Ingrid Hart facilitates classes and workshops on midlife renewal. She is the author of “My Year In California ~ A Journey Toward Midlife Renewal.”
Here, Hart chronicles her experience in creating a ceremony to mark the transition from one life-stage to the next at one of her workshops.
“Give yourselves a big round of applause,” I said to my “Midlife: What’s Next” workshop students at the event’s conclusion. “Welcome to the second half of life.” The group aged 45 – 65 performed the obligatory clap, some with extended vigor and some with a business-as-usual half a heart.
Earlier, I had seen the uplift these students experienced learning about the passageway between the first half of life and the second half. The recognition where you’re no longer young, but not yet old. I wanted to extend that enthusiasm in a memorable way. A gift of some sort at the end, so that when my students went home, they would remember the workshop as a group collective – a movement. That they had experienced something bigger than themselves.
Still, at the workshop’s end, something was absent. There was no rite of passage ceremony. I vowed to myself that I would do better next time.
Bridging the Divide
What was needed was tribal, collective connection marked by a ceremony for my students.
I found the solution from an unlikely source – the Girl Scouts. It is called The “Bridging Ceremony”, and it marks a girl’s move from one level of Girl Scouting to another.
Why not perform this ceremony for midlifers? After all, a transition from the first half of life to the second half is certainly attaining a new level. Why not give it a try?
I brought two ten-foot long spools of gold ribbon. Taping these gold ribbons down to the carpet, I asked my students to gather on one end of the “bridge.” I placed myself on the other end of the bridge. Graduation-style, I called out the first student’s name. “Angela Andrews,”. Angela crossed the bridge. I shook her hand.
Congratulations. Welcome to the second half of life,”
then handed her a long-stemmed red rose. The ceremony was repeated for each student.
Powerful Initiation Ritual
As each student “bridged over,” the momentum grew.
I feel like I’m on the Bachelorette Show,” one joked.
Everyone joined in the nervous laughter, sprinkling the initiation ceremony with much-needed levity.
I’ve never done anything like this before,” said another woman, a cancer survivor, as she began to weep. “It’s very moving.”
A man performed a silly Hokey-Pokey dance, smiling broadly as he accepted a rose.
Most crossed over the bridge without fanfare, then looked deeply into my eyes and said thank you. At the end of the ceremony a spontaneous group hug occured. And then we snapped a picture of the occasion.
This rite of passage, simple at its core, represents a deep longing for connection to our ancestral ways. Even though my students could not articulate what was missing without the ceremony – you don’t know what you don’t know — once it was in place, the circle was complete – a sense of unity and closure created a bond.
The physical movement of crossing over the bridge left no doubt in my student’s mind, they were firmly planted on second half of life soil – terra firma. And to be on sure footing makes all the difference in the world as we consider “what’s next.”
Ingrid Hart a subject matter expert on midlife renewal documented in the award-winning book “My Year In California ~ A Journey Toward Midlife Renewal.” Her education includes a master’s degree in Culture and Spirituality with a deep focus on transition to the second half of life. Visit: www.midliferenew.com to learn more.