Transitions and Rituals – 1

“Life Transitions are often marked with a ceremony or ritual. The very act creates a flow – a change in perspective and offers another vantage point.”
By Wasentha Young (an excerpt from her Meeting with the Masters short story)

The blade, made of stainless steel, was inserted into the brass hand guard with two brass casted phoenix heads to protect the hand, where it is held – wrapped in leather, and the hilt was cast in the shape of a looped feathered tail.  Drawing the sword, to check the balance, I laid the hand guard perpendicularly on my first two fingers.  Yesssss, there it balanced, wavering every so slightly.  My teary eyes and the blade glistened together.  Oh, and look at this sheath, I thought; my eyes roamed the stainless steel flat-oval shape noticing the bas-relief phoenix, a T’ai Chi symbol, Chinese characters, and double cast brass band with loops for hanging.

Holding a metal sword in my hand was so different than the wooden practice sword I had used for seven years. I could feel the relationship of self and the representative extension into life through judgments the sword represented. It offered a new vantage for wrestling with my ego ever so gently or with severing intensity. As I reveled in realizations, I knew that some ritual, some recognition of this rites of passage was needed.

“Trungpa Rinpoche would like to know, why it is that you want him to perform this blessing,” his secretary asked. I suppose it was about another five days after explaining myself to her before she told me he had consented and gave me a day and time that I was to be at Naropa for the ceremony.

I was sitting in a half-lotus when suddenly the space around me changed, the building began to rumble and vibrate. As if being pulled by a string from above, I stood up and the double doors next to me flew open.  In walked Trungpa Rinpoche bookend by two Vajra Guards and they were followed by approximately 30 others all dressed in black suits, white shirts and black ties. They trailed off lining the lobby, around the corner, and down the hall.  I was frozen in awe, disbelief, mesmerized by the intense energy, and not quite sure what was going to happen next.

After a few minutes, one of the guards came from around the corner, walked up to me and said, “Follow me, Trungpa Rinpoche will see you now.”  I fumbled with my sword, checked my pockets to see if I had remembered the gift of thanks, gave a sigh of relief and proceeded to follow the guard down the hall. My heart was pounding.  There he sat, in a black suit, wearing glasses and a smile. Fumbling again for my gift, I shyly handed him a 14kt gold ring.  It was a puny toe ring, but it was the only thing I owned that was of any givable value. I stared at his round head and large ears as he smiled and put it in his jacket pocket.

In a high pitch voice he asked, “Why do you want me to bless your sword?”  I spoke about the symbolism, my vision of “cutting through” the ego, and my need to express this in with a ritual.  I also included my belief in him as a “master” of meditation and the mind, an appreciation for his notion about the “warrior tradition”, as well as having heard of his ability and background in performing ritual. He bowed his head and then gestured for me to hand him the sword.  I handed it to him with both hands and he received it with both hands.  He drew the sword.

The mood changed as he began to chant, lifted the sword with one hand, and with the other ran his first two fingers up and down the blade several times. Then with the softest, sweetest of gestures he angled the hilt with both hands, blew up the sword and then handed it back to me.  My body still shaking I nervously put the sword back in the sheath as Trungpa Rinpoche patted me on my shoulder and said, “Keep practicing.”

It was a beautiful, brilliant, clear blue, crisp early fall day and I headed off to the park, just after the ceremony, to practice with my newly charged sword. I went to my favorite grassy area, sat down and thought for awhile about my meeting with Trungpa Rinpoche and wondered a bit more about what he could’ve said.

The pansies, petunias, and marigolds lightly scented the air; I took a deep breath and my mind found the fresh openness of the space around me.  When the impulse struck, I moved into action.

Step Forward Hand and Sword Together; The Divinity Points the Way; Three Rings Around the Moon; The Major Literary Star; The Swallow Beats the Water With Its Wings; Block – Sweep; The Minor Literary Star; The Wasp Enters the Cave; The Alert Cat Catches the Mouse; The Dragonfly Beats the Water; The Birds Return to the Forest; The Phoenix Spreads Its Wings;  As the sword flew diagonally upward the sky absorbed the blade. Poised in awe, my mind emptied and all I saw was the rippling of Trungpa Rinpoche’s breath.