I was reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, and was struck by his description of his own coming-of-age Rite of Passage that he describes in some detail in an early chapter. What struck me was how it supported him in moving from identifying as a child to seeing himself as a newly formed man. He was supported in this major transition through ceremony, ritual, community and family involvement, and by other boys his age going through the same ceremony with him. He was surrounded by support. A big transition was done in a few days. At the conclusion of that ceremony, he had experienced a permanent change and was clear that he was beginning a new phase of his life.

We have ceremonies that mark major transitions – weddings, funerals; for some of us, christenings, coming-of-age.  They are meant to do exactly what Mandela’s Rite of Passage did for him, support a person or a couple in transitioning from one state to a new one.

There are less formal practices that more and more of us are learning to do for ourselves that are like Rites of Passage. Journaling in a structured way, such as writing down our story, telling it someone, learning from that telling, then moving on. In work situations, there are unspoken “Rites of Passage”, like the first time you had to take responsibility for something big, or the first time you had to deal with a bully. They are similar to Rites of Passage because, once experienced – one you put your feet to the fire of change – you’ve changed. Permanently.

I wish for you that you learn to see the next big challenge that comes your way as a Rite that guides you through the Passage of change.

An Exploration of Coming of Age Rituals

Quote of the Week 

Every positive change – every jump to a higher level of energy and awareness – involves a rite of passage. Each time to ascend to a higher rung on the ladder of personal evolution, we must go through a period of discomfort, of initiation. I have never found an exception.”

– Dan Millman


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