Excerpted from: “Coming of Age the RITE Way: Youth & Community Development through Rites of Passage.” ©David G. Blumenkrantz, Ph.D., Ed.M. Oxford University Press
Programs don’t help people but people in meaningful relationships do.
When stories are shared something powerful happens. Each person’s story holds threads of gold. When woven together with the threads of stories from other times, places, and cultures a new story emerges. Our role as partners and guides in community-oriented rites of passage is to share stories that illuminate the golden threads of symbols, patterns, and processes of initiation. People’s own stories of initiation are then triggered and that, in turn, ignites their creative imagination. Design principles serve as navigational aids to inform and organize new ways of thinking that lead to innovative actions.
All change is local. It begins in the heart and is adapted at the level of the mind. The communion of heart, mind and spirit manifests change out into the world. I have been discussing initiation and rites of passage as a framework for organizing change. It focuses on and fosters change within individuals who can become agents for change and galvanize committed actions within groups and large systems. Initiating individuals to a consciousness of connection and interrelatedness in a living system is prerequisite to large order continually adapting change. Community-oriented rites of passage like the Rite Of Passage Experience© - ROPE® are intentionally designed to stimulate large-order change. It does this by initiating more and more citizens within a setting to the new story of rites of passage as a framework for education, youth and community development. Only when people understand and accept change at the level of the heart will they be able to help the necessary conditions for change to emerge in their setting. Contemporary approaches to change are more mechanistic and intellectual, which distances individuals from becoming intimately engaged with and committed to putting into action the fundamental principles in the New Story.
As the new story emerges, it incorporates individual and community resources, cultural symbols, and practices and assimilates the spirit of their place with design features that are present in (but does not disrespect or appropriate) other culture’s ancestors or traditions. This new story becomes their story. It is their initiatory constellation. There are powerful distinctions between adopting someone else’s story, like those told as “evidence based” and remembering one’s own story. When you gaze up to the heavens and see your own constellation you are connected with the Universe in ways that can be transforming. It all begins by sharing a story and a conversation. When we get our story rite we get our future right. And, that’s the story.
Everything we need to know, we already know
A Sufi story frequently begins with the end in mind.
And so the story begins: "Everything we need to know, we already know."
Once upon a time in a village some distance from here the people of that place were confronted with a grave problem.
The people heard of a wise person several villages away. (They would have been called an "expert consultant" in our contemporary language.) The people sent word about their problem to the wise one and asked her to speak with them. The people congregated in the market square and anxiously awaited the words of wisdom from the wise one.
The wise one asked: "How many of you know what I am about to say?"
All of the villagers shook their heads from side to side affirming that no one knew what she was going to tell them.
"You don't know what I am about to say so I will leave you."
The people were astonished. "If we knew what she was going to tell us why would we have invited her to help us with our problem?" The people lamented.
Within a short while the problem grew worse and the people invited the wise one to return.
Once again the wise one asked, "How many of you know what I am about to say?"
The people were ready this time and all shook their heads up and down affirming that they all knew what she was about to say.
"Well, if you all know what I am about to say than there is no reason for me to say anything." And with that the wise one left, again, leaving the villagers with their mouths wide open in bewilderment.
But, the problem worsened and once again the people in the village summoned the wise one. This time they were certain they would have the solution to their problem revealed.
The wise one ascended to the speaker’s platform and once again asked the villagers. "How many of you know what I am about to say?" This time the villagers responded back, half of them shook their heads up and down affirming they knew what the wise one was going to say. The other half shook their heads from side to side affirming that they did not know what the wise one was going to say.
The wise one then said, "Will the group who knew what I was going to say tell the group who did not know what I was going to say." And, she left.
A week later a village elder convened the group. She told the group that she had a dream that made her realize the wisdom of the wise one's words. "Everything we need to know, we already know", she said. All we have to do is to talk with each other. So the group spoke amongst themselves and low and behold they found the solution to their grave problem.
Initiation and rites of passage are within our collective memory; existing for tens of thousands of years in human experience they transcend culture and place. Our ancestors have all sung their songs, said their prayers, and consecrated special places for the initiatory constellation to emerge in reciprocity and help something happen. The stories of our ancestors lay dormant in our DNA awaiting an awakening. We know that initiation can emerge through reciprocity between entities in the initiatory constellation. Themes, symbols, patterns and processes of initiation and rites of passage reside in our unconscious. We know the core elements within these patterns and processes. All that is needed is a catalyst to activate our memories and bring them into consciousness as a resource for healing our community, all our relations, and ourselves. Everything we need to know, we already know. We just need to talk among ourselves.
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