Posted by Darren C. Polito on January 3, 2018

Last year I wrote about how I had trouble marking the holidays and found myself in limbo after the New Year. Going into this year's holiday season I once again was not feeling inspired or excited about decorating or much else having to do with them. I did not mention in last year's post that the anniversaries of my parents' deaths fall right in the midst of all this – my father died on October 30, 1996 and my mother on December 23, 1997. So to say that the holidays comes with extra baggage would be an understatement.

Many, many years ago I had started making Christmas stockings for family and friends, though they are more like "boots" than traditional stockings. The boots are whimsical and more for decoration than they are for filling with gifts as their construction doesn't leave much room inside. They were my way of pushing back against the commercialization of the holiday and I used to joke when giving them to people saying, "Give Christmas the boot!"

I inherited a good deal of my mom's holiday decorations, including the Christmas Boot I had made her. I never did make one for my father when he was alive so one year I decided to make one in memory of him and then my first two cats, Diamo and Bandit. Other decorations I inherited from my mom, who had always made Christmas so magical, were her collection of Anna Lee dolls. They are whimsical creations of mice, deer, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and more.

All of these things and the plethora of other decorations . . .

Posted by Darren C. Polito on December 15, 2017

There’s power to writing by hand. The physical action reaches deep into yourself. It takes time, leaves you identifiable, and it’s personal and intimate. As Yale psychologist Paul Bloom said in an article in the New York Times, "With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important." Writing also physically engages the body in a way that typing does not (typing vs handwriting). More and more studies are being done since it was decided in 2013 by the Common Core State Standards that cursive writing will no longer be required to be taught to children. Studies show that handwriting and typing each activate distinct parts of the brain. And personally I've found that taking the time to handwrite allows space for a higher part of yourself to have a voice.

Recently I noticed a negative thought pattern . . .

Posted by Darren C. Polito on January 17, 2017

The holidays have come and gone, and I find myself feeling in limbo. I should admit something. I'm known for my no-holds-barred, over-the-top Christmas decorating. But this past year I decided to give myself a "vacation" from Christmas decorating and didn't do anything at all. I recently ran into a few of my neighbors and the first thing they asked was, "Is everything ok? We didn't see your decorations and were wondering." I assured them everything was just fine and that I just needed a little break.

Admittedly the past several years . . .

Posted by Darren C. Polito on July 21, 2016

I recently celebrated turning 50 with some simple yet special rituals. On my actual birthday, the spiritual director of my seminary, Diane Berke, asked if I'd like to renew my vows with the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary graduating class of 2016. I have a special connection to them because I worked for the past year as the webinar moderator for the companion learners around the world. At the end of their second year of classes, they came together for a private four-day retreat during which they took personal vows of ministry and then were ordained. This ceremony resonated with me as a perfect way to celebrate my 50th birthday.

I rented a car and . . .

Posted by Darren C. Polito on March 29, 2016

The weekend of March 19 – 20, 2016 was quite a celebratory time for Spirituality & Practice. Patricia Carlson (Senior Editor/Program Director) and I (Creative Director) traveled from our respective home offices in Ithaca, New York, and New York City out to Claremont, California to celebrate with Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat (Co-Directors and Co-Founders). This was our first time all together in the new offices. And there were also three larger occasions we were observing — the first day of Spring, the 10th birthday of, and the inaugural open house for The Center for Spirituality & Practice in Claremont.

We had close to 150 people . . .

Posted by Darren C. Polito on February 12, 2016

For a gathering of our Ritual Salon in the early fall I wanted to find a way to get in touch with the season. Traditionally the fall is a time of celebrating the harvest: honoring seeds sown earlier in the year and reaping the growth that has taken place. This harvest time also leads us into the celebration of gratitude in the U.S. on Thanksgiving. But to offer our gratitude we must take the time to recognize where there is abundance in our lives.

A poignant example of this happened when I went apple picking and was dumbfounded when I saw how many apples were lying on the ground around each tree even after loads of people had already tromped through the orchards filling their bags to the point of bursting. And yet there were still many apples around the bases of all the trees. I was overwhelmed by just how much is produced in this one orchard alone. Many of us are far removed from witnessing nature’s abundance in that kind of natural setting. But if we take a moment to consider our grocery stores, we are witness to it. Just think of the piles of fruits and vegetables you see there along with all the packaged foods!

As I thought more . . .

Posted by Darren C. Polito on December 10, 2015

This ritual was inspired by a film we reviewed, The Patience Stone, which itself was inspired by the Persian myth Syngue Sabour (patience stone) about a stone into which you can shed your misfortunes, your complaints, and your troubles until it's so full it bursts.

To recreate this myth . . .

Posted by Darren C. Polito on January 7, 2015

I recently had the honor to lead a surprise "Prayerful Birthday Celebration" for a dear friend of mine who turned 60. I worked with her husband and children to craft a meaningful service with music and themes taken from The Sound of Music, her favorite movie. We wanted to keep the service short; we knew there would be lots of small children around and a brunch to follow. And while this was a family only party, the guests still numbered close to 60! First off, I wanted to offer a way for people to express their feelings toward this remarkable woman. My friend is dearly loved by all so I had a feeling that, given the chance, everyone would want to get up and say something. That would probably take too much time. So I recycled my "Test Tubes of Love" ritual from my own birthday a couple years ago as a way for all to participate.

The service opened with the song . . .

Posted by Darren Polito on December 9, 2014

At the end of our Forgiveness salon, I asked my guests for suggestions of what rituals they wanted to explore next. A writer in the group asked for a fertility ritual for creativity. That really caught my interest.

My first thought was, could we make some kind of "fertilizer"? I went through a slew of ideas, from playing with mud to planting seeds to creating a food dish to eat. Since the friend who requested the ritual is an accomplished baker I liked the idea of ingesting something. But everything I came up with seemed too messy or complicated for a large group.

For a while I had been wanting to do something more with fragrances, given the power of scents to evoke memories and moods. Why else would essential oils and candles and room fresheners be so popular? Perhaps we could each create a creativity blend of essential oils. Cost and logistics soon ruled that out. But the word "blend" stuck with me and I remembered my friend was also a tea connoisseur. What about having everyone create his own tea blend!

I did some research into . . .

Posted by Darren Polito on October 8, 2014

This ritual salon was co-created with one of my friends who approached me about doing something around forgiveness. He was in the process of reconciling with his father whom he had not seen for many years. He realized that doing some forgiveness work prior to their actual contact would be a good idea. So I asked him to run with the idea. What would it look like? What did he want it to accomplish? What would be meaningful? Much of this ritual was born out of his process of discernment, and then we collaborated on putting his various ideas together.

His main starting point was an Aramaic translation of the Lord's Prayer by Neil Douglas-Klotz from Prayers of the Cosmos. He also wanted to explore the idea that forgiveness is like restoring a painting or washing a dirty mirror to reveal a more accurate reflection. Between the two of us we went through myriad ideas and finally crafted a three part ritual: 1. forgiveness for self, 2. forgiveness of others, 3. acknowledging our "restored" light.

The ritual may sound quite complicated as you read it, with lots of elements to juggle. That was a bit of concern for us so beforehand, I offered the gathered group a brief explanation of what was going to happen and the elements we would be using. Things actually ran quite smoothly and it all worked synergistically as we had hoped.

When each person arrived . . .


About This Blog

Rituals are everywhere. They are most often associated with religions as every tradition and path has oodles of them. Broaden your perspective a bit, and you'll see that other areas of our community and personal lives are filled with ritual activities. Darren Polito has been exposed to rituals all his life but found himself yearning for more to mark life changes/situations/rites of passages. So he started a monthly Ritual Salon with a group of friends. More