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Identifying The Stages of Rites of Passage: Moving From Isolation to Support



Last night at dinner I was sharing about my new Rite of Passage client program and my 8 year old son asked me what a Rite of Passage was.


I told him that Rites of Passage have three primary stages, and the first one is when you cross over a threshold into a new phase of your life in which you are not going to be the same as you were before.


“What does that mean mom?”


“Well”, I said, “it’s like when you went to school for the first time.  Or like when kids move on from elementary school to middle school and that transition is marked with a special dance ceremony.  For me it was like when I gave birth to you.  Sometimes they are marked with ceremonies or rituals, and that is considered a Rite of Passage ceremony.  Sometimes it’s just happening in your life without being marked.”


He got it.


I then shared how what I offer is a space for people to connect to themselves and the importance of the change happening in their lives while it is happening.  I’m not offering an actual Rite of Passage ritual, I am offering a container through which to meaningfully engage with the changes occurring in a creative way.  I think part of the importance of this is how isolating it can be to enter into the unknown of personal transformation once crossing a transitional threshold.


The First Stage of a Right of Passage:  The Crossing of a Threshold


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that first stage of the passage, the threshold.  There are so many different thresholds I have walked through, some I share, some I don’t.  A partial list looks like this:


First Menses

9/11 in New York

Debilitating Chronic Hip Pain

Marriage

Giving Birth

My Mom’s Terminal Illness, Hospice & Death

A Global Pandemic

Perimenopause


When I reflect on the insistence in which these thresholds appear in my life’s timeline I think about how many times we symbolically die to ourselves and then get reborn again.  Even nature’s annual seasons of seeding, sprouting, growing, shedding, and gestating show us that this is part of our natural design. Even so- we often lack the societal skill to recognize and honor both their poignancy and unique characteristics.  We often find ourselves in biological and social isolation when an autumn and winter life phase arises. 


The Second Stage of a Right of Passage:  The Liminal Stage where Transformation Occurs


I recall a conversation to a client one time when I was sharing about the dorsal, or collapsed nervous system state that may often occur in these times.  When those of us whose primary nervous system survival response in life has been a sympathetic fight/flight response experience the withdrawn dullness of a collapse it is very disorienting.  It happened for me in a big way after my mom died.  I felt awkward in social encounters for at least a year as I was no longer the animated social person I was prior.  I was dulled, needing others to engage towards me.


This is that liminal phase kicking in big, the second stage of a right of passage.  This stage is characterized by a disorientation as we are no longer who we were, and yet we are not yet who we are coming to be.  I like to think of it like the phase in metamorphosis when the caterpillar liquifies inside of its cocoon as its body prepares to reshape into a butterfly. 


Questions flutter during this time about who we are and what we want and need.  Imagine what can happen for us during this time if we have some of the warmth of safety needed to truly rest into gestation?  The nourishing cocoon needed to nurture us as we become who we are becoming?  Some trusted tender others to connect to for support?


The Third Stage of a Right of Passage: The Reentry/Integration


Once the transition phase is complete, now we begin to integrate who we are back into our lives.  We are the symbolic butterfly emerging. We bring our newfound awareness, learning, and growth back to our communities, friends, and families.  We are in a new stage. Until the cycle resumes.


Practical Somatic Tips: Moving from Isolation to Gestation


  • Connect to Others in a Supportive Way: Whether it’s through professional help or community support, know that there is immense benefit in moving into the nourishment of supportive social engagement in a way that honors the stage you are in.  This means knowing it may be a quiet space, a space with reverence for what you are moving through, or perhaps a support group of others with similar transitions.


  • Safe Space: Create a symbolic cocoon like space for yourself where you can rest into the warmth of your metaphorical gestation.   Cues of safety are an amazing support for the nervous system to locate the safety needed to navigate this time with creative resourcing.  Creating a cocoon like space for yourself is like surrounding yourself with cues of safety that allow you the physiological support to go from isolation to gestation.  This can be as simple as a blanket on a favorite cozy chair, or an entire room dedicated to this purpose.  If you don’t have this space, it may be finding a space you can go to that has this feeling.

 

  • Somatic Invitation 1:  A simple somatic exploration I like is to go into the fetal position, much like one might do when entering into a grief or overwhelm like this time often invokes.  From the fetal position imagine that you are turning yourself into a nurtured cozy fetus, warm in her gestation.  Use your voice to hum to yourself.  Experiment with gentle rocking.  Use the warmth of your hands to hold your head or other areas of your body that need support.  

 

  • Somatic Invitation 2: Begin by journaling or taking mental inventory to notice what is happening in your life?  What are you transitioning through?  How are you feeling, physically, emotionally, and mentally? Then, shifting into a movement exploration- If you could give shape to this experience with your body, what would that shape be?  If you could give shape to where you want to be, what would that shape be? Finally, ask yourself what you need in order to support your own process of becoming.


Conclusion:

Rites of Passages are fundamental to our personal evolution. They are not just markers of change but pivotal moments that profoundly impact our growth. By understanding these transitions, we foster a culture that recognizes them.  We create an atmosphere of support for ourselves and others as we move through these transformative periods.

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