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 leisurely drove to the retreat center. I found a quiet park nearby on the Hudson river where I sat for a while in quiet contemplation. I had decided it was time to revisit and rewrite my vows. As I distilled my thoughts further and further to get to the essence of what I wanted my vows to convey, I knew I had reached it when a strong but gentle breeze came sweeping across me as I put the period to the final iteration.
"I vow to live in gratitude and reverence, recognizing that ALL of life is a miracle, and to stay open to my heart's guidance and love's call."
That evening I participated with the students and faculty of the seminary in taking my vows not only as an Interfaith Minster but as a human being. I regard my vows are not being just for ministry but for living every day.
Back in the city and a few days later, I planned a picnic in Central Park to celebrate with my friends. Three years ago for a birthday celebration I asked everyone to participate in a kind of collaborative art/blessing project which became known as my Test Tubes of Love – it was their gift to me.
This time I decided I wanted to give everyone something – my blessing to them. I remembered I had these small colorful aluminum jars which I had purchased for a ritual salon but had never used. (I tend to find things while out and about shopping thinking "Ooh this would be cool for something sometime" with no idea what that something will be until inspiration hits – sometimes years later.) I wondered how I could "place" a blessing in these containers. Would I just write it on a colorful strip of paper like those placed in the test tubes? A flower popped into my head. So I did a YouTube search for how to create origami flowers, remembering I also had a large stash of origami paper – another one of those random purchases.
Upon perfecting the style and size I needed, I wrote a variation of my vow as a blessing on each sheet of paper, then folded it into a flower and placed it in one of the little jars. The process of writing on the paper and then making the flower was a wonderful meditative practice. The repetitive nature of the actions connected to the heartfelt intentions brought me a great sense of peace and comfort.
During the picnic I allowed people to choose a jar and explained to everyone what they were. I suggested they place it near their bed or on their desk but to not open them. The jar with the flower was a visual reminder that someone loves them and is blessing them – always. Everyone was very appreciative and later sent me pictures of the jars in their new homes – on home altars, desks, nightstands. One friend commented how he loved the idea of not being able to open something into which so much thought and work had gone.
Given the continued violence around the world, I'm often reminded of how important it is to tell people they are loved, appreciated and important. So this is a ritual/practice for all times, not just a birthday. Think how lovely it would be to find a little flower blessing when you aren't expecting it. Please pass it on.