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Transcript – Season 3, Episode 11 – Navigating Change with Ceremony and Ritual

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:00:00]:

You are allowed. When our animal body feels like that, it lacks control. We often go into a state of threat. We go below the line and our anxiety goes up and we get dysregulated. And that’s when you start seeing triggered-type behaviors. And none of those things is going to help you or your collective, your team, to navigate the change together. Conscious sleeve with eyes open. Being able to have a ritual where you do have that ability to exert action and agency within the scope of the ritual gives you that sense of, this is what I can control.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:00:38]:

I can walk down the aisle as a pallbearer. I can place flowers on the casket. I can get to my knees and weep. Allowed. You are allowed to be whole. I’m Dr. Caneel Joyce. I’m here to affirm that you are not missing anything. Just imagine with me for a moment that you are and always have been enough.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:01:05]:

You have always been enough. Imagine that allowed. When you were born, you were whole, perfect. And somewhere along the way, you learned that parts of you were not allowed here. What are the pieces of you that you have put into the basement? And how can you reclaim the wholeness that is your birthright? You are allowed to grow. You are allowed to dream. You are allowed to be exactly who you are and to become the next version of who you want to be. Start your journey of exploration with me right now on Allowed.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:01:41]:

You are allowed to be whole. Welcome to Allowed. I’m your host, Dr. Kanille Joyce. A few months ago, I flew up to the Bay Area. I went to Beth’s Ranch, Beth Ann Standig. Beth is one of my dearest friends. She was introduced to me through a client and we have since collaborated and partnered on many projects.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:02:12]:

She’s been a guest twice, and I’ll link to her prior episodes. I flew up to her ranch a couple months ago to be there with Diana Chapman, who’s also been on the show. I will link to her episodes and Courtney Smith. So each of them has actually been on twice. And we were all going to do one final experience at the ranch in Morgan Hill before Beth moved to Maine, where she is now located and running the circle up experience there. And I knew that this was going to be the last bit of coaching and equine facilitation that she did on the ranch. And I arrived there really ready to shed a few tears because my dear friend is leaving California. We had an amazing day together.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:03:05]:

We learned some great lessons. We did some great work with her, heard. And at the end, I asked if there was anything that we could do to facilitate her leaving the ranch for the last time and help her say goodbye. And she said I was going to move this. There’s a rock that I’ve placed at the center of the labyrinth that I built. And she hand-built this beautiful humongous labyrinth one by one out of stones from the creek nearby. And in the middle of the labyrinth was this stone that her dogs had discovered up in the hills and had brought her to it. And it’s shaped like a heart, and she was going to remove it and bring it with her to Maine.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:03:48]:

So we all walked over to the labyrinth, and Beth showed us where the central stone was, the anchor rock for this labyrinth, this heart. And I suddenly realized, okay, we need some water. And it just popped out of my mouth. We need some water. Beth said, Why? Because we need to pour water on the earth after you remove the stone, of course. Duh. No idea where this idea exactly came from, aside from maybe the movie Friday porn went out for my homies, but I just knew that we needed to pour some water. And it seemed a bit like extravagant.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:04:23]:

But I’ve been really practicing, just like following the flow and following my intuition and messages that come to me. I really try to heed them, even if they don’t make sense. So I grabbed Beth’s coffee cup from the morning, I dumped out the coffee and I went down to the creek and I got some water in it, and I ran back. And then we all entered in one by one, and we walked the labyrinth silently. And when we got to the middle, she removed the stone. And I said a blessing for her to honor the work that’s been done there and all of the clients who have taken the time to come and allow themselves to be touched and to learn and to grow. And all of the ripple effects that’s had on the organizations they lead and the families they’re in and their own lives. And then I said, with the water, this is to cleanse the earth for whatever is to happen next.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:05:18]:

And it was so beautiful. I think we all cried a little bit. It was a bawling session, but it was super moving. And Beth said, oh, we totally needed the water. And I realized what was happening. There was a spontaneous rite of passage, a spontaneous ritual, a ceremony that is really important for important moments in one’s life and important transitions. Just like we have ceremonies for beginnings, like beginning of a marriage, we have a wedding. Beginning of birth, we have a shower or we might have a christening.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:06:07]:

And at death, we often have a funeral or awake. So this spontaneous ceremony that the four of us did together at Beth’s ranch, it just really revealed to me how meaningful even the most casually invented of ceremonies can be when you treat it as sacred. And how it allowed a letting go to happen that I don’t think would have ever happened without having that shared ceremony happen in community. We were all there as witnesses and this random idea of pouring water. Yes, it was a combination of the elements, and there’s a lot of history and a lot of cultures that use water in a similar way. But I wasn’t analytically thinking through any of that. And I certainly didn’t have a guidebook of how to do this ceremony. But the important thing was treating it ceremoniously.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:07:04]:

I was expecting to leave that day feeling a lot of grief and mourning and some unresolved feelings and for it to linger in me for the next few days. And it was incredible. It was like all of that lifted and I just felt light. And Beth shared that. She felt similarly. It felt so complete, like the ending had happened and now there was genuinely space for a new beginning to happen in that land. And it also taught me something about my own zone of genius that I, for some reason knew to get the water, and that maybe part of my genius is being able to see the sacred in the mundane and the opportunity to make something special and meaningful. So that was ceremony number one.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:07:53]:

That taught me something about my zone of genius. And the second thing happened shortly after, and I had a friend who was grieving and was unable to really find resolution in herself, even though normally that’s something she’s really fluent in, and just grieving the change in a relationship. And having just come right off the heels of this experience at Beth’s ranch, I spontaneously put together another ceremony. It was essentially a funeral type ceremony, the funeral for the relationship as it had been, to allow that to be really let go of and to allow real grieving to happen so that something new could be born and to dissolve the attachment to the old way that was creating a lot of heartache and angst. And the details of this one are personal, and I’m not going to reveal all of the details, but I’ll share some of the common elements that I think are important for ceremony. So one is it was in a social setting, not social like we’re out at a bar social, meaning there are multiple people there who have some sort of relationship, not even all with each other, but some relationships, there some connective tissue. So social is number one because being witnessed is really key. Number two is the one who is the one letting go is not the one who needs to lead.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:09:16]:

So rather than my friend who was grieving, being the one who needed to organize and lead, I said, that’s fine, you don’t have to. We’ll do it for you. So just as I would never want a close friend or a family member to need to organize the entire funeral for a dear loved one, they’re the most deeply grieving. I think the role of community is to support that person going through their grief, not that person organizing a bunch of stuff for everyone else. Me leading and facilitating it was part of the ritual that it was not the focal person having to do that. That person could be in their process and supported in their process. But it’s so much more powerful to do that with witnesses and to melt any shame around the grieving, to melt any guilt around the grieving, to really bear witness like this did happen. You were here and we are with you still so that person can witness you are still in connection.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:10:08]:

We often have to go off in corners to hide our emotions, but that’s just not how it needs to be. Another piece was finding symbols. So I asked my friend, this dear friend of yours that you had a falling out with, tell me what color they’re like. Not what color do they like, what color are they like? Oh, they’re like yellow and they’re like orange. And what are their smells like? What flowers are they like? They’re like oranges. They’re like lavender. I got some ideas for ingredients to integrate into this that could be symbolic, easy to find, symbolic in nature. I went outside, I saw a lavender bush.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:10:45]:

I picked a piece of lavender. This was a very fortunate situation, the land I was on. But I could have just as easily found torn a little piece of a magazine out or found a little marker and drawn something. I think she may have said something about blue. So I found a blue marker and I wrote a very brief goodbye note to that relationship and I put a heart on it and I gave it to my friend who was crying and I said, please, this now needs to get let go of and it’s time. You can either put it in water or you can tear it or you can burn it and then we’re going to bury it. Which one do you want? She said, I can’t. I said, okay, we’ll do it for you.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:11:28]:

But then she took it and she smushed it up in a ball and then I lit it on fire for her. We carried the ashes out to the land and I had two people come with me as witnesses and we buried it. And one friend who was there with me said she said, I felt the lift. Like, I felt that spirit of that relationship with all that heaviness. I felt it leave the land. None of this had any planning whatsoever. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time. It’s about trusting the process and using what’s there.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:12:00]:

And then it’s about creating some beauty and then it’s about having a sense where there’s a time where it’s complete. So in the case of Beth’s letting go of the ranch, it was complete once the water had been poured and we walked out of the labyrinth. And in the case of this friendship, changing the completion was burying the ashes of the piece of paper in the dirt and putting rocks and a flower on top and that was completion. And then we walked back in and it was done. And she reported that she felt a total release of that energy and genuinely was able to process the heartbreak. And amazingly, the friend within a number of weeks came back to her and they reconciled in a new way that was fresh and it was free of all of that heaviness of the past. So it gave me more of a sense of the power of Ceremony. It’s not just for the one going through the transition, it’s also for those who are touched by it, even just energetically, even who are not there, that allows something new to transpire and it’s easy.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:13:18]:

That also really struck me how, with zero planning but a willingness to put myself in a vulnerable position, I could have been rejected, but I took it on as an act of service. I will lead this. This is not about me. This is not about me being you wanting to go with my plan or me being great or me being anything. It’s just as a person who cares for you, I will do this and we’ll see where it goes. And just trusting the process allowed me to just find ingredients that were already there and work with them and create meaning as I went. And it got me thinking about how in I’ve seen so many of the companies that I’ve worked with over the years really struggle with change and we do a lot of change management work and my company does a lot of change management support through coaching and facilitation and training and change management process. But ultimately change is hard and I think it’s made much harder by the fact that in corporate settings especially, we’re often not honoring that.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:14:20]:

There’s a very emotional aspect and an identity aspect to letting go of old ways and stepping into new ones. There’s a transition opportunity that’s not usually accepted and you see a lot of resistance with most change efforts. And so I have ideas for what we can do with Ceremony to help facilitate that change that letting go. And I’m going to get into that. So this episode is going to be about the importance of Ceremony to acknowledge endings and new beginnings and the value of community support in navigating change and periods of transition, even in the context of business. We’re going to review some research so that we can really understand what is already known about ritual and how maybe we can leverage that as a human element in enabling our clients and our communities to make the changes that they want to make. And I’ll be giving you some inspiration for you to find areas where there is a Ceremony needed or a ritual needed to enable a transition to transpire. Before we get into the episode, I’d like to remind you to please subscribe to the Allowed podcast.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:15:37]:

If you have not done that yet, open up your player right now and just double check hit subscribe. And if you could leave us a rating and a review, that would be amazing. That’s the best way for people who can benefit from this content to find us. We have a growing community. We’ve been receiving a lot of your emails and texts lately. Thank you. Those last few episodes that have gone out, I’ve had so much positive feedback. Some of those episodes actually were with Courtney Smith, who is one of the people I referenced being at Beth’s Ranch.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:16:07]:

So we will link to those in the show notes, or you can just scroll back a few episodes and find them. But please do if you liked those episodes and you want to keep hearing content like that, leave us a rating and a review. It’s a really great way to give back to the team on my end that helps create this podcast, so it’s a great way to thank them as well. All right, so ceremony. What is the actual definition of ceremony, I begin wondering. I realize this is a word that I’ve used often, I’ve heard used in many settings, and maybe I’m just coming up with my own meaning of it. Oxford says it’s a formal religious or public occasion, typically one celebrating a particular event or anniversary. This one’s interesting to me because of the word formal, pointing back to the stories that I have about ceremonies.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:16:52]:

All of those were made formal in a very informal way, very quickly, without any planning, 100% spontaneously. So I take the word formal really lightly, and I think that’s an important thing I’m advocating for in this episode is to recognize that it does not need to be very formal, that the feeling of the sacred meaning of an event can be supported by treating it as such and by using ingredients like symbol and leadership. Using all of those things together can give it that feeling that I think we can call formal. But it’s not heavily formal, it just gives it form. So it’s more that sense of the meaning of the word formal. The Cambridge Dictionary also references the concept of formality being part of what defines a ceremony. Their definition is a set of formal acts, often fixed and traditional, performed on important social or religious occasions. And another meaning for this word formal that keeps coming up is intentional or conscious and clear.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:18:03]:

So things that are done clearly are given form, and that form makes things more obvious, and that can give things a sense of importance and permanence. So when we think about things being fixed or traditional, that’s not always possible. We often may want to invent ceremonies on the fly. This is a transition moment that we haven’t been through before, where we don’t have a religious context to point back to or a cultural one, or we all come from different backgrounds. In those regards, I think it’s more that we can hearken back to the feeling of ceremonies that are fixed and traditional and have a lot of history and culture and that may have a feeling of how sacred something is when it’s in a religious context, but totally outside of a religious context. And we can do that with how much we honor the events and with some of these simple ingredients I’m pointing to. I’m curious about for you as listeners speaking just to you directly, what are some of the most commonly attended ceremonies and rituals that you’ve been able to be a part of? Have you attended weddings? Have you been part of one yourself? What was that like? What were the ups and the downs? How about funerals? How is death memorialized in your community, in your family and your culture of origin, even if you don’t have much connection with it anymore? How about for your ancestors or your partner’s ancestors? Did you go through anything like bar mitzvah, bhat mitzvah, first communion? What were the rites of passage that you went through growing up that had sacred meaning for you and your community? Many of us have been through graduation ceremonies, and then there are real particulars I know, back to funerals in my community, we are on the ocean, and this is like a surf community. One of the rituals of letting go of a life is paddling out into sea on a surfboard and circling around, and then you sprinkle the ashes in the middle of the circle.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:20:11]:

And that’s a local tradition that feels really essential. I think it would feel really incomplete to have a loss of life, especially of someone who is a surfer or who lives in a really ocean based lifestyle without having that. I think it would be hard to let go without that expected ritual. But we also have a lot of lighter ones, like going away parties and housewarming parties and end of year meetings and company off sites, and you might celebrate the summer solstice or the full moon. There’s so many opportunities to add ceremony to life that give it meaning and mark transitions. And these add a lot of structure and richness and also a lot of space for humanity, for the human sides of you that respond more to symbols and to color and art and sensory experiences than they do to cognitive understandings. And they connect us to each other. There’s a language of ceremony that doesn’t require us to agree on much aside from that this transition is happening.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:21:23]:

Ceremonies basically signify that something is ending and a new thing is starting. They’re a marker of that special in between time, that liminal space between states where something goes from a state that’s ending to a state that’s beginning, that’s a magical shift, and they enable the mourning and letting go that we often don’t even realize needs to happen in order for the new to come in. There’s a Harvard Business School professor named Mike Norton and he’s done some interesting research and writing around ritual. He’s got a book called The Ritual Effect and he had a Harvard Business School interview back in 2020 talking about the restorative power of ritual. He says that rituals play a number of critical roles. Rituals in the face of loss can help us feel less grief. Rituals with families can make us feel closer and rituals with our partners can reinforce our commitment to each other. I think what’s interesting about this is I feel like I’ve sometimes offered up rituals as an option for people I love who are feeling grief.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:22:33]:

And I’ve noticed that there can be a desire to move away from the feeling of grief that actually keeps people from engaging in a ritual to begin with or from feeling feelings, period. While having a ritual can get you over a bridge to a space where there is more openness and less heaviness and less grief, it often is because it’s creating a container in time and space that is essentially pushing. You through the grief process where you have less of a chance of avoiding your own feelings, where there’s enough strength and support around you to actually metabolize those feelings and allow them to happen. So it could be that the funeral is a period of intense grief, but that on the other side, there’s that feeling of I’ve let some of it go. I also know that for many of us who have planned weddings, that the rituals with our partners often, sometimes temporarily make it harder to stay committed to each other and they provide a lot of stress and a lot of challenge and a lot of conflict. And I actually think that’s part of the function of a wedding is to force you to go through a lot of the things that are likely to create long term, like, big conflict down the road. Think about it. In a traditional wedding, you need to deal with your family and your partner’s family’s attitudes towards money, food, sex, religion, family itself, socializing, having children, like public displays of affection, the list goes on and on.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:24:08]:

And power dynamics, right. It’s every possible thing that could be challenging to you aside from loss of life and health are pretty much scripted as part of what you’re going to have to work through in the process of planning a wedding. So I think it’s helpful to look at ceremonies as being the culmination of a series of ritualized events, much of which is preparation. The preparation for a ceremony is part of the ritual itself. I always think about when I had my first born, my son, that night of giving birth to him. We made it quite ceremonial in setting and we had candles and we made it really special. And that was both the becoming a mother and it was also letting go of me. And my life as a maiden who did not have children.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:25:04]:

And it was really powerful. When I realized that last part, I hadn’t been anticipating it or even really thinking about it too much until it was gone. And then I realized, oh my God, I can never go back. And there was like a grieving there. And I think the fact that I realized it made it much easier to process it than it would have been had I stayed unaware of it. Mike Norton’s work is really helpful in better understanding how we might be able to begin to value rituals, even in business settings. Again. He’s a Harvard Business School professor.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:25:42]:

So how can ceremony play a role in business? Here’s my idea corporate funerals. Why is this important? Funerals, specifically as a ritual, are there to help you let go of the old ways so that you can bring in the new. And we do experience many deaths in business. We experience deaths of entire lines of business, deaths of companies, death of business models. And we’re seeing a lot of this evolution just tear through as AI comes in full steam. We see deaths of old ways of using resources like the transition from fossil fuels to clean sustainable energy sources. We see deaths of certainty as we enter into this VUCA time of a lot of change, unpredictability, ambiguity, volatility. We see deaths of periods of intense financial abundance and moving into periods of more financial scarcity.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:26:41]:

We see deaths of positions in terms of the ranking competitive leave. Are you a challenger versus are you the one dominating a space? And rituals play a really important role in allowing you to sustainably, remain conscious as you navigate new and changing environments. Some research by Christine Ligare and Mark Nielsen, which I’ll link to in the show, notes there’s a quote from it I absolutely love, which is that rituals allow individuals to exert agency through action, giving the illusion of increased control that could also be related to emotional regulation and anxiety reduction. So there are times where we’re navigating things where we have less actual control. And in those times that can be very threatening to the animal body. When our animal body feels like it lacks control, we often go into a state of threat and we go below the line and our anxiety goes up and we get dysregulated. And that’s when you start seeing kind of triggered type behaviors lashing out or hunkering down or a lot of cognitive biases get kicked up and decision making becomes a lot more challenging to do well. And we also see more increased conflict, that’s of a personal level, more irreparable disagreements.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:28:12]:

And none of those things is going to help you or your collective, your team, to navigate the change together consciously with eyes open. Being able to have a ritual where you do have that ability to exert action and agency within the scope of the ritual gives you that sense of this is what I can control. I can walk down the aisle as pallbearer. I can place flowers on the casket. I can get to my knees and weep. These are ritualized activities we see in funerals for human lives that are things that, despite the most overpowering grief, give us a sense of there is a normalcy and irregularity to this. That I am not alone, that this is something all humans go through and I’m not the only person who ever has or ever will and there’s others at my side doing the same thing. And I have agency.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:29:08]:

I’m going to do that now. I’m going to do this now. I’m going to do that now. A sense of control. So if that can be useful in helping each of us to emotionally regulate and reduce our anxiety, we can cooperate much better as we go through big transitions in a corporate setting. I see a really big opportunity for applying this in industries where there is a big change needed for the greater good. And there are few industries that will not be touched by the need for us to globally evolve if we are to tackle climate change. I have great sympathy for those whose livelihoods for generations has been connected to the fossil fuel industry and whose has not.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:29:52]:

It’s so widespread. And then there are some that are closer to that stream of energy and resources than others. I think there’s no change effort where the old guard does not in some way experience some resistance in letting go of the old ways. We actually need to work together to enable that letting go to happen. And it’s not just on petroleum to all of a sudden out of their own choice to just let go. It’s not realistic, it’s not compassionate, it’s not kind and it’s not really owning that all of us have created this way of operating together. We’ve all benefited from it, we’ve all found it convenient and we all are going to need to work together to steward in the new way. But I believe that those who are in power and in control are going to be the ones that have the hardest time letting go because that’s always how it is in every situation.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:30:44]:

So I have a vision that there’s an opportunity for a big series of corporate funerals to happen where there is actual support and compassion and camaraderie around a ceremony for letting go of the old ways and allowing the new to come through. I don’t see a way for the powers that be to step into the new way without a portal to step through that acknowledges the human aspect of letting go of those identities, that way of being, that way of operating and all of the resources therein. And I would say the same for people who have historically been in positions of power in our demographic system. I think this is a really challenging time. For a lot of CIS white men who have been operating a certain way and raised to expect a certain thing. And that way has dramatically changed. The expectations have dramatically changed. There is a letting go that needs to happen and it doesn’t need to happen so forcibly.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:31:47]:

But I think we do need to have a moment, a beat, a portal to move through. I’m committed to helping to create ease that is needed for us to tackle climate change. And I believe that if we could institute or have an offering of some rituals and ceremonies that enable this kind of change to happen, it will not only let the change happen with more ease, it will also allow it to happen in a way that is much more intelligent and wise. Because wrestling power from someone’s hands doesn’t usually come with a transfer of wisdom and knowledge. And I can imagine that those who have been running the energy energy industry as we have known it have a lot of experience and wisdom to impart, especially upon a lot of the younger leaders who are operating in new versions of the energy industry that haven’t been raised in that environment, that don’t have those mental models to work from. And I would imagine that some of the old guard would love to transfer that knowledge and to teach and to mentor and to share the wisdom. We’re not reinventing the wheel here. There’s a new set of resources being leveraged, but there’s a lot of wisdom from people who have done things before to impart.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:33:15]:

And there’s an opportunity to treat them with honor and respect and to say, yes, we’re not going to do it your way, but we’re not going to throw the baby out with a bathwater ceremony can hold all of that. It can hold all of us being in different positions on an issue. If we can all see that we’re all gathering together around a transition that has a lot of challenge involved, that if we can treat it as a sacred transition and honor all aspects of the human experience of that, either way, this transition is happening. And it can happen in a way that has violence and it has aggression and it turns generations against each other and families against each other and nations against each other. We also have a chance to do this in a way that is integrative, that is bringing the best of the old and the new together and to allow this transition to happen peacefully, mindfully and with honor and responsibility, like passing the torch from one generation to the next. We can transition peacefully and with wisdom and kindness and compassion and honor. Creating a handshake instead of a fistfight, I think that requires an honoring first of the individual human experience of how challenging it is to let go, especially when you’re letting go, not at your will, not on your timeline, but it’s happening as part of the course of history or life. And that is called a rite of passage.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:34:56]:

That’s a transition moment. And that’s one that we can create a lot of safety around and honor and sacredness by ceremonializing ceremonies almost always are marking a transition between life and death. And if we see it as part of a natural cycle of life, it’s no longer something that needs to be or can be resisted. It will come up cyclically and regularly. And there’s always an allowing in of the new that is only made possible by letting go of the old. Where in your life is there something that you’ve outgrown or that’s outgrown you? Something that has extended its lifespan so far that it’s no longer really welcome or serving in need. It may be draining more resources than it’s providing. There may be some habit you have or some way of operating an identity, a relationship.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:35:54]:

And the way that it’s configured no longer is self sustaining and it’s time to let it go. How have you been actively resisting letting it go? And what could you do to create some ceremony around letting it go? I encourage you to think about those ingredients that I reviewed at the very beginning of the episode around community and having witnesses doing it in a social setting, having some ingredients, some symbols, getting into the right brain, and then a clear ending. And this is an important question to answer because you may be making change a lot harder on you than it needs to be, simply because you don’t have a change portal to move through. And you could be wanting the new without being ready yet to let go of the old grieving. What is lost is part of life. And what has been the cost to you of not acknowledging that it’s time to let go of something or not taking a beat and taking stock when you’ve gone through a period of transition in the past? And what I’ve witnessed in my family is that for me, when we’ve had deaths and I’ve had the opportunity to attend the funeral, I have felt much more complete with the death than the ones where we did not. I don’t know how others feel, but I know that I feel more complete with those where there’s been an opportunity to say goodbye in a formal way with witnesses present at an occasion where we have all decided this is when we’re doing it. Grief will happen whether you acknowledge it now or later.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:37:43]:

It’s a natural process. When our bodies die, whether we’re cremated or buried, eventually some sort of transmutation takes place with our physical body. And this is composting. And composting is I compost the vegetable scraps after I finish chopping veggies and cooking a soup. And those end up going into the earth and then they turn into really rich, beautiful compost when exposed to the right elements. And then those feed new life. And I love that cycle of life. And I think there’s a lot of composting that a lot of us tend not to do and avoid because we don’t want to feel the feelings.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:38:27]:

So therefore we have a lot of nutrients that we’re not getting out of these transition moments. A lot of learning, a lot of richness, a lot of sweetness, a lot of strength, a lot of vitality, a lot of new birth, a lot of chi. Composting is taking care of the life that wants to come through death. It’s allowing the natural process to take place. Composting is the medicine of mushrooms, fungi, mycelium. When something dies in a social species, we usually eventually need to surrender the body. We mark that moment by covering it with dirt and this invites decomposition. Then all sorts of chemical life begins to happen on and in and through that body.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:39:19]:

The body becomes a vessel and a nutrient for entire civilizations of life that span pretty much every kingdom of life on the planet without even knowing about each other’s work. The kingdoms work in harmony to transmute energy into matter into energy again and again. And this happens along the dimension of time and space. Great ape mothers, like humans, often carry their dead young for a few days before the stench of decomposition provides enough discomfort to surrender. And then the body is given up and put into and under the earth. An essential element of this transition and grieving of the old or the dead is community support. It is a crucially important step for the mother in particular to be able to move away from the dead body of her young. In humans and higher primates this is almost always done with the support and loving pressure of matriarchs and sisters and cousins and kin, all of whom have been raised witnessing this step.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:40:26]:

As one of many in a special part of the natural tribal rhythm of life and death. Called a ceremony, it feels as rhythmic and compulsory as breath, a collective muscle contraction that is needed for any healthy tribe body to purge what is no longer needed. The mother often resists and this is okay. She is supported by her sisters to hold her body as she sobs and if she needs them to, they will even pull her away. She is acknowledged, she is allowed she is allowed to completely crumble. Composting is taking care of the life that wants to come through the death and is allowing the natural process to take place. The earth is a vitally important element to connect with when we grieve. As is water, as is fire, as is air.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:41:23]:

And those simple ingredients are almost always easily accessible for creating spontaneous ceremonies to celebrate and commemorate these transition moments. And those can be done personally. I encourage you to find witnesses and I also am really curious about what you think about this idea for corporate funerals. Death is a transition that is not separate from, but part of life. Life does not just want us to let go. It requires it. And when we move with life, we can do so with heartbreak and beauty and love and ease. We can do it together.

Dr. Caneel Joyce [00:42:05]:


Discover experiences that give your life purpose in your Zone of Genius

Executive Coach Dr. Caneel Joyce reveals a life-changing framework that can help you overcome self-doubt, uncover your hidden talents, and radiate with confidence, one small step at a time.