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 SpiritualityandPractice.com, and the inaugural open house for The Center for Spirituality & Practice in Claremont.
We had close to 150 people throughout the day, and there were more than 75 gathered in the center of the space for the ritual Frederic and Mary Ann asked me to create for the three occasions. I borrowed elements from previous rituals I’ve written about here. See which ones you recognize.
On behalf of Frederic, Mary Ann, Patricia, and myself, I want to welcome you and thank you for coming to The Center for Spirituality & Practice.
There is much to celebrate today, specifically these three things: the first day of spring, the 10th anniversary of our website SpiritualityandPractice.com, and the opening and blessing of the new Center for Spirituality & Practice.
And so our ritual will honor threes. Threes invite unlimited perspectives and possibilities. Threes also show us that we are not separate from the rest of the universe but are literally braided into it.
We have three containers here which I will talk about more in a few moments. There will also be three sections to our ritual: We will begin by welcoming Spring. Then we will move into a Water Ritual celebrating the website's birthday. And finally, we will tie everything together with gratitude when we will invite your blessings and affirmations for the future of The Center.
Let us begin.
This is from the introduction of our Naming the Days feature about the First Day of Spring, written by Frederic and Mary Ann:
"Spring is a season of renewal and rebirth. It's a time when buds become leaves and flowers, when healing rain washes city streets and falls like grace on parched country fields, when the hard ground beneath us softens to allow shoots of new life to emerge.
"As outside, so inside. Spring is a time for cleaning out and making way for fresh possibilities and new commitments. It's a time to revive our senses and expand our horizons. It's a time to begin again."
If you feel comfortable doing so, please close your eyes.
Let's all take a few moments to take three conscious deep breaths to become grounded and centered in this space and our own being.
Inhale, Exhale, Inhale, Exhale, Inhale, Exhale
Please keep your eyes closed as Patricia reads this poem by e. e. cummings.
"i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
"(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
"how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
"(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)"
Take a moment to reflect on what spring means to you.
Please open your eyes.
Let's bring our focus now to these 2 bowls and vase. They collectively and individually represent the past, present, and future of Spirituality & Practice.
To begin Patricia and I will pour more water into the two bowls. Water is used throughout the world in ritual and ceremony: from the pouring of libations in the Yoruba tradition of Africa to baptisms in the Christian faith, from handwashing (netilat yadayim) in Judaism to the three ablutions of Islam. And the list goes on and on it goes weaving through all the traditions, cultures, and paths of the world.
Water is powerful and cleansing, representing fresh possibilities and clarity. And so as Patricia and I pour the water into these bowls, imagine it washing over you and this space. Let it clear and cleanse what doesn’t serve and nourish that which we want to flourish.
Mary Ann and Frederic please come forward. We have three candles of Mary Ann's favorite flower – the hibiscus – because the short life of each bloom reminds us to be present in every moment. These candles also symbolize outward expressions of joy and happiness. And more deeply, a hibiscus represents a dream realized, of enjoying every step of the way, seeing beauty and recognizing the sacred all around us.
So, Mary Ann and Frederic, in honor of S&P's 10th birthday we ask you to light these candles, instead of blowing them out as is traditional. These lights represent all the amazing effort and energy that you have lovingly poured into this website and which we hope continues to burn brightly for many years to come.
As they light their candles, let's all sing Happy Birthday S&P!
(Mary Ann and Frederic light candles, during singing)
As I mentioned earlier, these three containers collectively and individually represent the past, present, and future. And in this final section of our ritual today, we invite you to more fully participate.
First we would like to offer our gratitude to the many people who helped make this all possible, including our Founding Practicing Partners as well as volunteers and friends.
Now you can offer gratitude for what has already been done in the 10 years of Spirituality & Practice, offer blessings for the new Center, and/or offer affirmations and wishes for its future. This can all be done silently by lighting one of the white candles lined up beside the water bowls from Frederic and Mary Ann's candles and placing it in one of the bowls. Or you can choose to write out your blessing, gratitude, or affirmation on one of the slips of paper scattered around on the table. You can then place it in this beautiful vase which will remain here at The Center for Spirituality & Practice and be a visible reminder of this day and of all the good wishes and blessings of those who are here today. And more so, if Frederic and Mary Ann, and any others working here in the future, are having a really bad day, they can pull a slip out and read your offering for encouragement!
While the music plays, please come forward when you feel called and light a candle and/or write your blessing. The candles and paper slips will be available after the ritual for the rest of the day, so if you want to take your time and wait for inspiration, you may do so.
(candle lighting/writing blessings - music plays)
Again, the paper will be available the rest of the evening so please don't feel rushed.
And now to close our ritual, Mary Ann will offer a prayer she and Frederic have written.
Prayer for 10th Birthday Party
Source and Sustainer of Life,
we are here today to celebrate
the guidance, creativity, and stamina
you have given us to do
this ministry of providing people
with resources for their spiritual journeys
through Spirituality & Practice.
Creator of Ten Thousand Gifts,
We are so grateful for all
the magic moments we have experienced
through this work;
and for all the people we have connected with
through the website.
As we embark on the next decades
for Spirituality & Practice,
help us to be open to change.
Help us to step boldly into the future
with confidence and hope.
Help us welcome others who are
called to this kind of service.
Continue to spur us on to
new adventures in the coming years.
So be it. (ring bell)