Successful initiation into adulthood involves more than getting a driver’s license, reaching legal drinking age or completing school.
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In humans, successful initiation into adulthood requires physical, mental, emotional and spiritual ingredients, and depends on more than a symbolic coming-of-age ceremony. Humans are born with a latent energy that stays dormant until certain conditions are met. There needs to be a particular readiness and then thoughtful preparation, up to a year or longer. Older adults and elders who understand the important movement from dependence to independence support the initiation process.
The process is kind of like baking a cake: various ingredients are brought together in specific proportion, are then subjected to heat over a period of time and, if done correctly, are transformed into something new. Then with independence come responsibility, sacrifice, and the understanding that there are consequences to one’s actions. Initiation also provides a special gift: a greater understanding of life purpose, path and destiny.
Deanna Jenné, ritual leader for Sacred Emergence: Initiation into Adulthood for Young Women, speaks of “shining the diamond”, a term from Chinese medicine. “We help the young woman really know who she is.” David Wiley, ritual leader for Sacred Awakening: Initiation into Adulthood for Young Men, adds that in an uncertain world, as autonomy sets in, mistakes will be made, yet making mistakes is a natural human phenomenon. “The key is learning from those mistakes, and how to move with them successfully.”