“Life is about letting go”--a truism in so many spiritual traditions. The letting go muscle is one of the most important in moving through life in a resilient and satisfying way. But, whoa, is it hard to exercise and build that muscle!
In Wicca, we are consistently encouraged to release what no longer works or has reached the end of its cycle in order to make room for new growth. We constantly seek transformation, like a snake shedding skins or compost turning into fertile soil. As biomimics, we take inspiration and guidance from the Earth. She is our teacher, role model, and problem-solver. Seasons come and go; everything living is born, comes to fruition, declines, and dies; the moon empties and fills in a continuous cycle. All of our rituals are oriented toward the relationship between emptying and filling, cleansing and creating, releasing and intending for the next phase. Our rituals are microcosmic enactments of this simple but profound and deeply earthy and cosmic process.
As a teacher and a priestess I know all of this and can access the wisdom.
But, in all truth, after more than 20 years of serving in this way, the letting go hasn’t gotten any easier for me. I resist and struggle and am filled with fear at the prospect of change.
Take, for example, my current life moment: our son has entered his final year in the Berkeley public school system and is set to graduate and launch in June.
Wait, what? Huh? Ouch.
I could not have prepared myself for the complicated and lengthy emotional ride that has been “letting go” of a child my spouse and I have raised, cared for, and centered our social lives around for 17 years. This. Is. Hard.
And while this common experience is not commonly discussed in this way, adjusting to a child moving into adulthood is actually an experience of deep grief. Everywhere I go in Berkeley, I’m reminded of who our son used to be in various phases and, in turn, of who I used to be. Laughing and chasing games at neighborhood playgrounds. Strike-outs and missed catches at baseball fields. Poppyseed muffins at the local tea shop. Learning to ride a bike in a parking lot. Storytime at the library. Kindergym at the Y. Running, playing, jumping, crying. The memories come fast and furious as I move through my days. All sublime moments. But, all moments that belong to the past.
This experience isn’t trivial. This is mourning.
Yes, life cannot move forward without death. Transformation and growth cannot happen without loss. New plants need open space to take root. The “letting go” muscle can only build through challenge.
But, we all need help with the enormity of it. I need help.
Ritual is the antidote.
Ritual helps process and make meaning from life experiences like these that feel too big to grasp. Ritual invites in the power of imagination to envision the next step and the next phase. Supportive circles transform grief into something that can be used to create the tapestry of a full, well-lived life.
So, I’m off to celebrate Mabon with my community. Afterward, I expect to feel different walking by those playgrounds and ball fields and school yards than I did before ritual. Maybe not less sad, but at least more settled, clear, and confident that more sublime moments await me.