Rites of Passage

‘Every positive change – every jump to a higher level of energy and awareness involves a Rite of Passage. Each time to ascend to a higher rung on the ladder of personal evolution, we must go though a period of discomfort, of initiation. I have never found an exception.’

Dan Millman

In our day to day life, it can often be ever so easy to end up simply drifting from one stage to another. Drifting without any real idea to know where exactly you are, without any milestones to signify which stage you are in. Therefore it can be impossible to know when for example you become a man instead of just a boy.

This has the impact of leaving many individuals feeling stuck between stages of life, they no longer feel like a teenager, but they have yet to feel like an adult. Stuck in the middle, unsure of their identity and much more likely to boomerang back to their old childhood bedrooms, after having already left for university. Where they will likely remain for a while, trying to figure things out as they are left adrift, waiting for the opportunity to find a door into the next stage of life.

These doors, these Rites of Passage are something that was used to be more common, though they still do exist in a few forms. They used to occasionally be arduous and even brutal affairs, though they now carry on in the form of such ceremonies as graduations and marriage. They provide a clear end of one chapter in life and open the door to the next. For example, with graduations, you would walk in as a mere student, and leave as an alumnus alongside the faculty as one of them.


What Makes a Rite?

So, now we have touched upon the importance of Rites of Passage, what makes one? What stages are exist in a Rite of Passage, what is their importance, and what examples of this are there? Three phases that make up a Rite have been identified, and these are listed below.

Separation

In the first stage, the initiate is in some way separated from his former life. To enter the transitional phase between stages of life. A modern example of this is students leaving their parents home to go to university, leaving their former life behind to start on the path as students. You see similar in the military to a more extreme extent where the recruits put aside their old possessions and are given a new uniform to wear. This helps to bring the initiate away from the former stage of life so that they can start the process of forming the identity needed for the next.

Transition

In the second phase, the initiate is in-between stages of life. Not quite one, and not quite the other. However, it is in this stage where they are taught the knowledge and information to progress into the next stage, as well as often tested to ensure that they are ready to make that transition. For example, in old tribal societies, the elders would impart wisdom and knowledge onto a boy, teaching him what it means to be a man and how he must conduct himself in order to fully become one.

Reincorporation

The final stage is that of reincorporation. Where after having passed the tests and proving themselves worthy, the initiate is fully brought back into the community as the initiated. Their new status is respected and celebrated, often in a grand ceremony such as university graduations. This is the ceremony that makes the milestone at the end of one stage of life crystal clear and welcomes the individual into the next stage of life with wide-open arms.


Hopefully, this shall help you take notice of rites of passage in your life, and recognize and appreciate the importance of them. There are fortunately still groups and organizations that perform such rituals, which may allow you to take part in one even if you may have missed out previously.

Additionally, there are other ways to make such a rite of passage for yourself, be it pledging yourself to a respectable fraternity or lodge. Perhaps taking a trip with a volunteering organization to another country, and using that as such an experience. At the end of the day, if you can commit to the rite with the conviction that it will allow you to progress from one stage of your life to the next.

Personally, one of the most impactful rites of passage in my own life was a blistering trek across the British Peaks District as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. It was not blistering as in hot, but blistering as my wet boots at the time gave me around 13 painful blisters making the hike utterly excruciating. But by pushing past that difficulty and pain. By making it to the very end on pure willpower I proved to myself that I had the strength of will to progress onto the next stage of life and begin calling myself a man.

While your own personal Rites do not require as many blisters, my own experience should help illustrate that even originally mundane events and challenges can be turned into a life-transforming Rite of Passage to set you moving forward on the next stage of life.

Published by Duncan Hookey

A British/Canadian writer who writes about various topics related to how to make the most out of life.

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