overwhelm. This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. As the world continues to deal with the challenges brought by the coronavirus COVID-19, we are here to remind you (as we are wont to do) that ceremony and ritual can play a key role in helping us deal with change. Think back on your daily life in early February of 2020. Now imagine listing all of the changes, both large and small, that have happened since then. Not enough paper, right? In fact, why even bother? There are more important things to be doing right pnow. Filing for unemployment, checking on friends and family, sourcing food, keeping a roof over our heads. Many of us have moved into a new reality that is all about flow and adjustment as the situation rapidly changes around us. Heartbreak and grief mingle with practical decisions and best guesses as we put one foot in front of the other and just keep going. And, when there is time, when there is a moment of quiet that permits reflection, we might notice that we're kinda just holding too much. We've all been through an insane amount of change recently and we may not be feeling as grounded and calm as we want to be. A few weeks ago I shared a simple ritual to shake off fear and center in our strength. Today we will build a simple ceremony to release some of the overwhelm. There are certain core components that I feel are important to include in all ceremonies right now. They include honoring our body wisdom, deeply leaning into the breath, creating connection across the Zoomspace, and using trauma-sensitive language. I will pause here to invite you to remember what breathing feels like. If it feels good to you, take a deep breath in... and out. And another all the way in and out, totally emptying. And a third deep breath in... and out. The invitation is to keep breathing throughout the rest of this episode, mainly just to remember how to do it, how to breathe very deeply, in a way that lets your body know you are here and that you are paying attention. So, trauma-sensitive. Why do we want to make ceremony trauma-sensitive right now? Well, because everything thing should be trauma-sensitive right now! Awareness and development of new tools to help mitigate the effects of trauma have been pioneered by experts like Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. The goal of using trauma-sensitive practices are to help us regain comfort in our bodies, keep us out of our heads, and improve our nervous system's ability to self-regulate. So, what does that look like within the context of ceremony? The ways I have included trauma-sensitive language into my ceremonies are three-fold. First, all instructions are offered as invitations, meaning all participants are welcome to completely ignore the instructions. Trauma can make us feel frozen and limited and we need to practice taking our freedom so we create a welcoming space for that. Secondly, participants can leave the Zoom meeting at any time. They can come and go as they please. The one caveat here is that I will check in with them later if they leave and don't come back, just to be sure they’re okay. Lastly, the I try to use invitation language, for example, "Consider closing your eyes, if that is comfortable for you” or "If you want, take a deep breath and extend your spine tall". Again, we are so very trained to follow directions. This language helps us to remember that we have a choice, to see how our nervous system reacts to having a choice, and to practice making a choice. So now that we've discussed the core components, let's move on to the content. We've gathered everyone together, reviewed the idea of deepening into the breath during our time together, and gone over a few group norms. Now we want to check in. Everyone gets a short amount of time to say what's going on for them in the moment. How are they doing? What has their day been like so far? This basic check-in does several things. It allows everyone to get their voice into the circle, gives everyone a feel of the room, and allows folks to share the things that are on the very top of their mind, which in turn allows them to release these things and be ready to absorb new information. Check-ins are an important part of allowing everyone to arrive in the space. We often use a timer for check-ins, especially with large groups. 3 minutes per person is a good length, with another minute available upon request. Next it can be helpful to lead some sort of centering activity, such as a meditation or visualization. This quiets the mind and allows everyone to find a moment of peace. It’s practice in letting go for just a few minutes - and that is such important practice right now. Then we are ready to move onto the meat of the ritual, or the tofu of the ritual as some people call it. Everyone is invited to grab some paper or a journal and write down anything and everything they’re holding onto that just feels like it's too much right now. You heard some of my list at the top of the show. The idea is just to make a list of everything that's hard, or worrisome, or uncomfortable, or scary or even worse. It can take a while to get it all out. After a period of writing, the group comes back together and everyone is invited to share a few things from their list if they’d like to. This is an opportunity to have the hard things witnessed, to allow others help us shoulder some of the burdens and hear that we're not crazy for worrying about something, even something really small. It's a chance to be vulnerable and real, and an opportunity we don't necessarily get in day to day life because everyone is doing their best to hold it together and no one wants to be the person who loses it. Once these items have been witnessed, it's time to release them. Since we're not all sitting around a bonfire we can handily toss our papers into, we have another short meditation in which we light a candle in our minds for every item on our list, a candle for every item we heard shared, and a few more candles for the things that were left unsaid or those that are not yet speech-ripe. We light the candles to honor each of these things, each is important, each is real. And the we let them go. Now that we have released these worries and concerns, we need to fill in the empty spaces with ourselves and the things we love. Because if we don't do that, something else will fill that space, and it might just be more fear and worry! To fill back up, we use a tool called a Gold Sun. Lewis Bostwick developed this tool at the Berkeley Psychic Institute in then 1970's. You can do a Gold Sun right now. If you’d like, take a breath and get centered. Consider rubbing your hands together and then shaking them off, like you are shaking water off of them. Then if it feels good, rub them together again to wake up your palms and bring your hands above your head as if you are holding a giant beach ball. This is your gold sun. Consider closing your eyes and filling it with everything you most love about yourself, all of the ways you are special, all of the love your favorite relative has for you, or the way your dog looks at you. Just fill it till it's completely full, then slowly lower your hands and bring the ball of energy down into your body. Let it filter into all of the crevices. Let it fill all of you. If you have trouble connecting to the things you love about yourself, you can focus on the things you most love in life: chocolate, coffee, naps in the sun, the most beautiful place you've ever visited. Your Gold Sun is always above your head waiting for you to bring it in consciously. After everyone is filled back up, we take some time to share insights and close the circle. Another short meditation can be helpful here to help everyone center again and really scoop up and digest the changes the ritual has brought. Everyone is reminded to take some time afterward to rest and do something simple and relaxing, if possible. Folks can release the physical papers they wrote on in whatever way feels good to them. Burn them, tear them up into little pieces, anything that bring a sense of final release. It's important to note here that physical items used in sacred space absorb the intention placed on them. In a sense they become sacred or magical and as such, some people feel it is important to treat them with a certain level of respect. You can certainly just recycle the papers you wrote on, but you might also feel into what that feels like. Does that feel like the right release? It might and it might not. Trust you gut. Thank you so much for joining me for this second COVID-19 ritual discussion. I've been doing this ritual for two weeks now and it's become a basic component of my self-care. There is simply SO MUCH that we can work with right now using the tool of ritual or ceremony. I encourage you to develop your own rituals to honor what is heavy on your heart, to release what is weighing you down, to celebrate what you hold dear. If you’d like to join us for a ceremony, visit shamepinata.com to sign up and learn more. Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you like our show, please take a minute to review it on Apple Podcasts or share it with a friend. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
20 minutes | a year ago
S1E6 There Must Be Something Wrong (Sheryl Paul)
The pain, grief, discomfort, and vulnerability that can arise throughout the wedding process can actually be doorways into joy if we are willing to let them in. Sheryl Paul speaks about her book "The Conscious Bride" which addresses the MANY feelings that can arise around a wedding for everyone involved. Music by Terry Hughes Links: Sheryl Paul's work: https://conscious-transitions.com The Conscious Bride: https://conscious-transitions.com/books Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript Paul: I'm always interested in what's not being talked about what people are experiencing, but are trying to stuff away, trying to sequester, trying to sweep into the corner under the rug... when all that does is create shame and all that does is create anxiety. Sheryl Paul has a unique ability to see the invisible, to see what has been silenced. Her book "The Conscious Bride" has been helping couples prepare for marriage for 20 years - and prepare in a very specific way. Her work helps couples create room for all of the emotions that come with transition, not just the picture perfect ones. Funny thing is, that allows for even more joy. Join me for a conversation with Sheryl Paul. This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. When I got engaged six years ago, a good friend of mine gave me a book called "The Conscious Bride". Now, I'm not a reader, as my husband will tell you, but I devoured this book. I loved it because it touched on the shadow, the stuff we don't talk about, the stuff that gets in our way when we want to feel one way but actually feel a myriad of other ways all at the same time. It named the shadow that hovers over the wedding: the attachment, the fear, the uncertainty, the hidden power-struggles and the grief that lies beneath them, and that a big part of stepping into a new life is letting go of the old one - and not just for the couple. The Conscious Bride gave me permission to feel all the ways, and it helped me create room for everyone else to feel all the ways too so, ultimately, we could all process the transition without getting into weird fights about random things. I was so happy to have a chance to speak with Sheryl Paul. Thomas: So what led you to write this book? Paul: So, I was in a master's program around that time. I was at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, which I don't know if you're familiar with, but it has a very strong Jungian focus. And I had always been interested in rites of passages and I had a deep sense that there was a lot that was not being talked about around the wedding. And I started to interview women and I did a lot of interviews, especially when it came time to write the book, which came from my master's thesis. So it started out as as a thesis and then evolve into a book. And I started to see that there was a big gap in the cultural conversation around around transitions in general. All transitions are bypassed and overlooked, but particularly the wedding and then in particular, how much focus there is on the joy and the perfection and everything has to be blissful and ecstatic from the moment of the proposal into the first year of the wedding, and there was just no conversation happening about the shadow, about the death experience, about what women (and men) are actually experiencing quite a bit of a time. And, you know, the more I researched and the more I looked and the more I spoke, the more it became quite clear to me that just that again, that there was a real gap in the conversation around this pivotal rite of passage, one of our few ceremonies that we still invoke in the culture. And yet it's done in such a way where we really gloss over the element of a transition, of the reality that when you are in transition, you are in a death experience, you are in a liminal zone, you are between identities, you are letting go, you are grieving. And we only expect people to feel joyful. It creates a lot of anxiety and it creates even more chaos than there naturally would be around an event like this. Because I'm feeling sad, because I have a sense of loss, because I feel like a part of me is dying, because I'm not over-the-moon ecstatic... something must be wrong with me, or with my partner, or with the decision to get married - something's wrong. And it's an incredibly deep sigh of relief to the soul to know that nothing is wrong. In fact, the more you let those difficult feelings in, the more you will open to the joy; that the pain and the grief and the discomfort and vulnerability are the doorways into the joy, into what we are expected to see all and into what we hope to feel. And what I started to say earlier was that that the wedding more than any other transition, I think, has (probably being pregnant becoming a mother comes close) carries a very strong cultural expectation of unilateral joy and it is supported in a big way by the wedding industry that sells perfection and sells joy. So it's a it's very big money behind selling us the bill of goods by selling us this message that you are supposed to be joyful and the way to do that is to create a perfect event. Thomas: How do you work with someone if they're just starting to realize that they don't have to only feel joyful? Paul: So, I tell them to read my book. And, you know, it's really the first part it's about re educating people to understand all of the normal and necessary feelings that accompany this transition. And once they understand that everything they're feeling is normal and necessary, they can start to let it in and and feel it, feel the grief, feel the loss, feel the vulnerability, feel the loneliness. These are all normal feelings that accompany transitions. So once we give ourselves permission to feel without that overlay of "because I'm feeling this it means there's something wrong" everything changes from there. We don't then have to misassign meaning to the feelings and to think, "Because I'm feeling sad, it means I'm making mistake." No, it has nothing to do with that. You're feeling sad because you are in a rite of passage. You're feeling sad because you are in the death experience, letting go of this identity, this primary identity as single person, as daughter, and shifting into an entirely new stage of life, a new identity. And there is no way to go through that without feeling grief. Thomas: You spend a good portion of the book talking about how the bride is separating from the father/father figure and the mother/mother figure and the friends. Can you say more about that process? Paul: Yes, so it can go a few different ways. If the bride is very close to her father, that's one set of emotions and experiences where there is tends to be a lot of grief, a lot of crying, really good, medicinal, necessary crying to make that separation process... and to make it more effective to make it more complete to make it more conscious. Again, in the naming, to say, I am separating from my dad, I am no longer going to be... Yes, I'm his daughter, but not in the same way, not as my primary identity. That my new partner is going to be number one and I'm transferring allegiance. So, that's one example of one way that it can go if if someone's very close to their father. If somebody doesn't have a close relationship with their father or there is no father figure in their life, that's a different kind of grief of the loss of not having had that or never having had that. The same as somebody has passed away. If somebody who's getting married and their mother's no longer alive. You know, that's, that's one way that grief can come through, as opposed to a mother who is very much alive and very much involved. And then there's a separation. There's, there's a loosening of cords that is required. Thomas: I'm curious as you're speaking how this applies, I'm sure it's very different, but how it applies to folks who were older when they get married, or maybe a second marriage. Paul: It can be different, it can be similar. It depends. It depends on a lot of factors. But regardless of the age, especially if it's a first marriage and you're getting married at 40, you're still letting go of a massive identity. And in some ways, it's even more of a letting go because of all of those years that you spent as a non-married person. And so there's a lot of grieving, a lot of shedding of the independence, the separateness, all of the control that you have when you are a non-married person, that every inch of your life is your own: your home, your space, how you spend your time, how you organize your weekend, it's all yours. And so that is its own massive death experience for somebody who marries later, you know, and who has had that many more years than someone who's 22 if you're 42, that's a lot of years of being the sole architect of your life. Thomas: So you work with people around transitions, all kinds of transitions now, and I'm curious if ceremony plays a part in that with them. Paul: I'm a big fan of ceremony. Because my work is largely over the internet. I'm not the one doing the ceremony with them. I would love to be that person, but I'm not. But I always encourage people to create ceremony and create rituals. And so, you know, if it's somebody getting married... and I've had a lot more men come my way, by the way, since I wrote The Conscious Bride. And I'm thinking of some right now who are in one of my small coaching groups. And he's getting married on Saturday, and I won't, I won't share the specifics, but it's... because it's his story. But it's really beautiful to witness men in their transitional process and the rituals that they come up with because I encourage people to find their own rituals that are meaningful to them. Ways to acknowledge the end of you know, in his sake, his bachelorhood that that time in his life is over. And so he has been sharing these incredibly potent rituals that have come to him for ways of recognizing that that time in his life is over. And what ritual does is, as you know, is it, it concretizes, it makes it and embodies what's happening, so that it brings it out of just that realm of talking about it and it sends it into a realm that we can't see with our five senses, but very much exists and yet calls on the five senses to help transmute the experience into another form. And so rituals help us cross over that sometimes very scary divide that just looks like a big, cavernous, empty space, crossing from one identity to a new identity, from one stage of life to the next. And without the rituals we are... we're pretty lost and so, you know, again, as I, as I said earlier, the wedding is one of the few ceremonies that we have, which comes with ritual. A lot of people tend to minimize or diminish the ceremonial aspect because they're so focused on the party and the reception, you know, that's where all of the energy goes. When really, it's the ceremony that has so much power to carry us over the divide between one stage and the next. Thomas: And that's something I'm trying to encourage and put seeds out in the world for as well, that people take that the ritual, the ceremony of the marriage, the wedding and they, they feel free to do it their way so that it's powerful and is as powerful and meaningful for the couple as possible. Paul: Yes, yes! And I think we are at this extraordinary time in our world where we have freedom to do that, where we are breaking out of the traditions that have gone stale and revitalizing them with personal meaning of what is meaningful for you. And there may be long-standing time-honored traditions that are still meaningful. And I'm by no means one to throw everything out that we've come from, because many of those rituals are gorgeous and meaningful - but only if they're meaningful for the individual, right? Only if they land in a place where something inside of you says yes, right? That helps me, that bolsters me, that comforts me. Right? So, you know, whether it's at a Jewish wedding standing under the Chuppah, you know, it's just this beautiful symbol of, of our new home and and this, you know, long standing tradition... if that's meaningful to somebody great. If it's not, then it really.. it's not going to do anything for you on a spiritual level. I shared with Sheryl that before my wedding, I created self-commitment ceremony for myself. And in that ceremony I presenced all of my Ancestral grandmothers with the acknowledgement of how important marriage might have been for them, how much of a survival tool. I did this because women’s standing in society has evolved so much even since my mother's generation, but yet we are still connected to our Ancestral legacy and felt like a really important thing to me. Paul: That's incredibly beautiful that you did that and so powerful and it's probably the number one fear that comes up for women that I'm working with in their pre-wedding time in their engagement, is the fear of what does marriage mean? And does it mean that that I am beholden to this person now and I lose all sense of self and I become boring and frumpy and... This is this is the legacy. This is what we've been handed, right? This is what it has meant for thousands and thousands of years is that for women, marriage has meant really the death of self: I exist, to take care of the man and to take care of the children and that's it. And so there's this very deep ancestral legacy that we have to consciously break with and recognize that we are so lucky and we are so blessed to be on this new threshold, that we get to redefine what marriage means for us. And we only can really know that after we've taken the leap, because on the other side, on the first side, on the engagement side, it just all looks and sounds so scary to most women. And you know, that's why I have so many exercises in The Conscious Bride, more-so I think in The Conscious Bride's Wedding Planner, on what does it mean to be a wife? What does that mean to you? What does the word wife connote? When you think of wife, what is the connotation for you? And it's very rare that someone's going to say, "Oh, I see this rad, sexy woman, you know, like, doing like, the dance on the rooftops." Like, no, that's not usually what we think of when we hear the word wife. But it could be. More and more we are redefining that. And we are seeing that. And so I tell people, but look out into the world today and find those those models of marriage where you see a woman who is doing her life fully, you know, and yes, maybe she's also a mother and she's, you know, loves being married and she's fully committed to her path and and making her offerings, and doing her work in the world. Right? Separate from wife and mother. So, yeah, I love, I love that I love what you share. I love what you did. I think that is not only powerful, but essential on that ceremonial ritual level to recognize what we've come from. Thomas: I'm just so happy and honored to have the chance to talk to you after, after all this time of really, really, really appreciating your book and your wisdom. Paul: Yeah, thank you, Colleen. It means a great deal to me to have the opportunity to share Sheryl's wisdom with you. I hope that you are able to use it or pass it along to a friend. Here's one final bit of wisdom, a quote from The Conscious Bride. "A marriage is a rite of passage no matter when it occurs, and the woman must still pass through the phases of her transformation. She must die, she must sit in the unknown, and then she will be reborn." Sheryl Paul is the author of The Conscious Bride and The Conscious Bride's Wedding Planner. Her website contains a plethora of resources for addressing life transitions. Learn more about Sheryl and her work at https://conscious-transitions.com/ Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you like the show, please take a minute to review it on Apple Podcasts. Learn more at shamepinata.com. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
10 minutes | a year ago
S1E5 COVID-19 A Ritual for Balance
Looking for a way to respond to COVID-19 beyond social distancing? Here’s a simple ceremony that can help you find your center again. Basic Steps of a Ritual for Balance 1. Breathe 2. Center 3. Connect with something bigger 4. Presence & release fear (shake, yell, cry) 5. Connect with strength 6. Create a touchstone (art, writing, music) 7. Close in gratitude 8. Eat 9. Be gentle for the next few hours Music by Terry Hughes Links: https://communitymailbox.wordpress.com/ Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript This week I know we’re all dealing with major disruptions due to the coronavirus COVID-19. A friend recently asked me what a ritual to cope with the changes would look like. I jotted down the first things that came to mind and sent them off to her. Then came her response: So when are we doing this? Ceremony has the power to can create a container to hold the strong emotions that are a natural part of life transitions. That’s what makes rite of passage rituals so helpful to us as we grown and change. But rites of passage are not limited to coming of age ceremonies. We can create our own rituals as the need arises. Well, I would say the need is here. We are in a big transition. And ritual can help. This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. Ok, so wow. We are in some kind of transition right now. Oh my goodness. As of today, my husband and I have been in isolation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus for 3 weeks. Schools are closed. Many people are working from home. The Tonight Show is being taped in Jimmy Fallon’s living room. Workers in essential service fields are on the front lines, providing support in infrastructure industries, hospitals, fire & police stations and grocery stores. We have been asked to stay 6 feet away from one another to slow the spread of the virus. These new limitations alongside the stresses of an unknown future have birthed a great desire to reach out to the people we love, and that need has birthed an explosion of creative ways to connect. Meetings and classes are being held online. Families are group chatting. Couples are live-streaming their weddings. This week I attended a wide variety of online events including work meetings, meditation circles, a talking circle, a mini high-school reunion, a disco party - and that COVID-19 ceremony I mentioned at the top of the show. I’m here to share the ideas with you that first came to me when my friend asked about creating a ceremony about COVID-19 and also to let you know how the ceremony turned out. The first thing we need to do in a ritual to find balance amid COVID-19 is to reacquaint our nervous system with the concept of the breath. Think about it. When we are hovering close to a fight or flight response, or just really scared, our breath becomes much more shallow that it is in regular life, which for most of us is pretty shallow to begin with. So one of the very best things we can do right now is to breathe. And I don’t mean just take a few deep breaths, I mean dedicate a chunk of time to consciously breathing. Reacquaint your body with deep belly breaths. Let’s give it a try right now. Let’s take three very deep breaths together just to practice. It's okay, no one is watching. Just breathe with me. Okay, we're going to breathe in... nice and deep. And breathe out. Okay, another... breathe in... all the way, all the way... and breathe out. And one more time, breathe in... all the way in... and out. Good job! Thanks for giving that a try. Now, I invite you to keep breathing deeply throughout the rest of this episode. You might notice that your body is resistant to breathing deeply if you’ve been running a lot of fear energy. That’s normal. But trust me, you will actually be able to handle all manner of challenges with greater flexibility and resourcefulness if you are breathing well. So this fear we have been feeling, it's not just ours. That's one of the reasons it's so strong. Right now there is a great deal of collective fear and trauma world-wide. So the second thing we need to do in a COVID-19 ritual is to unplug from that. And that actually also requires us to unplug from any past traumas that are currently reactivated. Easier said than done. But possible. So step one is to breathe and step two is to unplug from the network of fear and center back in our selves. You probably have innate ways of centering in yourself. Running may center you, or meditating, connecting with a higher power, or thinking about the people you love. Whatever it is, that's our next step. It's helpful to connect with something that's bigger than ourselves as we center. It helps us feel less alone and fragile. Keep breathing. Now, once we are centered, our next step is to presence and release our emotional energy and fear. Loud music can help here. We will shake, yell, cry, let our bodies just shake. it. off. Again, we're not only shaking off our own fear, but the fears we've absorbed from the people around us and the media we have consumed. We'll give it a good 5-10 minutes of dedicated shaking, dancing, stretching, and moving until we find ourselves at the core of all that junk. Just the selves we've always been. Just plain old us minus the overcoat of fear. With the fear released or at least lessened, we can now connect at an even deeper level with our center and begin to remember how strong we are. We can call on images and people in our lives that speak strength to us. Wonderfully strong historical figures we admire. Ancestors who overcame great challenges in their lifetime. The strength of crocuses pushing up through the snow. Okay, another breath. Now that we have connected with our true nature and called in our strength, now is the time to let our creative selves draw, paint, write, collage something that captures that essence, the essence of our center, the essence of our strength. What we are really doing now is creating a reminder of how we feel in this moment, this vacation from the emergency, when we are fully connected back with our deeper self, all resources fully intact. Because we will go back into the day-to-day world after the ceremony, and this piece or art or writing will be our touchstone to remember this moment of peace and quiet knowing. The final step in our ceremony is to close with prayer or gratitude or another centering activity. In closing, we thank and release the power that is bigger than ourselves, the power we called in earlier and we will prepare to transition back to the regular world. And then, we eat. Eating is very important after ceremony because it connects us back to the physical world and raises our blood sugar which may have been lowered during the ceremony. Dedicating some time to being gentle with ourselves for the next few hours is also important. Activities like resting, reading, taking a bath, doing yoga or taking a long walk give us time to reflect and absorb the shift we just made. Drinking a lot of water can helpful just like we're told to do after a massage because we are detoxing the fear in all levels. So those are the steps I wrote to my friend as a sketch for a COVID-19 ritual. The actual ritual which was held this past weekend, was an opportunity to try them out. We held the ritual on Zoom. We took time to check in, center and ground. We went over a few guidelines to make it a safe and confidential space. We used trauma sensitive language. The dancing moved our fears. Te art helped us concretize and anchor the clarity we found once we were centered. We agreed to hang our art in a place where we would see it daily. The ceremony connected us to one another in this rather precarious time and it connected us back to ourselves. So, in short, a success. And a wonderful opportunity to practice ceremony making in a moment of great need. So as you can see, this was pretty simple. There were just a few steps involved. I invite you to consider how ceremony might benefit you and your community right now. Send us a note at shamepinata.com and let us know how it goes if you do create your own ceremony. You can also sign up for our mailing list to be notified if we do another ceremony. And, consider adding an audio note to our side project Community Mail Box to share what’s helping you stay connected, sane and creative right now. You can also check out a resources listed there. Find the link in the show notes. In the meantime, keep breathing! Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you like the show, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts or share it with a friend. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
21 minutes | a year ago
S1E4 I Want to Have a Ceremony with You (Betsy Weiss)
Betsy and Brandon didn't want to get married. But when Betsy's mother was nearing the end of her life, they decided to honor their love in a ceremony called A Celebration of Love and Family. Music by Terry Hughes Links: The Things She Left Me Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript Weiss: You know, both of our families are actually religious, Christian, and have a different sense of, you know, that you should get married if you're in this committed relationship but we don't feel that way. And so there's sort of this tension, but reality in life of while we feel differently, but that's okay. What happens when our values and choices don't match the expectations of our family? When we grow into different people than those who are closest to us? How can we still keep them close and nurture those important relationships while also finding ways to be true to ourselves? Today we will meet Betsy and Brandon who wanted to do their commitment a bit differently than their families expected. Join me to learn how they did it, and kept their families close. This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. I'm going to share a very special story with you today. Or, rather, our guest is. Betsy Weiss knew she didn't want to get married. She became clear on that shortly after college, in her early 20's. She had very clear and thought-out reasons for making this decision. When she met someone and started a relationship that meant a lot to her, that didn't change. In fact it never changed. What did change is that her mom got sick, and then better, and then sick again. And Betsy was faced with the thought of losing her mother without having had the chance to mark the importance of her relationship with her mother there. She wanted to share the love she and her partner had with her mom. She also wanted to honor her mom for being the cornerstone of the family she had always been. So Betsy and her partner planned a ceremony, a non-wedding. They called it a celebration of life and family. Weiss: I guess my story actually really starts like how I grew up. I grew up in a pretty conservative Christian family, school, church where I was taught that you shouldn't have sex until you're married, that you, as a woman, will serve your husband that he'll be the head of the household. And, you know, a lot of my friends that I knew when were was young got married when they were 21-22. And I always knew... I was always an independent person, I always know that I was going to wait till I was 26. That was like my, well, I'm not gonna get married at 22 or 23 but I'm gonna wait until I'm a little bit older. Because that felt important to me and that was when my mama got married. She was actually 27. And then when I was in college, I really changed my perspective, my mindset, and actually left the faith that I had grown up in. And it felt like there's a lot of toxic things, especially some of the things I was taught as a woman about my self-worth about like that I was told that I was causing men to sin and I was a problem because I was a female and an attractive person. And so I decided after college kind of in my early 20s, I wasn't really interested in getting married anymore, that I might want to have a connection to someone, but that I never wanted to be... to feel like I had to serve someone else like I was lesser. I didn't want to feel like a religion had power over me in that way and didn't feel like I needed the government's approval either. I also really didn't like the sense of property that used to be attached, and in some ways, maybe still is attached to women and marriage. And so I sort of felt like, you know, that's just not something I want. But then I met someone. I met someone named Brandon and we became really close. It was the first really healthy relationship I'd had. When I was in college actually, my mom had gotten sick. She had stage one breast cancer but had gotten better. And then a couple years later, it came back a stage four breast cancer and she had really good results through chemo, but in a moment when she was actually doing a lot better, I was in the car with Brandon, we were on the way to see his family. And I was sitting there and thinking, I want to have a ceremony with you. I want to do something with my mom, before she dies, like if something were to happen. And at the time, we're thinking she had 10-20 years. We thought, you know, she was recovering really well. But I just said, like, I want to do this. I want to recognize our relationship with my mom. And he said, yeah, okay. Betsy and Brandon didn't really talk about it again for months, maybe up to a year. But in the summer of 2014, Betsy went home to help her mom because she was going through chemo again. Weiss: And actually the day I got home, she told me that she had just learned from her doctor that they didn't think that chemo was really going to work anymore, and she probably had about six months left in her life. And so in that moment, and as like a week or two went by, I called Brandon and said, I want to do something. I want to like have a ceremony with my mom. And, you know, he needed to think about it. Because what did that mean to him? What did that mean to our relationship? We'd been together for two years, which wasn't actually that long. I actually was 27, which is funny that that's sort of the age I had put in my mind when I was a kid that I wanted to get married. So as we started to think well, okay, this isn't going to be wedding or marriage, what is it going to be? This is the part of the story where we get to learn about the magic of Betsy's mom, Carol. Despite having cancer, Carol found unique and creative ways to stay connected to joy and she brought those around her with her on that journey. Weiss: We actually took, or I took lessons from my mom, who every time she had chemotherapy, she would throw a party. So she did this so that she could encourage herself and encourage people she saw in the hospital. She had told me that she would go in and it just seemed so depressing and sad and everyone was down because chemo is hard. And, you know, and a lot of people are facing the end of their life there. But she thought, well, I don't want to be depressed and sad, I want to have fun and enjoy, and have this joy. Her name's Carol and that like singing songs of joy sort of like what she would do with her whole life. So she would have theme parties. She had a twins party because we love the baseball team Twins because we're from Minnesota. We had like a caterpillar theme, she would have a fourth of July theme and she would always make a little candy goodie basket. The caterpillar one I think she had like, made a line of little cupcakes that looked like a caterpillar. And the hospital would start to know like, oh Carol is going to come in today! And everyone would stop by and see these decorations and themes in the little chemo room. And you know, they would laugh and have this kind of party. And people will come in all dressed up for whatever the theme was, and you know, it'd be a really special thing to go to win a Carol's chemo parties. And so I wanted to, you know, to keep that going that my mother was dying but, but instead of mourning together, why don't we celebrate and have this party together of life and love that we've had? So we decided to call this ceremony a celebration of love and family. The celebration of love and family took about a month to plan. As Betsy and Brandon began telling other people about it, it became clear that not everyone understood where they were going with the idea. Weiss: Especially my aunts all were like, "Well, but so are you getting married? Or are you engaged? Like, I don't understand." We're like, "No, we're not. We're just going to have a party and we want you to be there. And we're going to talk about how we love each other. And we're going to celebrate our families." I love this part of the story because we begin to see how the members of Betsy's family, while they didn't necessarily understand the vision for the ceremony, or understand why Betsy and Brandon were not getting married, were still supportive and loving. Weiss: So we did need to figure out sort of what the day would look like. And we decided that we wanted to have sort of this simple ceremony in a park close to my house called Trefoil Park by the Red River in Fargo. This really beautiful spot that we put a canopy up and my immediate family, my dad and mom and brother and then Brandon's family, his parents and his brother and sister-in-law came and we just told them to prepare some words if they wanted to share about how they love our families. And we were going to share about our love for each other too. We hired a photographer, which is something I'm so grateful for it because now as I look back, and remember my mother, I have these really wonderful pictures from our celebration. You know, Brandon spoke words to me and I spoke to him and there's a lot of tears and laughter and, and one of the things I really remember that I said, that's been with me and helped me stay strong as I know and my mom is gone, like you Brandon will be what helps hold me together. You know, she was like my best friend. We were really, really close. And when she did pass that was really true and, and saying those words and having that moment together, I think did bring us closer in a way I didn't expect. To me, it was when I was planning the party, although it was about Brandon and I's relationship, I was doing it for my mom and to share with her. But in doing the ceremony, and the celebration, I did feel much closer to Brandon. And I think it did kind of solidify our relationship in a way that surprised me. And then after we all spoke and shared words of love with each other, we went to my favorite Mexican restaurant called Mango's and ate with my extended family. So my cousins and aunts and uncles were there. And then we... although you know, it wasn't really anything that felt like we needed to follow tradition, I do really, really love wedding dances and my family loves wedding dances, and we all love to have a good time. So we had bought a hall, a space, and we invited extended friends family to that area. So we had about 60-70 people all come together and we had little, you know, desserts and d'oeuvres. And in the planning phase it was funny that one of my aunts was just like... it was so hard for her not to plan a wedding and so she was like, "Okay, well, we need centerpieces. So I'm going to create these centerpieces and we need a theme." And they kept trying to ask me these questions. And I was... at the time I was trying to help my mother who was really sick and I'm like, "I don't care. I don't want a wedding. Please don't make it like a wedding. But if you want to make a centerpiece..." Like, it actually was really thoughtful at the same time that they were... Although they didn't understand maybe what we were doing, they wanted to be a part of it and and share. And so we had these really lovely, sort of like beachy-themed centerpieces on the tables. That was really fun. And then we danced. My mom was in her wheelchair, so we kind of wheeled her around and she even stood up a little bit with her oxygen tank and had a dance with my dad. And there's these lovely pictures of her dancing with my dad and Brandon and myself. And it was a beautiful night that so many people got to share with us. And then it was actually two weeks later that my mom passed away. And so, I think, you know, she actually also got really excited planning the party just like she had for her chemo parties. And I think it really gave her some of the energy to make it a little bit longer in life. And then when she, after the party, I think she... She shared with us, she just was done. She was done with the chemotherapy that made her feel really terrible. She was tired. And although she wanted to live longer, it was like, you know, I'm okay with letting go. Which was a lot harder for the rest of us, but something beautiful I get to... we got to share and be a part of with her. So that's really that's the story of what the celebration was, how it connected, and sort of the story of losing my mother, you know, it's all wrapped up in and tied in together too. Thomas: Yeah. Oh, that's... that's such a beautiful story, just so much love and so much acceptance of the situation, all the different parts of the situation all together and allowing everybody to be who they are including the aunts who need to make centerpieces because it's a wedding in their mind and that's what you do. Weiss: Well, and that was... it was interesting. It wasn't just them too. A lot of people when we talked to them that were older and we'd say something about how we weren't getting married. You know, some of them I think were happy we were doing something but also a bit concerned because a lot of people they were like, "Oh, well, aren't you gonna get married?" and don't understand when we say like, "No, we did. We did what we wanted to do. We had our ceremony like, that was it. That was great. We threw the party." But you know, it also was a moment even when people didn't understand or had a different sense of what relationships should be, they still came together with us and celebrated and had a wonderful time. Thomas: I love what you shared about it being... it sounded kind of tiered in my head that you had different people at different parts of the ceremony. So you had like, you brought them in where you wanted them. Weiss: Yeah. So we wanted... and actually Brandon was more concerned and protective of having some intimate moments. I was a little more like "Let's invite everybody!" And he was like, "Well, I don't know if I want that..." Like, he didn't want it to become a wedding. He wanted it to be something different. And I was a little less concerned about... I knew for myself, it wasn't gonna be. Like, well, we weren't getting married. So, you know, that wasn't as much a concern. But for him it was important that people know like, no, this isn't a wedding, it's different. So like he didn't want every... everyone in our lives to come to celebrate us. And I think some of that protected the intimate moment that we got to have as two families coming together to celebrate us, like Brandon and I wanting to be together and also sharing appreciate this wonderful legacy and cornerstone of family that my mother had been. And they're actually... Right after the ceremony and a little bit as we processed, both of us had some moments of regret that we didn't share it with more people, not the ceremony, the moment of celebration, with... The intimate moment in the park, I think we're really glad that was just our immediate family. But knowing afterwards that it would be my mother's last couple weeks, and that the ceremony became even more meaningful than we had initially thought. You know, we did regret a bit that we hadn't just invited everyone. We had friends from Philadelphia saying, "We want to come, we want to come to Fargo!" And I saying like, "No, like, we... it might be too much" or, you know, "No, this isn't our wedding, you don't need to come." But afterwards, we thought, you know, it would have been great to celebrate with them. It was a really meaningful moment, though, you know. We in some ways, didn't know what we were creating. But the one thing that we've talked about is, well, you know, we did it differently before. So if we want to, again, like we can throw another party and just celebrate something different in life. It doesn't have to be the fact that we're like committing to be together in my be you know if we have a baby or we might adopt, and maybe like, we'll have a really big party with family then. And that can be a time when people come together in our lives that are important. And we can have a dance because we love to have dances! And just do it do it differently because who says it has to be just weddings when people get together and celebrate and dance and have time together? Thomas: Absolutely. That is what the whole show is about that I'm doing so... Weiss: Great! Thomas: That's perfect. Weiss: Well, I'll be listening! And I'll be like yeah! I'm gonna do... I'm gonna steal all the ideas. Thomas: And I was also curious what rite of passage do you wish you'd had? Weiss: It's interesting, I think with women there's so much tied up in our sexuality actually. But I think like women there's this sense of like purity, right? And that this is their rite of passage is like, are they still pure? And then, you know, they were this like white gown to show that they've never had any sexual experiences, and then they can finally, with their father's permission, have sex, you know. And so a rite of passage that I wish I'd had was like teaching me healthy sexuality when I was young, instead of... Like, I had a purity ring and I was told that I needed to... I couldn't even like, kiss someone until I was married. Those things really were unhealthy I think. And I just wish that people would have said, "You're a person. A part of who you are is this sexuality. You can experience that. It's nothing to be ashamed of." And that we could have like, celebrated our humanity kind of maybe, you know, in my early teens, not in a hyper-sexualized way, but in something that recognizes like, "It's okay for you to like other women. It's okay for you to feel sexual thoughts. It's okay for you to not." You know, like those things are okay. And I would love if there was some magical rite of passage that we could do for for young men and women to say like, "It's okay for you to become a sexual being." Like that's a good thing. Thomas: I love that. That is not traditional ritual that I know of. But should be! Weiss: Yeah, what we had was, you know, a lot of the keep your purity. Here's your purity ring. And, you know, the best women are the virginal, same kind of women. Thomas: Right. Right. Goodness. I am so grateful to radio fairy godmother Anne Hoffman for introducing me to Betsy and to Betsy for sharing her story with us. I especially love the clarity that Betsy and Brandon brought to the ceremony, their love for Carol, their respect for the family members who didn't quite get it in the moment, and their commitment to honoring their desire to not get married. Ceremonies can be whatever we want them to be. They are a way to honor ourselves, our relationships and our growth. We can use them to mark transition, release old ties, start off on new paths, and affirm our commitments. Family and society will expect us to do predictable things, but we can surprise them if we want to! Betsy Weiss carries on her mother's audacity for life, sharing it as Carol would have wanted her to. You can read how she processes grief and life at the website thethingssheleftme.com. Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you like the show, please take a minute to share it with a friend. Learn more at shamepinata.com. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
21 minutes | a year ago
S1E3 Wedding Therapy, Is That a Thing? (Landis Bejar)
If you and your partner are arguing more as you approach your wedding, there’s nothing wrong with you. There's also nothing wrong with asking for support. Landis Bejar shares how Aisle Talk in New York City is making therapy a shame-free option for couples approaching the big day. Music by Terry Hughes Links: Aisle Talk Why Stress When You Can See a Wedding Therapist (NYT) Growing in Faith Group to Celebrate B'Not Mitzvah (Augusta Chronicle) Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript Bejar: Why do we need this? We're getting married. We're... you know, it's so early for us to be reaching out for ... people think of couples therapy as being the last straw or the rock bottom or something like that Landis Bejar has a job you may not have ever heard of before. She is a wedding therapist. In her room, individuals and couples plan for the big day by setting goals and processing the experience of the transition. Her blog offers tips on wedding therapy themes such as defending something you never meant to defend. Join me for a conversation with Landis Bejar. This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life transitions. Today we're exploring the idea of wedding therapy. Did you know that wedding therapists are a thing? I had no idea until I read an article by Alyson Krueger in the The New York Times called "Why Stress When You Can See a Wedding Therapist." I learned that there are therapists who not only specialize in life transitions but that some specialize in weddings specifically. Landis Bejar is one of those therapists. She's a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and she started her own practice called Aisle Talk two years ago in New York City. In addition to the New York Times, Aisle Talk has been featured in Brides magazine, Business Insider and The Atlantic. Landis is super personable and passionate about her work. She walked me though how Aisle Talk came to be and answered my questions about what makes weddings such a potent time for everyone involved. She is also a big proponent of removing the stigma from therapy. She regularly attends bridal fairs to get her work out into the world, bring it out of the shadows, and make it a shame-free option for couples. She stresses that there's nothing wrong with you if you are your partner are arguing a bit more as you approach the wedding, or if you communication isn't quote-unquote perfect. You're actually doing a monumental thing in rearranging your own life and potentially the lives of your family. Landis shared with me the moment the idea for her practice was born. Bejar: The sort of aha moment came up in the midst of an argument in a bridal dress salon between my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law. My sister-in-law was trying on dresses. My mother-in-law was commenting on how she looked in them. And I was sort of there for moral support. And my mother-in-law said something that did not sit well with my sister in law about how a certain dress fit and that sparked an argument between the two of them. So I sort of as the, you know, off duty therapist in the room said something to sort of smooth things over and kind of join them together and let each, essentially let each of them feel heard, which is a lot of what we do and family therapy, and kind of realized that, you know, this was not intended to be hurtful It was not intended to, you know, be taken in the way that it was and sort of got everyone on the same page. And in the wake of that, my mother-in-law sort of jokingly commented, "Good thing that we brought the therapist along. How come you're not a bridal therapist?" Which I thought at first was very funny. And a lot of people have made comments like that to me over my career, with a different specialties, whatever it was I was doing at the time, whether it was I was, you know, holding a baby or playing with an animal or something like that. "You should be a baby therapist...You should be a dog therapist." different things of that nature. But there was something about this comment where I sort of did have one of those aha moments. And I said, wait a second, does that exist? Because I've been a bride before and I know that there's lots of psychological and dynamic pieces that are involved in planning a wedding and thinking about getting married and there should be bridal therapists. So that was kind of moment where I started thinking about this as an actual business and some work that I could be good at. Thomas: Why is it that the deep-rooted family problems can come out of the woodwork at weddings? Bejar: First of all, like weddings are not new, even though the way in which we might experience them feels like it's ever-changing and ever-evolving. It's a really long-standing tradition. And so I think that with that comes lots of ways to interpret that tradition and that can be just very different in one family to another. It can be really different from one individual to another and it can be really, really different from one couple as compared to each of their family of origin. So we have this thing that like has been around for so long, but everybody interprets it differently. And so I think that that's one set of circumstances that sort of informs, you know, how that can cause some family issues to arise along that, along that plain, you know, weddings are also culturally informed. So there's cultural expectations, there's generational expectations about how this milestone is recognized. And it's a milestone not only for an individual person, and not only for a couple, but many view it as a milestone for our family. So I'm kind of, you know, those I feel like those two things are like a Venn diagram where there's separate things and then overlapping things. And then on top of that, it's a marker of time. You know, and with any sort of marker of time or what I call in my work, life transition, all kinds of stress comes up because as we mark time, and as we move from one life state to another through a life transition, we ostensibly are grieving the previous state in order to make space for the new state. And that can be challenging both for the person who's moving through it and the people surrounding that person. So if we remove ourselves from the wedding example, we have like a mom sending her five-year-old to kindergarten, a mom might cry. And it's not because she doesn't she's not happy that her child is ready for the next step in their life that she might be grieving those toddler years or those years where she spent more time with the child and now is kind of watching them gain their independence and moving into this next state. And same reason why we cry at graduations, you know, and you know all of those things, so that comes up during weddings as well. And the other thing that I would say is that like, there's a lot of pressure for this to be the happiest day of your life. And so when you have all of these other sort of variables coming up that would naturally challenge our emotions and psychological states and family dynamics, the first sign of distress feels really upsetting and maybe extra upsetting because of the pressure that we're all supposed to be so happy. And I think that that kind of creates a little bit of a pressure cooker for some of these things to come out in really aggressive ways that we're not expecting. Thomas: You had spoken before about the taboo of therapy. It sounds like you, you address that in your work. Bejar: I do try to address that in my work first by acknowledging how hard it might be for somebody to reach out to me. And also to make my practice one that is trying to sort of in its presentation and where we show up, whether it's a bridal show or a workshop or you know something like that, but just in by by showing up and not being sort of in the dark corners of the internet, we're modeling that it's okay to seek out therapy. It's okay to seek out therapy during this time, and things like that. Thomas: That's wonderful. And specifically, how does that taboo relate to folks are planning to get married? Bejar: Yeah, I think that I think it's like that image of like, if somebody is sort of operating either consciously or unconsciously from this place that there is a taboo around therapy, then people might relate to either themselves, or maybe the perception of others that if you're going to therapy, you have hit rock bottom or things are really dire or things are really terrible. So, if one or more of the partners is operating under that assumption or they feel like people around them are operating under that assumption, that can be really disheartening to think that you've hit rock bottom when you're just about to get married, which is certainly not true, not true most of the time, of course, could be true, I'm sure in many cases, but it's not a requisite to seeking out therapy. Thomas: Are you putting that message out there to help combat the taboo of therapy around the couples that are getting married in some way? Bejar: Yeah, I think that in a like you know wider brushstroke when we're talking to like more people like then we're doing it sort of inherently in our actions rather than our words, right? So like showing up at an expo and being like, you know, at a table in between your, you know, the personal trainers and the bridesmaid's dresses and the make up artist, is like your wedding therapist. I think that showing up in that way is our sort of like walking the walk rather than talking the talk is like we don't feel ashamed about it. We want to tell you what we're here for. We want to tell you the things that are very common to experience during your wedding planning and if that relates to you, come on over like we are here to support you during this process. And I think that is sort of like our, our walking the walk of de-stigmatizing therapy to not sort of be in the closets and in the shadows and be very present amongst the people the other people who help you with your wedding planners or your you know, all the things that you do as you're preparing to get to get married. And then maybe more on a micro-level is when we're working with people, that's the first thing that we're addressing. We're saying, you know, it's really hard, you know, we're seeing how hard it is in the midst of whether it's our own personal stigma that we carry, or just societal stigma, we're acknowledging how powerful it is that they're seeking, seeking support in spite of that and normalizing for so many people that this is so common, and it happens so often, and there's nothing wrong with you. There's nothing pathological about you because you're arguing a little bit more during this time or you're having difficulty with communication. You're collaborating on a big event together, not just the two of you but also incorporating the needs and wishes of your two families and trying to strike a balance between that. And you're on the precipice of committing to a life together and there's a lot of pressure in that. You know, and you're mourning, maybe a loss of your singlehood, which nobody wants to talk about. So we're really doing a lot to sort of normalize that experience and the stress that inherently comes with that. Thomas: What is the experience like for you, when you're at the bridal fairs? How to couples relate to you? Bejar: It's interesting, I think that like I do notice a difference between... like kind of across generations. So I noticed that some of the moms in the group or some of the maybe older generations will have, will have like, definitely some humorous reactions. I've definitely had like some older folks come by and just say, you know, kind of like laugh or giggle or say, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe... They think of everything lately!" Which is totally true and I totally I acknowledge that but I also think that in that is maybe layered with some discomfort perhaps with the idea of seeking therapy for all of these different reasons. But by and large, the reaction is, "Oh my god that is so needed. What a great business!" A lot of times we have people who are stopping by who maybe are accompanying a bride and they say, "Oh my gosh, what I would have given for this during my wedding planning!" or "My family needed this so much," or reactions like that. And then the other reactions are from the other vendors who have probably subbed in as surrogate therapists or just support people as they've been closer to the stress up until this point and wedding history and have taken on the brunt of, you know, family feuds or emotional breakdowns or things like that. And they're oftentimes the most supportive of this mission because that's not what they are contracted to do necessarily, or what they feel comfortable with, or what they're trained for any of those things. Right. So how cool would it be to actually have a trained therapist on staff, if you will, to help you navigate the stresses of the ceremony - not only your stresses, but those that might be coming up from the folks around you? I'm hoping this wedding therapy idea is one that catches on. May we all have all the support and witnessing we need as we go through our life transitions. Thomas: So on the show, we talk a lot about life transitions, and we've been focused on creating rites of passage for those as, as we feel called to do that, whatever we feel that urgency when something is really intense, and we, we really want to honor a transition with ceremony. And we also talk about rites of passage that we had, that we had in our life or that we wished we'd had in our life. And so I'm curious if there are any transitions in your life that you wish you could have had a rite of passage for. Bejar: Yeah, I don't know if I've ever really like articulated this. But when I was in like, middle school time, so like seventh eighth grade, I had a lot of friends who were having Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. And I think, for me as someone who has one Jewish parent but wasn't raised with any sort of formal religion in my family growing up, it was a time where I sort of long to be part of something a little bit more structured and I saw my friends kind of going through that rite of passage and all that comes with it. It's not just a day but it's, you know, years of practice and study and understanding and sacrifice in terms of like, the time and the energy and when you're, you know, a really young person, and you're often working on like a special philanthropic project, you're learning a new language, you're sort of performing that new language in front of other people, you're interpreting it, you're doing a lot of things that probably at the time I was like, interested in certain aspects, but as I've gotten older, I'm think it's really interesting, sort of rite of passage for a very young person and like, tasked with a lot of responsibility. Then I guess 10-15 years later, I was, you know, thinking about getting married to my partner and my person who I found and I was marrying somebody who is Jewish and who longed for a partner who was Jewish and might have converted or being if they weren't already either converted, or in my case sort of affirm their Jewish identity and gone through a process of like, doing that so that we could, you know, raise a Jewish family and things that I probably wasn't able to do without having the Jewish upbringing and just having my one Jewish parent. So, I think that, you know, that was a very special time for me going through that process before getting married. And they think that it's really interesting that as you asked me this question, the rite of passage of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah that I immediately think of feels very, feels like it fits really well because ultimately like I did sort of go through this conversion or affirmation of my Jewish identity that has been very important to me. And I feel like as a part of that work that I did when I was an adult, I reflected on many moments in my life where I longed for like being more a part of that community and I feel like as a part of getting married, I got to do that in a more formal way that I had longed for as an individual and then kind of gone through a process in my, you know, planning to get married. Thomas: So you went through the Bat Mitzvah process, but when you were older? Bejar: It was a conversion process. It was different than the Bat Mitzvah, but it feels like it feels very relevant that I guess that was something that I longed for, and later sort of affirmed my Jewish identity in a different way and sort of this adult way, which you can have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah at any age, and it's something that I kind of think about but it is actually quite more involved than the conversion - which is are already very involved, it's like a year-long process - but the Bat Mitzvah... which is like amazing, because this is something that I try to wrap my mind around doing now and like, you know, 12 and 13 year-olds are doing it at that age and I feel even more impressed by it now as an adult. But yeah, it’s still something I think about doing today but haven't. But I feel like it just fits in with the sort of this path that I sort of took on a little bit later in life. Thomas: There was actually an article in the Austin Chronicle this week about women in the fullness of their womanhood, no longer, you know, pre-teens and teenagers who are going through kind of a Bat Mitzvah experience. They call it a B'Not Mitzvah. Bejar: Oh, that’s cute! That's so cute. Well, when I was doing my conversion classes, there was actually a class there was simultaneously going on in the synagogue which was women who were, you know, fully in their womanhood, not teenagers or pre-teens, and they were all doing a Bat Mitzvah class together. And so I was in my class over here which was different, but I would sort of look over and say that would be something that I do you later on down the road. Thomas: Yeah well, thank you so much for this conversation it’s been so inspiring to talk with you today. Bejar: Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to talk about these things. I feel like things are all things that I love to talk about and I love to reflect on and are so important to me. And I love the kind of context of really focusing in on the transition of the ritual and how that is impacted by all things that, you know, my specific work is impacted by in terms of stigma and pressure and all of those things, so I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you. Landis Bejar is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice in New York City. Her practice is called Aisle Talk. Aisle talk focuses on helping individuals and couples cope through the stresses of planning a wedding and getting married through therapy and counseling. Learn more at https://www.aisle-talk.com. That's aisle DASH talk.com. Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you like the show, we'd love it if you'd share it with a friend. Learn more at shamepinata.com. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
21 minutes | a year ago
S1E2 San Francisco as My Witness (Betty Ray)
Betty Ray walked to the top of Bernal Hill at the turn of the millennium. She brought three things with her: a candle, her checkbook, and a ring. Music by Terry Hughes Love Shame Piñata? Subscribe on iTunes Follow on Spotify Follow on Podchaser Follow on Instagram Connect on Facebook Join us for a Ceremony Full Transcript Ray: Did that make sense? Should I say it again? Okay, I think that when a ritual is designed well, it is designed to make space for the soul to flourish and to show up. Betty Ray uses design thinking to help individuals and communities create meaningful rites of passage to navigate transitions. She’s a recent graduate of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Teachers College, part of Columbia University. She’s currently developing a program called Human Nature Academy to work with adolescent rites of passage. Join me for a conversation with Betty Ray. This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to Shame Piñata, where we talk about creating rites of passage for real-life Transitions. We are going to tackle two ideas today. The first is to explore the benefits of ritual - what it does and how it can be useful to us. We will reflect on some of the ways our Ancestors used ceremony and look at the benefits ritual can bring us today. The second thing we will touch on is a certain kind of ceremony you may not have heard about before. As you know, this season on Shame Piñata we are focusing on weddings and commitment ceremonies. There have been an increasing number of people over the past decade who have decided to commit to themselves instead of, in the absence of, or alongside the presence of a partner. It's called self-commitment or self marriage and it’s gaining popularity. So let's dive in. In our first episode, we talked about the power of ritual to create a container for the strong emotions that come with transition. Getting married, losing a loved one, the birth of a child, the end of a relationship... these are all times when our way forward changes, the future in front of us is totally new, where the sidewalk ends, as poet Shel Silverstein said. Who we were won't work anymore, we must become someone new: we must become the husband, the mother, the single person... The ceremonies that we turn to at these times help mark the beginning of these transitions, but they can be limited. Weddings, for example, can focus so heavily on joy that they block out any feelings of grief or loss which are a normal and healthy part of any transition. And funerals can feel stilted and solemn, laying expectations that grief is only appropriately expressed in tears, when in fact healthy grief shows up in a wide variety of ways. We can work with the traditional rituals as we have inherited them, making them deeper, richer, and more personalized for our own needs. We are 100% capable of this, because ritual is an inherent part of being human. Here's Betty Ray. Ray: So I feel like ritual is one of those things that has been in human experience since we were... since we were putting pigment on cave walls. I mean, ritual has been part of the way that humans have oriented ourselves. I mean, I think the earliest rituals were really a response to a chaotic world, and to uncertainty and unpredictability. And rituals gave people a sense of regularity and structure and they served to bind the community together, that we would all come together at the harvest, or we would come together to sow the seeds in the crops or the hunt or... you know, as young people came of age. There was a way for communities to reaffirm their strengths and their bonds and it was a way to sort of stay connected to the larger world in a way that felt safe. Because, you know, obviously when you don't know why the sun is you know, when the moon goes in front of the sun and, like, it's going dark, and you don't know why that's happening, that's pretty scary! So, you know, having stories and narratives and mythologies and rituals to kind of keep communities bonded together was a way to keep them safe and obviously propagate. Rituals have been going on forever. So we have, you know, there's been a lot of study about rituals and research about the role of them and you know... And that one thing that I think is so interesting is that we know from all the research that rituals have been, like, literally from every country, in every culture, and every society since the beginning. Like we just do it, it's human, it's in our DNA. I don't know if it's in our DNA, that's not a scientific quote, but I mean, they are really powerful and people do them and, and why? Why is that? Why do people do that? I mean, that's, you know, that's exactly your question. But I think it's, I do think it's about helping us feel safe and connected with one another. Rituals offer people a structure amid chaos. And whether that’s back in the day when we didn’t know if a mountain lion was going to come over the hill, or today when all of our systems are falling apart, you know, that when we have a sense of familiar... The mark of a ritual is that it is rigid, it’s familiar. You do the thing as it’s always been done and you do it with an intention to devote yourself to that practice so that devotional angle... that devotional element of, like, I am surrendering myself to do this thing that is bigger than me - is healthy for people, to have a sense of right relationship with things that are larger than us. I think that when we have a ritual that is designed to help us grieve something, or help us celebrate life, or help us with more life transitions - and this gets us a little bit into rights of passage - but those rituals are really... there’s an element of them in which ego death is facilitated. We are no longer in control. It is not our thing we’re pushing through, it is a larger thing. That, you know, when you’re going to a ritual space, you are suddenly in a place that is less driven by, you know, sort of cognitive, intellectualized approach and it becomes more of a soul practice. And I am really interested in the soul practice because I think the soul the healthy element of rituals to my mind as a nurtures the soul. And we are desperate in our 21st-century hyper-mediated, hyper technology-focused, environmental crisis place, we need this more than anything in my view. Thomas: You gave me chills. Ray: Good! I really think... I mean it’s so important, it is so important because the soul is smart. You know, the soul can really help us, the soul has a way for us to.... the soul knows a lot and it’s very wise. But Parker Palmer said once that was that the soul is like a wild animal. It isn’t something that you can be like, “Hey, soul, come on and party with us!” or like you know, “Come on, I’m going to make you come out!” It’s a wild animal and it’s fragile... Cultivating a place for the soul is an art and it needs certain kinds of tending. It needs to be welcomed and know it’s going to be okay and be able to express its wildness which means it’s not always going to be pretty. We live our day-to-day with so little awareness of the soul. We are so much about like get in the car and go to work, and I’ve got to figure out all the things I have to go to my day and I’ve got to write this and I’m going to talk to these people and we’re just in our heads and in our doing mode. And rituals provide a space for us to be in a more creative, deeper, messier-in-a-sense soul world where the soul is able to come out and be curious be aware. And we can listen to our souls with more clarity we can hear it more clearly because the ritual provides a buffer or a boundary between the sort of the crazy-of-every-day and increasing crazy-of-every-day. Rituals give us a quiet, centering practice that we can rely on to be nurturing to that soul part of ourselves. Self-commitment can be defined in many ways. At its heart, it means committing to ourselves first, being our own chosen one. It's mainly a women's thing right now, but I'm hoping that will change. Women commit to themselves in many situations: after a breakup, if they are tired of putting their energy into looking for someone when they are about to get married. Ceremonies can be as simple as putting on a ring at a self-marriage workshop or as elaborate as planning a full wedding. Betty took the opportunity to design a self-commitment ceremony for herself about 20 years ago. As this episode will be airing on Valentine's Day, we thought this was a wonderful time to share her story. Ray: Oh my gosh. Well, I wasn't planning on having a self-commitment ceremony actually. It was the end of the millennia. It was December 1999. And I had been involved with this conversation with this guy who I had had this like massive crush on for a long time. And I was really, like, we were supposed to go down to Mexico to a Mayan pyramid. We were gonna hang out down there and I was gonna conceive a baby. This is really embarrassing. And that was my grand plan. And anyway, he like at the last minute was like, "No, I don't want to do that,” but he didn't really tell me and I was embarrassed and I was like, and mostly I was just like, heartbroken and embarrassed and I felt really stupid. And so on New Year's Eve 1999, I had bought this ring that had the drama faces on it, you know, tragedy and the comedy. And I had this idea to go up to the top of Bernal Hill with my ring... and I brought my checkbook and a candle. And I, I kind of had an idea that I was just gonna... so I got up there I wasn't sure what I was going to do with all this stuff, but I knew I wanted the ring because I was... and that was part of the design. So I got up to the top of Bernal Hill and I wrote myself a check to myself and I wrote a check to him. And I lit the candle and I burned the check to him, and "I'm not going to spend any more time on you, dude." And the check to myself, I fold it and I put it like near my heart... I guess I was wearing... I put it in my bra, frankly. And then I took the ring and I made a statement. I made a statement as San Francisco was my witness as I was up on the top of Bernal Hill and it's kind of this cloudy, foggy you know gross San Francisco winter day. Kind of at the at the winding down of this millennia, you know, and so I had this sort of weight, this gravitas of the sense of this millennia is ending and I'm committing to myself for the new millennia to not get into drama with men anymore. And this was not the first time, this is clearly a little bit of a pattern. I don't know if that's clear, but it was totally a little bit of a pattern. So I took the ring and I put it on my left finger. And I said that I will now... I now am committed to myself and I'm marrying my own drama so that I don't need to marry it externally. I don't need to bring my drama... I don't need to create it externally and I certainly don't want to be engaged in a relationship with it anymore. I don't want to do that. That's done, adios. And so I, I finished and I blew out the candle and I went back home and I went out and I had an incredible New Year's Eve. And I was just like, I was in such gratitude like, let that guy go! And I just, you know, I could feel dancing... I was dancing and I just, you know, I danced him out... and you know, it was a way for me to reclaim my power. It was a way for me to reclaim my sense of agency about myself and to not be so, you know, not to outsource my sense of self and my sense of purpose and strength. And so it was a really, really important thing to do. And I'm so glad I did it! And I wore that ring forever, just about until I got married. Now I have a different one. Yeah, but anyway, so that was yeah, that was my self-commitment. So it wasn't really a conscious decision. It was more of a, like, I gotta heal, I feel stupid, and I'm humiliated, and I'm embarrassed and I need to take care of myself because I did something really dumb. Thomas: I love that. Ray: Yeah. It was fun. It was powerful. Thomas: Wow. Wow, I love you're like, I took my checkbook. Like oooh, what's gonna happen with the checkbook? This is really interesting. Ray: Well, it was, you know, it was a symbol of you know, back in the day, right, people had checkbooks we probably don't have that anymore. Do you have a checkbook? I don't even have a checkbook. Anyway. Well, you know we had... that it was a way for me to... it was a metaphor for my money, which is power. Like it's my... it was a metaphor for my, my life force, which I was... I just... I had really stupidly given up and just embarrassingly so because, I mean, I'm sure he was like, "Who is this crazy stalker woman that wants to go to a Mayan pyramid with me and have my baby?" I don't know. It's kind of funny, but I don't know if it's like the long term, like realistic most realistic, you know sane thing to do. Thomas: What exposure had you had to the idea of self-commitment before your own ceremony? Ray: I don't think I had any exposure to it. I would... Again, I had come to ritual through my mom and my mother and her use of ritual and I knew that having rituals could catalyze change. And I had done several other rituals over the course, since my rite-of-passage-one that were sort of self-related, but they weren't self-commitment - that was different. So I don't know. I mean, maybe it's... I think, I honestly think these ideas float around the ether, and that we pull them down when we need them. Thomas: What are the benefits that you feel the ceremony brought to you short term and long term? Ray: Well, the short term ones were that I just had the best New Year's Eve ever, you know. The long term benefits were that I had a catalyst to... an experience that helped me catalyze a change in my attitude towards myself and my relationships. That it was an intentional taking back of my power and releasing him so that I could be more, you know, healthy and you know, all the stuff that you want to be when you're not obsessed with someone. You know, I think the long term effects were very real and that I feel like when, you know, I would get kind of like, "Oh, I wonder what it's doing," or, you know, I would just take it back and be like, "Dude, you just had this thing. You wrote that check. You can't... you know, that thing's burned! He doesn't have that check anymore, you've got the check, and that's not going to him!” So there was a way in which the just the gestures and the actions... the ring, I would look down at it and I would see it, you know, and I would maybe, you know, another several years later, you know, there was kind of a beginning of another relationship and I could feel the drama alert. "Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no! Look at that ring, look at what you got on! No, no, no, run away!" Like it is not... So I think that part of it was the act but also the gestures, the ring, the checkbook, that that really concretized it for me so that, it helped... it was a tool that I would rely on as I kind of navigated through my, you know, some of these more treacherous waters which weren't as treacherous by that point. So the waters became less treacherous too because I was more like... my identity was less about, "Oh, you need this kind of man or, that kind of person, you need to be in a relationship." I was single, I was happily so. It was really... it helped support that single exploration for me. Very, very, very helpful. Thomas: How does being married or committed to yourself mix with being married or committed to somebody else? Ray: That's a great question. Being married and committed to myself makes me a way better committed partner in reality because being committed to myself, in the way in which I'm committed to myself, means I'm more authentically myself and I'm not... I don't hand over core parts of myself for my need for approval, or my need for someone to tell me what to do, or my need to be in control, whatever those needs are, like I'm a much more whole partner as a result. So I can bring elements of myself my sucky or more annoying sides as well as my, you know, loving and compassionate sides in with more authenticity and more integrity. So it actually made me a much better partner. Yeah, I see no conflict there at all. It makes you a better person. When you're committed to yourself, you're much better. You have much more reserves to give, you can give a lot more, you have much more resources to give. And that makes you a better partner. I actually had a version 2.0 of that ceremony. When I met him, the man, I met him for coffee a couple years ago. And after he... and he's a writer, and he's got you know, he's just a really interesting person and very, you know, all the things that I loved about him I got to see, you know, and it was really fun and I finally had my act together. And after he left, I made a conscious decision to go sit in the chair that he was sitting in and to like, take back the energy that I had given him long ago. So I did a deeper dive. So I think we can so I guess what I'm saying is that we can always revisit our older commitments ceremonies and our older earlier ceremonies. We can we can ceremony anything. I mean, it's, you don't want to one doesn't want to, but we can if we need to. Betty's story speaks to the power of ritual to help us gather our full selves back up from the chaos of chasing other people, which sometimes - can happen even when we aren't meaning to do that! There are so many ways we can get lost in the idea of a partner completing us. It’s kind of the water we swim in if you think about it. And when we find someone, it’s easy to inadvertently toss our authentic dreams and goals out of the boat to make room for the daily events that come with being in a relationship. This can be especially true for women given the historical importance of marriage for the women in our lineages. Committing to ourself can be a way to ground back into who we are at our core - our core values, core beliefs, core essence. Those are gems to be nurtured and honored. Betty Ray is a 2020 Mira Fellow where she is developing a program called Human Nature Academy. Before this, she spent the better part of 10 years working in senior leadership roles at the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Learn more about her work at bettyray.net. Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you like the show, please share it with a friend and leave a review on Apple podcasts. That is the very best way you can support this new baby show. Learn more at shamepinata.com. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
18 minutes | a year ago
S1E1 We're Together (Tria Chang)
San Francisco-based writer Tria Chang joins us for a conversation about getting remarried as a divorced wedding planner. Learn more about her work at triachang.com. Music by Terry Hughes Full Transcript Chang: I think I’m a bit of an anxious person. We all have a little bit of anxiety in us, you know, even from children and just being nervous about the first day of school. And the way I’ve managed my anxiety over the years is to plan very carefully and plan well. And I feel like it’s a lesson in my life that I want to plan well still but also let go of expectations and detach myself from the outcome. Tria Chang knows a thing or two about letting go of expectations. She used to be a wedding planner who loved her job. The only hard part was the divorce. Her divorce. Now Tria is getting remarried. She and her fiancé want to create a unique wedding ceremony that is not only different from her first wedding, but also one that won’t give her any flashbacks to the many weddings she has planned. But how exactly does she do that? What are her options? Is the sky the limit, or is there a way to go too far and screw it up? Join me for a conversation with Tria Chang. This is Shame Piñata. I’m Colleen Thomas. Welcome to our first episode. I’m so glad you’re here! I want to take a few minutes to give you the lay of the land for this show. This mini-season will focus on weddings and commitment ceremonies. We’ll be speaking with guests who created unique, out-of-the-box events that allowed them to commit to their partners in the way that felt the most right, the most authentic. Some of the stories you will hear may sound familiar. Others may surprise you. We’ll touch on the idea of self-commitment as well as committing to partnership with another person. But first, let’s take a step back and look at the purpose of ceremony. Why do we engage together in this way? How does the tool of ceremony support us? In the words of psychologist Evan Imber-Black, "Rituals are a container for strong emotions and they help us to hold them. Whether that's joy or whether that's sadness." And emotions are a huge part of change, right? As we go through life we face transition after transition: Mom and dad bring home our new baby brother. Our family moves and we have to make friends at a new school. We get the call that our closest grandmother has passed. We go away to school and have to learn how to survive in a new climate in a different part of the country. We go through breakups and maybe divorce. We meet new people we like and maybe get married. Our parents grow older, maybe move into care and eventually pass away. We are unique in how we move through each of the transitions in our lives. Some may be easy and others not so easy. But at least we know we’re not alone. Transitions are such a known and expected part of life that certain ceremonies have been created to help us create the container for the emotions they bring up. Marriage itself can bring up a huge host of emotions, not only in the couple but in those closest to them as well. We think of weddings as joyful occasions, but they’re not without their challenging emotions. It is SO important to create room for all of the feelings that come up so that we can show up to the altar as our fullest selves ready to make the commitment at that deep level. How we structure our wedding ceremony can dramatically affect how much room there is for emotion and the change. We'll talk more about this throughout our first season. Now I would like to share a story with you about a divorced wedding planner planning her second wedding. While planning her first wedding, Tria Chang noticed that many successful businesses in the wedding industry were run by women. Inspired by this, she started her own wedding planning company in 2009. Starting a new business in this field allowed her to hold on to the sense of joy she felt from her own wedding and to begin her new career in a rose-colored garden (those are her words). In 2016, she sold the business. During that time she saw a lot of weddings. Chang: Yeah, I spent five years as a wedding planner. I’ve probably participated in or seen at least 100 weddings. 100 weddings? Wow, I could barely imagine that. I asked Tria about the range of traditions she had seen as a wedding planner over those 5 years. Chang: I should preface this by saying not everyone hires a planner. Those who do hire a planner tend to be people who want a little more guidance and a little more structure. So I would say these types of people tend to be a little bit more conventional in what they’re looking for for a wedding. At the same time, my business partner and I, we emphasized our company’s creativity and how we were more interested in providing couples a chance to bring their individual story to the forefront and their individual personalities as opposed to cookie-cutter weddings. So we got clients that had an interesting tension between traditional needs and wanting a little bit of individualism. So I would say the way that played out usually in terms of traditional things is, in the timeline, in the structure of the day, it was almost always a ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner with toasts, and then first dance, dancing, and some kind of grand exit. So people generally felt safer in a decided-upon format that was often dictated by their vendors because caterers, for example, have a flow that they’re very confident in executing and they will encourage couples in that direction. Photographers also have a set number of hours and different types of shots that they‘re used to providing so that kind of guides the couples as well. In terms of mixing other of the things into the creativity, people would draw from their cultural backgrounds or different religions, sometimes from their personalities or how they met. So a couple who met in law school might have pages from legal textbooks as part of their decoration or names of drinks like Liability Lemon Drop or something fun to bring that part of their story into it. But I do think there tends to be a little bit of anxiety or even fear around stepping too far outside of wedding boundaries because people would worry about, you know, is it still a wedding, are we really married after this? Most of my clients were getting married for the first time, so they more wanted to make sure they did things right, whatever that meant. So there was a lot of looking toward the vendors for guidance or trying to fit their special creativity into a set template. Thomas: So you mentioned people getting married for the first time. Did you also work with people getting married for the second or third time? Chang: That happened later on in my wedding planning career because in the beginning, when you’re just starting out as a planner, you can’t charge as much because you don’t have as much experience. So we often had younger clients who couldn’t pay as much. So that sort of shaped the types clients that we had. And then as we got more experienced as planners and were able to charge more and offer more in our planning services, we did start getting couples who were getting married for a second or third time, families who are blending, so people who had children as part of the ceremony and who had more complex family relationships. And yeah, that was actually very encouraging and inspiring for me because I went through a divorce during that five years as a wedding planner and in the beginning I was only seeing people getting married for the first time and hearing things like, “Oh! You only get married once, so better have a perfect day!” and just really feeling the pressure of that and then as I started getting these couples who were on their second marriages or who had children from a previous marriage, I saw how it was more complicated, but also more beautiful in a way. I remember seeing one ceremony where there was the couple at the altar as usual with the officiant. But they also had their two children, one who was an infant they were holding in their arms, and another little girl whose hand they were holding. And they just formed this really special circle and that was really inspiring for me. Thomas: That’s beautiful. I love that image. Chang: Yeah. The complications can be beautiful. Thomas: That’s so well put! I love that. And that’s kind of what we’re talking about here, right? Contrasting the perfect wedding day where everything is perfect, and kind of simple maybe in the way it’s executed, to real life and the complication that we all each have in ourselves and so many feelings and with each other and the blending of families, my family, their family, everything is blending and there’s lots of complication and it’s supposed to all jam into the perfect day and somehow just be wonderful. Chang: Yeah absolutely, it is a little bit limiting in some ways. Thomas: And you are preparing for your second wedding right now. Chang: I am, I am. Yes, it’s a very different experience this time. Thomas: And you said to me that you’re looking, that you and your fiancé had been looking through all the wedding traditions and trying to pick only the ones that were the most meaningful to you. So I’m curious where you are in the process now and how you’re feeling as you’re approaching... Chang: Yeah, so I had the advantage of expertise and of seeing many different kinds of weddings and in thinking about what really mattered. And I talk to my fiancé about it and luckily for me he’s really interested in exploring those things as well and questioning why do we do certain things and do we need to do those things. So for example, walking down the aisle is kind of a given. And having your father, as a bride, give you away it’s kind of a given for most people, unless your father passed away and there’s a strained relationship. The default is to have the groom already there at the end of the aisle waiting for you and then to have your father walk you down the aisle and essentially give you away, give responsibility to your husband of you. And I think, I did do that the first time. I was young and in my 20s. I wanted to, as I mentioned, just do right by wedding traditions and make sure I didn’t mess anything up or, you know, curse our wedding in some way. So I did have my father walk me down the aisle and I don’t regret it. It was really a special time for us and very beautiful and emotional. My mom had passed away just months before, so it felt particularly meaningful for me to be holding my father in this very emotional time. But at this point in my life and 35. I’ve lived across the country for my father for over a dozen years now. So the symbolism doesn’t quite make sense of him giving me away to someone else. And for my partner and I, it was also important for us to realize that this is a phase of our life that we’re going on together. It’s not him standing there waiting for me to join him and get on his journey. It’s really going on something together. So, one, we don’t have an aisle, we’re not getting married in a church, but we plan to just show up to our guests together at the same time. Thomas: That’s, that’s a nice example of how you’re reclaiming the tradition and make it your own. Chang: Yeah, and there are so many things that we do so automatically I think, without questioning or wondering about them and it was important for us to really pair down things and think, you know, do we even need this or that? Or, can we do this in a different way? How can we do something that has meaning in every step of it for us? My advice to that friend and to anyone who wants to make a wedding their own is, you are absolutely allowed to do that. You don’t have to follow someone else’s way even if they have more experience than you, or even if they care about typical wedding things more than you do. It’s really your day. But of course, if your family is important to you, there are ways to involve them in a way that will make them feel included and loved still. So, yeah it’s really different for everyone, but I do think conversations between the couple about priorities and what the core essence of their relationship is - I think that will really help determine what the day is. For my partner and I, we have a little story that is kind of our core essence. We were invited by his uncle to go crabbing in the Pacific ocean and I was very excited. So we were in his boat and it was speeding through the water and I was thinking in my head, “I think I’m going to do this every weekend, I love it so much!” But then when he stopped the boat it started moving in a way that my body did not like at all so I ended up, unfortunately, throwing up at least a couple times over the side of the boat. And my fiancé also was quite affected, so we ended up just kind of lying in the back of the boat and feeling really sick even though in our minds, we thought we would be great crabbers and really helpful in putting up the traps and getting everything set. We were very useless, useless to the point of only being able to look at each other and even though we have this desire to take care of each other and fix things for each other, all we could do was hold hands and look at each other and say, “We’re together”. And for us those two simple words and that sentiment of just recognizing that we’re together we really realized was the core of our relationship, just being together through times that are sickening, that are difficult, that are surprising, that are joyful as well. It’s really a very simple thing that our whole relationship is just about sticking through those times together. So that’s kind of the theme of our little wedding, and that’s why we wanted to have a wedding with fewer bells & whistles. We didn’t want to be kind of on stage. Like a lot of weddings feel like it’s a performance by the bride and groom and that you only get to wave at them from across the room or maybe have a quick couple words with them but we really wanted to feel together with there, so we paired it down to a very small guest list so that we can really just talk to people and we won’t be distracted by having to perform something or having to remember certain words or dance steps and just be with people. Thomas: Are you going to serve crab at the wedding? Chang: We are actually… let’s see, are we having crab? We are having a clambake. But I’m from Maryland so crab is very popular there and seafood in general. But I think there were a couple of allergies among the guests, so we’re having a clambake with some seafood items that avoid everyone’s allergies but it’s a very, yeah it’s a family-style, the chef described it as being a big vat that he’ll bring out and kind of dump on the table which is very exciting to us so yeah. That was one of the few vendors. We just sprung for a chef, because food is an important way for us to show love to people that we love them and feed them and nourish them, so our chef is the only main vendor and then we also have a photographer there for a few hours just to capture some of the moments together. Thomas: Wonderful. Well, thank you. Chang: Of course, thank you. Tria's story reminds us that beautiful things can happen when we allow ourselves to step outside the box and do things our own way. Sure, there might be friends or family who don't understand our choices, but truly, in the case of a wedding, this is the couple's day and the celebration is about the couple - who they are individually and who are they are together. And who is anyone to get in the way of that? Tria Chang is a writer working on a memoir about divorce as a wedding planner. You can read her work at triachang.com. Our music is by Terry Hughes. If you like the show, please share it with a friend and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. That is the very best way you can support this new baby show. Learn more at shamepinata.com. I’m Colleen Thomas. Thanks for listening.
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