Creating Ceremony for Ritual among Homeless Youth

We have been exploring for several months the primal question: What does it mean to be human?  We have sought answers by meditating on the “10 C’s” and we are now mediating on the last of the “C’s,” Ceremony or celebration or ritual.

“Praise in a Cosmic Mass” Photo by Kathryn Gaughan, Washington National Cathedral. Used with permission.

Authentic ceremonies recharge us, heal us, energize us, amaze us.  They release our best capacities for compassion and service, for learning and teaching.  They demarcate and honor beginnings and endings.  They re-member and re-connect with the ancestors, ushering them among us.  They awaken us.

It is through ceremony that the biggest stories, such as those of the universe itself or of our great ancestors, are most effectively carried on.  Ceremony is part and parcel of the post-modern awareness, not least of all because it is so integral to pre-modern consciousness.

Youth practice yoga with the Reciprocity Foundation (pre-COVID). Photo from the Reciprocity Foundation website.

Adam Bucko and his co-worker Taz Tagor created a ritual for the young adults whom they worked closely with in the Reciprocity Foundation dedicated to youth living on the streets of New York City. 

They took the youth to a Buddhist retreat center located on land outside the city.  Giving them a day to acclimate to the new setting, so different from a noisy, bustling city, they then focused on the work of forgiveness

The goal, says Adam, was to teach

…youth how to cultivate compassion for their perpetrators and to step out of victimhood and into a more empowering mind. 

The Reciprocity Foundation takes homeless youth from New York City on retreat. This video profiles one of these retreats to the Buddhist Center called Dharma Drum. Uploaded to YouTube by reciprocityfdn.

The youth engaged in many simple rituals to initiate themselves into the retreat—such as finding objects in nature that represented the people they wished to forgive—even if they didn’t believe that forgiveness was possible.

Two days were spent reflecting, journaling and discussing how and why we need to forgive each other.  Then all gathered at the lake and each youth was invited to step into the water—and to release the objects representing people they were ready to forgive and to describe how it felt to let go of their pain and anger.  And also how their suffering had helped them to grow.  “We felt they needed a ritual to remember that pain wakes us up and reminds us of the ways in which we need to grow as human beings.” 

Practicing centering. From the Reciprocity Foundation website.

The ritual moved Adam:

I was in awe as I watched each youth step into the lake and offer their forgiveness to people who had committed atrocious acts of violence upon their bodies and spirits.  Their capacity for forgiveness was astounding—and they seemed to grasp the ways in which their suffering was also a blessing in their lives.

It was important that the youth not only participate in doing the ritual but in creating it; and that it was bodily; and in tune with the outdoor setting in nature.  Such practices are a

…powerful way to open the gateway for transformative experience.  It is this kind of post-religious but deeply spiritual work that resonate with young people.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human, pp. 137f.

Also see Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox, Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation, pp. 137f.

Banner Image: “Mudra” Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

What elements of the ritual described here moves you to consider creating similar rituals?  Do these stories and teachings on ritual underscore the gift that ceremony or ritual brings to the greater community?

The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human

The A.W.E. Project reminds us that awe is the appropriate response to the unfathomable wonder that is creation… A.W.E. is also the acronym for Fox’s proposed style of learning – an approach to balance the three R’s. This approach to learning, eldering, and mentoring is intelligent enough to honor the teachings of the Ancestors, to nurture Wisdom in addition to imparting knowledge, and to Educate through Fox’s 10 C’s. The 10 C’s are the core of the A.W.E. philosophy and process of education, and include: compassion, contemplation, and creativity. The A.W.E. Project does for the vast subject of “learning” what Fox’s Reinvention of Work did for vocation and Original Blessing did for theology. Included in the book is a dvd of the 10 C’s put to 10 video raps created and performed by Professor Pitt.
An awe-based vision of educational renewal.Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation

Authors Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox encourage us to use our talents in service of compassion and justice and to move beyond our broken systems–economic, political, educational, and religious–discovering a spirituality that not only helps us to get along, but also encourages us to reevaluate our traditions, transforming them and in the process building a more sacred and just world. Incorporating the words of young activist leaders culled from interviews and surveys, the book provides a framework that is deliberately interfaith and speaks to our profound yearning for a life with spiritual purpose and for a better world.
Occupy Spirituality is a powerful, inspiring, and vital call to embodied awareness and enlightened actions.”
~~ Julia Butterfly Hill, environmental activist and author of The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods

Upcoming Events

WEBINAR: Cultivate a Resilient Heart in Times of Suffering – ONLINE. Saturday, November 11, 11:00 AM to 12:15 PM Eastern (GMT/UTC-4). Register HERE.

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