Most of us pass through typical milestones or rites of passage as we grow older, designed to propel us into a new stage of being.
These include going through puberty, getting our driver’s license, landing our first “real” job, getting married, having kids and so on.
All the world’s cultures have their own variations of rituals associated with the various (and varying) stages of life, from birth and coming-of-age to unions and ultimately death; we have much to learn and gain by studying how the peoples of the world celebrate growth, time, nature and transition.
If we’re lucky, and really attending to these moments, we can recognize all the subtle shifts at play—in our bodies, minds and psyches—as we morph from one phase of life to another.
On the other hand, we risk creating an imbalance between these big rites of passage and the rest of our “ordinary,” day-to-day lives, masking some truths about time and experience that can help us move beyond a life of delusion and toward peace and satisfaction.
Time doesn’t stop between Great Big Events, and life has an abundance of fascinating things on offer in these in-between spaces.
Maybe we’ve gone through those highs leading up to a wedding, or even New Year’s, imagining that some mysterious forces are going to transplant us right into the life we crave. The lows that come afterward remind us that the best thing we can do for ourselves is create a situation where we don’t attach to big dates, and thrive every day.
One of the core meanings behind rites of passage and even the change of seasons is to gently coax us into deepening our connection with the universe, and with ourselves as a harmonious part of it.
What better way to do this than to honour the very magic of existence by learning to celebrate the inevitable fact of change, and beauty of where we find ourselves each day?
“There is nothing you can see that is not a flower. There is nothing you can think that is not the moon.”
~ Matsuo Basho
We are in constant interplay with the world. We are changing, growing and evolving right alongside it. There is no keeping up, or reaching some fixed, pre-established goal. We are the life, we are Basho’s moon and flower, we are the goal.
In practical terms, we want to step out of our listless daydreams (though daydreams certainly have their place), and generate awe—an “aha” that serves to remind us why it is ridiculously amazing that we are here.
We don’t need to organize a huge event to do this, or spend a cent. All we need to do is find a way to flip a switch.
Sometimes this happens spontaneously, like when we find ourselves in nature and are suddenly overwhelmed by the serenity and beauty around us. Guards drop, thoughts slip away and only the present remains. Some consider these moments to be enlightenment.
We can’t always put ourselves directly in inspiration’s way, though, and these are the times when it’s helpful to have some tools up our sleeve.
One of my favourites is what I call: The Rose-Tinted Glasses Experiment.
I was inspired to do this when I was studying cinema years ago, awestruck by how the greatest filmmakers took full advantage of the knowledge that worlds, film and otherwise, aren’t passively received—they are made—and that directors have to actively create what they want audiences to experience. Films like The Wizard of Oz and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which I wanted dozens of times each, utterly captivated me with their unique and highly expressive views of the world.
The Rose-Tinted Glasses Experiment is so easy it almost feels like a trick, but it’s amazing how a very simple intention can so thoroughly change the way you see things.
All you have to do is go outside and take a walk—you can also do this on a bike in your car, but it’s best if you can be as distraction-free as possible.
Now pick a colour.
With this colour in mind, just hang out and do your thing, and consciously put your proverbial rose-tinted glasses on, except the glasses are in your mind, and you can choose any colour you want (rose is not everyone’s cup of tea).
Now, with your chosen colour, tune into your environment and become aware of items of this colour around you, and awaken yourself to a world filled with this colour.
The first time I did this, I chose yellow. I figured there really weren’t that many yellow things around, and I was curious what would happen.
A new world opened up before me. A part of a billboard here, someone’s umbrella there, a shirt in a display window, another ad…the world was teeming with yellow!
Then I picked red, and the same thing happened.
Moments earlier, I was in a yellow world that had now turned red. The world, of course, didn’t change at all, but I was able to use my mind to create a world of my making, because the world is simply too large and grand for our limited brains or minds to take everything in. And so we filter. We normally do this subconsciously and in predictable ways, but with this exercise, we are taking hold of the reins.
This is empowering in itself—and helps overcome feelings of lack of control—but the important part of this exercise is that we can use it to jar ourselves out of boredom and complacency and learn to attend to things all around us that otherwise remain invisible.
We often don’t realize how stuck we’ve become in our conditioned way of seeing things, and this applies to the physical world around us as well as to our responses to things like discomfort and conflict. This “rose-tinted glasses” exercise is a great way to rewire and observe that there are endless perspectives available to us, some of which can be much more helpful and liberating than others, and all of which are a great celebration of change.
Who knows what is awaiting us once we have the heart and mind to see, and make every day an ordinary-magic rite of passage?
Bonus: See how they Think Pink in the classic film, Funny Face, here.
*Published under a different title in elephant journal, here.