Making Honorable Closure


This is the season of letting go, 
of the burdens of the heart.
Let every weight you carry, 
fall away like colored leaves.
Let your heart be restored to fullness.
Let your heart be restored to openness.
Let your heart be restored to clarity.
Let your heart be strong again.
This is the season of letting go,
of the burdens of the heart.
May they be compost for new growth, 
and the renewal of your indomitable spirit.

 – Where The Land Shimmers

Letting go is one of life’s more difficult lessons. A loved one’s death, the ending of an important relationship, a lost job, retirement from a beloved career, or a child leaving home to go to college initiates us into a new phase of life. These life transitions are demanding. To meet them, we must call on the inner resources of fortitude, trust and faith.

In The Four-Fold Way, Angeles Arrien – who died April 24th – encourages us to be open, but not attached, to outcomes. This is the Way of the Teacher. “Each type of loss,” she writes,  “is a humbling experience that further teaches us about acceptance and letting go.” Acceptance demands that we give up any desire to control outcomes. Control, the opposite of trust, indicates we have allowed fear to overcome us.

Transitions are “thin places” where the membrane between the mundane world and the divine touch each other. At the thin place, loss has a companion – new possibilities. It is important that we are equally present to what is passing and what is emerging. It is easy to miss what is emerging when we are overcome by loss.  With the loss of a teacher like Angeles we might be tempted to feel that a great void has entered our lives. Of course we will miss her but, perhaps, she has become even more available to us through her passing. The seeds she planted in us are somehow germinated through her transition. Who can predict what will grow as a result?

Grieving, of course, is natural.  It is harder to let go, however, if we collapse into our feelings rather than have our feelings. Collapse paralyzes us. We are unable to function. Experiencing our feelings is different. We may have periods of grief and sadness but we are able to find solace and, over time, continue to live a fulfilling life.

Transitions remind us we are not in control of life. As Angeles used to say, “There are two plans for every day. Our plan and the Mystery’s plan.”  Angeles had a deep and unshakeable faith in the Mystery right to the end. She was an exemplar in this regard.


Four Practices

One way of ritualizing a transition is to make honorable closure.  Ritual allows us to deal with loss in a constructive and meaningful way. “All societies have rituals to acknowledge the major life transitions of birth, initiation, marriage, and death,” Angeles observed. It is a conscious recognition of change.

The ritual of Honorable Closure has four practices. We can use these perennial wisdom protocols  – practices passed from generation to generation since the beginning of human history – to be good stewards of transition. This ensures we are being faithful to the great gift of life, and are taking nothing for granted.   

  1. Gratitude: Gratitude is the heart’s recognition of a gift.  It is a deep experience of value and meaning. Angeles reminds us the practice of gratitude keeps the heart open. She identifies the four portals of gratitude as blessings, lessons, mercies and protections.  Studies have shown when we track what we are grateful for we benefit physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Who and what are you most grateful for at this time? What ways can you express heart-felt gratitude to assist in honorable closure?
  2. Positive Impact: A positive impact is the indelible mark on our lives made by someone or something. We are transformed by the gift of a positive impact and when we reflect, we see how it has changed our lives for the better. Many if us have had the experience of being deeply touched when a person we admire and respect recognizes and acknowledges us. We feel healthy pride and grow to understand our worth. Experiences that are additive also change us for the better and we draw personal power from them. Who and what made a positive impact on you? How did you change for the better? How can we do honor to positive experiences through our behaviors?
  3. Challenge: Transitions can be challenging, even initiatory. But even the most difficult trials can be gifts. They make us stronger and better acquainted with who really are rather than who we think we are. Challenges are an agency of our growth and development. When we have success meeting a challenge – especially one that comes from some kind of transition or change – our confidence grows. We become more self-trusting, more empowered to face all that life brings. We are less prone to victim-mentality and more resilient. What challenges have we faced as a result of a life transition? What resources did we employ to meet these circumstances in a good way? How have we grown as a result?
  4. Reparation: Honorable closure is an important time to review impact. Have we caused injury to others or ourselves through fears or confusion? Will we be able to move on in our journey with a clean slate and no baggage? Will I have regrets if I leave important things unsaid or not done? What reparation would ensure I have taken responsibility for my impact and made corrections? Honorable closure requires good stewardship of relationships. Even when someone has passed away, we can still do rectification work for ourselves to restore peace of mind where we have been troubled.


The Ancestors                                                          

Angeles taught that the ancestors, in indigenous traditions, were the great teachers of detachment and letting go. They have demonstrated the ultimate expression of trust by letting go of their physical form and entering the unknown. The ancestors can be called on to help us in transition, especially where we encounter unfamiliar experiences, situations or circumstances. They can also help us break harmful family and cultural patterns so that we can be more full in our own lives and realize our dreams.

When we make honorable closure, we are practicing respect: respect for the great gift of life, for the companionship of others, and for the singular journey we were born to make. Through this practice we make life meaningful and gain wisdom. For the transitions we are currently experiencing, and for those to come, it is important that we are asking for guidance and support. We can take some comfort in the knowledge that we have a new ancestor to call on for such support in Angeles Arrien. 

“Oh, may this be the one who will bring forward the good, true and beautiful in our family lineage; Oh may this be the one who will break the harmful family patterns or harmful cultural patterns.”

Posted on June 11, 2014 .