This text was first published in january 2015. Today I live in Leipzig, Germany and work as a ritual designer.
Ending my childhood and initiating a new path in life
Today I call myself a ritual designer. This is the story of my initiation.
It started in Switzerland where I was attending the alternative business school, KaosPilots.
KaosPilots is a school for responsible leaders that holds Ghandi’s words “Be the change you want to see in the world” close to heart. This means that personal development is a key part of the KaosPilot journey and during my time in the school we were engaged in different spiritual practices. Somehow they seemed to follow a similar structure or pattern and I suspected a mechanic in the work…
Painting chairs at KaosPilots. January 2014
Something was always present, regardless of the content.
I did not start making sense of it until I found myself in a very anxious space. The space emerged when it dawned upon me that what I had come to the school for was not what I was going to receive, and I was unable to decide if I wanted engage in the new. By chance I stumbled on the word “liminality” while being in this space, and the pieces started to come together. I was in the space between spaces, on the threshold of something new, in what’s referred to as the middle stage of a ritual. I had lost hold of and said goodbye to the previous understanding of my context and I had not yet passed a threshold into something new. The anxiety I was experiencing was the natural anxiety that can emerge in ambiguity and disorientation.
From this realization I started reading about rites of passage and ceremonial processes - and the patterns I had felt in the different spiritual practices started to surface.
What I learned is that rituals follow a pattern known as rites of passage. Even though it’s not always clean cut the steps are the following: Separation, transition and reincorporation. The step of separation speaks about the metaphorical death of something - often the metaphorical death of our own identity. Transition happens in the liminal, space between spaces and refers to the crossing of a threshold into something new. If and when that is done we can reincorporate with our context as a new being.
It became clear for me that I had to transition in to a new way of being in the school, or separate. I chose to separate and my time as a student at KaosPilots was ceremonially ended. The effects were profound. There was a big sense of closure and I was able to bring all of myself to Brighton, England, where I live today.
Something essential for change work lives here. Something I believe we lost track of in the parts of the world that’s become very secular. A strong desire to take distance to religion made us throw away most things we associate with it, and ritual went out the door.
An exemplification of this is the ceremonial ending of our childhoods.
No one has a clue when they are an adult anymore. Some people find it in them to create a ceremony for themselves, perhaps by moving away from home or having an adventure. Some don’t. And very rarely is it a aware and controlled journey that’s respected by both the parents and the child. We can notice easily if our parents never accepted that the childhood is over. They will treat us like children. And we act accordingly.
This was the case for me.
I was also treated like an adult, because I had started my adulthood. But that didn’t mean my childhood had ended. This put stress on our relationship and it made me feel torn and unable to let go of some limiting beliefs I held about myself. So I invited my parents to a ceremonial ending of my childhood.
It was scary to say the least.
We went down to a frozen lake one morning and I told them the one rule of the trip before we started our ice-skating journey: When we come back my childhood is over.
They laughed uncomfortably but nonetheless agreed. And off we were. In a mildly successful attempt at silent reflection. A couple of kilometers upstream we stopped and made a fire…
Voxsjön, Bollnäs. December 2014.
Everything that needed to be spoken was spoken, every thanks, every apology, every story of pain. It was all there when the moment of truth came.
“Can we agree that my childhood is now over?”
“Can we agree that you are no longer allowed to raise me and that we are to see each other as equals?”
“Can we agree that I am no longer to treat you from an immature and childish place?”
It was done. I had ended my childhood and my parents said goodbye to Viktor the 23 year old child.
This experience also represented a big threshold for me as a ritual designer: It was very important to do this for myself in a profound way if I am to help others with the same.