The season of graduation ceremonies is upon us. These momentous occasions are engendered by those progressing from one life point to another. Seemingly academic in nature, graduations represent a passing of time, a maturing of self and the recognition of no turning back.
One of my favorite celebrations of the year is graduation. A snapshot in life, graduations are full of promise, potential and hope. I love to look at the faces of these accomplished individuals who accept the challenge of saying yes to dreaming, learning and growing. As a wellness coach, I’ve turned to spiritual graduations as a means of rejoicing in the hard and courageous work of my clients who are willing to look forward, unleash possibilities and energize the soul.
There is much also to consider from a spiritual perspective. Here are four graduation gifts awaiting as part of this spiritual graduation journey:
1. Graduation celebrates stepping out of one place and into another.
We observe that school represents multiple graduation moments. Each year teachers prepare their students for the next step whether it is additional education, entering the workforce or practicing a vocation. Teachers rely on a fixed timeline and a pre-determined set of criteria which focus on readiness, understanding and comprehension of a particular subject. If a student has difficulty with a lesson, the teacher looks for alternative teachings to help overcome barriers.
Depending on the scenario, spiritual advancement occurs within daily events. It involves some level of preparation, such as a decision to break up with a partner. However, the way a lesson plays out is not based on a prescribed outline. The experience unfolds in real time as the past cannot be lived in the same way ever again. The future remains a mystery. Once we decide to move on from a no longer sustainable or nourishing relationship, we often undergo pain, heartbreak and turmoil on our path to freedom. When we make it to the other side and reclaim our spirit, we have graduated with boosted inner knowledge. If we again find ourselves in a similar scenario, we can now make choices from a position of greater wisdom and empowerment.
If I look back at the stepping stones behind me, I see a heart that’s enrolled in a lot of tough classes. It has been stretched, broken and cracked open more than once for all kinds of reasons. I’ve lived for love, believed it was love and didn’t think I could live without love. In the midst of these heart churning moments, a quiet and steady voice assures me that I would be okay. Boy I wish I asked that voice out to lunch more often so my heart recovered sooner. Now I am so grateful the voice nudges me and I hear it and give it a place to talk without judgment.
2. Graduation celebrates completion and accomplishment.
In school we have clear-cut goals: to pursue learning and to pass through a series of tests, projects and experiments. We either succeed or fail based on overall performance and whether we have mastered a particular subject. If our achievements are favorable, we earn a degree.
Spiritually, life events occur to test our inner resolve, courage and deeper awareness of our evolving spirit’s ability to rise up and out of struggle. On the spiritual side, our walk through life is not a pass/fail exam; it is a moment-by-moment practice of our values and beliefs. How we express these values and beliefs shows up as feedback we return to ourselves and receive from others. Our “successes” such as increased patience, being honest, and more genuinely caring for others will not earn us a formal degree — but we can continue to walk on this earth with greater integrity and strength.
What I appreciate more than ever is to embrace life as a continuous practice of peace, love and joy. If I am not discovering or creating these lasting truths, my ego has gotten the best of me and off to school I go. Inside the spiritual classroom, I take a seat and remember how to walk away from self-doubt, over-thinking and illusion. My graduation test is to see how I return to the spiritual forefront and express and see the Divine within myself and others.
3. Graduation celebrates an emerging picture.
After graduation and before embarking on new adventures, our minds take a pause. The mind may choose to wander in different directions and evaluate all that has happened thus far. We feel anxious, excited and uneasy because we anticipate but cannot know outcome. We are in the midst of changing our life’s blueprint — the other side holds more questions than answers!
Our life transitions from a job, a loss, a once beloved home — look a lot like the post-graduation period. We feel stressed, out-of- sorts and eager to get beyond the newness and into a routine. Instead of wishing away in-between times, let’s try to engage with imagination and dream up a positive picture of what is happening. We can allow ourselves to be in the moment, and forego the ego’s urge to feel and project fear. We can thus better appreciate the life’s many little steps that deliver us to the other side.
Here’s what I know: Curiosity is a tremendous spiritual gift. It allows me to see the world with beauty, grace and color. Sure I can fall into routines, habits and average-living…but why? I choose to find excitement in sunsets, laughing with strangers and holding someone’s hand. My graduating heart needs to stay curious so its radar can detect the next opportunity to make room for a new friend or hold space for an old one.
4. Graduation celebrates transformational power.
For at least the first 13 years of our lives, we operate in a bubble called school. As students, we encounter personal and academic achievements and defeats. Our personalities develop knowingly and unknowingly. Yet despite academic demands and multiple growing pains and setbacks, a more blossomed individual steps forward at graduation. Before the eyes of school representatives and loved ones, graduates publicly declare release from the past. They bravely march en masse toward awaiting and unfathomable futures.
Our spiritual journey is a call to graduate and transform from the inside out. We enter into experiences which sometimes appear to be a never-ending, up and down roller coaster ride. The struggle to recover from a physical condition, or a mental/emotional event will and should be a small part of what defines us. But what really matters is creating and allowing for enough peace, love and joy to accompany our graduation and to reach for:
• higher levels of awareness
• unlimited spiritual horizons
• joining the march toward enlightenment of all Beings.
It is common for graduates to thank their parents for all of their love and support. Although I’ve graduated from school years ago, I think of my parents and am so grateful for being my spiritual teachers. Every morning, I call them just to hear their voices and exchange light-hearted messages. They’re so happy to be alive and enjoying their breakfast, planting vegetables or reading the paper. Graduation means moving out of the childhood stories of how my parents treated me and cherishing what we create right now.
In the spirit of the season, are you ready to graduate? You’ll know that it’s time when you look behind you with thanks, take delight in who you are today, explore the world with curiosity and fully participate in the dream of life.