Inspiring Newsletter  


re-inspiration for clients and friends of




issue 11, April 2009


an “aperiodical”—to speak when I am moved to speak



The Story of the Grief Ritual Food Tray


This weekend at the gathering of my spiritual community, I saw a tray.

         It was round, made of some kind of metal, stainless steel perhaps, and it had some orangey kind of food on it that I needed.  The person carrying it around for us was offering it out to everyone, and it was SO good.  I felt good in a way I hadn't felt in years, relaxed, free, at peace.  A few months ago I had a moment that was the best way I'd felt in months--this was better than that.

         Of course, the tray wasn't physically there.  It was an image that came to my conscious mind in just a flash, and if I hadn't been used to asking myself questions about what's working I would have forgotten it instantly, or missed it entirely.  But it had a very important meaning. 

         My community, which we call "the East Coast Village"--informally, just "the village"--was holding a Grief Ritual, free and open to the public, on our 40 acres of wooded land in Cherry Plain, NY.  There were newcomers here this weekend, who had heard about our grief ritual, mostly from friends or from reading one of Malidoma Some's books (the elder who's been teaching us the Dagara medicine.  We did no advertising that I'm aware of, and no one I talked to had come because of an ad.)  There were also old "villagers," who were leading the ritual, and recent graduates of the Indigenous African Spirit Technologies training the Village had run with Malidoma.  The ritual we were doing was an opportunity for spirit to pull out of us the griefs that no longer serve us and send them on to another place.

         What was it about this sensation of the tray of food that made it work?   The proximate cause was hearing someone who was new to our village say something about how much they needed what we had just given her. 

         Another thing that made this work was that this person wasn't just being polite.  I could tell.  There's a difference between the enthusiasm of a workshop participant and the enthusiasm of someone who feels that this gathering of people is the most real and most sacred thing she's been a part of ever, period.  I was reminded of the first time I came to the village, of how abundant that had made me feel, of the strong certainty that I was home. The discovery that a whole new world existed inside the one I'd always been living in, and had always been there, unnoticed.  So I knew what she was saying was true: I had felt it with my bones too, a long time ago, and was feeling it again now--after a long time of doubting myself.

         I had the feeling again that the thing I had to offer was good, the thing that I could truly, truly offer easily, effortlessly, without struggle or attempt at controlling things.  It was being reaffirmed that the thing I had to offer was of so much value to another person that it would be no problem to have enough gift to give.  No pretending, no wearing a mask would be required.  Only doing what I did naturally.

         What also made it work was the land---the gravel drive up the middle of the land, the partly sandy, bare earth area where we were setting up to do the ritual, the steady silence of the building we had built on the land, and other things that won't fit here (you'll have to go there yourself to learn more about them.)  The warm sun on the bare earth of the ritual space.  I'm reminded of the answer Jeffrey Hollender (President of Seventh GenerationTM) gave to a recent question I asked him in a Q & A, What replenishes your emotional energy?  One of his answers was the trees of Vermont.  It's beneficial to be aware of how our environment helps our business.

         It's thanks to asking right questions that I am able to have clarity about what worked and what made it work; to reenergize myself now after the ritual, back in my daily life; and to process consciously that information that was delivered to me so rapidly.

         Speaking with the newcomers now after the weekend I see in my mind's eye flashes of that dark patch of woods where we did the ritual, the rectangle of the bare earth in the hot sun, and that metal tray of food I'd so long needed.


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