Their wedding date indicated the lightheartedness of this couple! The ceremony took place at Mescal Canyon Retreat in Clarkdale, Arizona. What a spectacular hidden gem! Ellen and Darren wanted a simple yet meaningful ceremony. Married in their hearts for 10 years, they decided it was important to join together as husband and wife. Ellen’s two daughters were in attendance along with a dear friend and Ellen’s sister. We took a 15 minute walk through the grapevines and down a path into a canyon area and arrived at an amazing rock circle. The circle was enclosed by a short wall and was the perfect place for their ceremony. It felt like this was a sacred area steeped in magic. A hawk feather hung from the tree. I rang the wedding bells indicating that we were beginning the ceremony. Ellen and Darren took their place and their guests sat on the wall while taking pictures and video taping. There were tears of joy and the love they shared was infused with kindness, warmth and playfulness. During the ceremony, we heard the piercing sound of a hawk as it flew over, what a blessing! One of Ellen’s daughter’s read the lyrics to the song ‘Thank You’ by Led Zeppelin and to close the ceremony, the other daughter read ‘Instructions for Life in the New Millenium’ by His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. Afterwards, we toasted to the newlyweds!
Read Ellen's review:
With Jen's help we had a beautiful and meaningful celebration. We really had no idea what we wanted in terms of the content of the celebration. Jen can supply you with a large assortment of vows to choose from as well as readings and many other ideas. We had our daughters each do a reading at her suggestion. After reading questionnaires that we both filled out about our relationship and choosing the vows and readings that we liked, Jen crafted a beautiful and personalized ceremony which was elegantly delivered in her soothing and joyful manner. Jen was very flexible and was willing to move the time back a few hours at the last minute. She also had to make a 45 minute drive to get to us and there was a very reasonable fee for the extra mileage. Our ceremony involved a 15 minute hike to the spot where we performed the ceremony and she was great with this idea. She fit in very well with our family and everyone in attendance expressed to us that her direction and positive presence really made the event magical!
This is a ritual that can replace the Unity Sand Ceremony or the Unity Candle Ceremony. It's a beautiful, artistic expression. Each person and/or child has a vase full of glass crystals. After the ring exchange, your crystals are combined in a larger glass vase. The combined crystals are then mailed back to the artist who will create your glass art sculpture. Once you receive your glass art, you will have it to display in your home for years to come. Here's the link for the website if you are interested https://www.unityinglass.com/
Many years ago, I learned the phrase - "he/she fell off the wagon". I learned that it related to alcohol. If someone was sober for some amount of time and then decided to have a drink, they "fell off the wagon". The other day, I had the phrase "I fell off the Spiritual Wagon" come to me. It seemed to completely fit the way I felt and can be summarized into this explanation: I behaved in an unloving way, I shut down my emotions, I withdrew from my heart. Generated from being over tired, avoiding grief, avoiding the cries of my soul (whether it has to do with my own stuff or the stuff in the world around me). If I let grief build up, then it ultimately results in me becoming an emotional train wreck and look out if you get in my way as I can behave in a very ugly, unkind way. Also, I may start to feel ill or experience different aches and pains in my body. My body is a great communicator to get me back on track, the track of my heart. I'm grateful that this evolution has become shorter as I have developed more of a relationship with myself. Sometimes, I can see it coming and it's like - oh yeah! I forgot to love myself, this is what it always, yes, ALWAYS boils down to. I'm hurting because I've been overworking and I'm overtired, I haven't spent enough time having fun, I haven't reached out and asked for love, I haven't spoke the truth about how I'm feeling about things going on in my personal world or the world around me. In my early years of self exploration if I lost my way, it would look like me abusing substances, being overly sexual, overspending or overeating, and/or raging at anyone and everyone who got in my way. Then I would feel horrible and I would furthermore get out a 2x4, use it against myself, telling myself how awful I am. Today, after years of meditation, self reflection and surrounding myself with healthy role models, reading and studying how others live a happy fulfilling life and re-programming my mind with loving song and mantras, I can more easily recognize when the darkness takes over. It generally looks like me trying to control someone in my life - typically my husband or son (God help them!) as they are the closest to me, it may even disintegrate into me yelling at my dogs. Inwardly, I have a crying inner child and when I get quiet, I can hear her. Then my work is to sit and cry and nurture myself with an open heart. I ask for help from Source - God - Angels - Spiritual Warriors and then I sit. And I ask, what are you sad about dear one? Usually it's because I feel lonely, unloved and unwanted. It becomes all about self empathy. Then, memories will come through, grief over my ever changing impermanent life. One such recent grief has been that of my 18 year old son becoming an adult and making his way out of the nest. This change has generated deep sorrow, feelings of loss and it encourages me to further research other losses that I have had. I've also noticed that whatever age he is at gives me an opportunity to look at my life at that age and ask, how might my life had been different? Heavy? Yes. Necessary for me to become whole? Yes. It's part of my spiritual evolution. There may also be grief over the intense changing times we are living, the violence and hatred such as the radical extremism that seems to be prevalent in our society today or intolerance. Then I become whole again and centered in my heart. I then can see the world through my heart, return to joyful memories, gratitude and experiences of my life that are inherently good. The next step becomes to offer light and grace to others who cross my path. Of course, I ask for forgiveness from my family or anyone else I may have harmed in the process of getting to a more open heart. The chant that comes to mind for this process is: I will be gentle with myself, I will love myself, I am a child of the Universe, being born each moment.
What's your process? What signs do you see that you've fallen off the Spiritual Wagon?
As a ceremonialist, I have found that it means different things to different people. The question I have distilled it down to is: how do you find peace in the world? Some people find peace through artwork such as music, dance, sculpting or painting, others by being in nature or star gazing, many by practicing yoga or meditating, more through religion or studying teachers who have long since passed, and some by simply spending time with their family or beloved. For other individuals, peace may be found by giving back: taking action through love or service. Recently, I heard a very interesting perspective on this, this individual defined spirituality as a relationship with their soul verses a relationship with the self. He said the relationship with self was ego based and the relationship with the soul was spiritually based. It reminded me of a quote by the mystic poet Rumi, "Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you.” So, how do you define spirituality?
If you have a fondness for nature, gardening, trees and the outdoors, a tree planting ceremony may be weaved into your wedding day. This happens during the wedding ceremony. A table has a potted tree and the couple adds soil and water. Music may be played in the background while the couple participates in the tree planting ceremony. Some words may be spoken relating the strength of your relationship to the strong roots of the tree. The video below explains this beautifully.
Valentine's Day began in our home with exchanges of candy, a table decorated in love with sparkly hearts and morning "I love you's" for my husband and son. And that was just the start! Two couples were married in Flagstaff on February 14, 2017! Well, maybe more than that, however, I participated in two! Generally, I only marry one couple in a day, unless it's a special occasion, and I can't think of a better one than Valentine's Day! The first couple was of Cherokee descent and traveled from California to be married at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff, Arizona. There were a number of family members present including a sweet flower girl and two adorable ring bearers. Due to all of the snow melt we've had, a spectacular pond had formed, complete with ducks and frogs. Their backdrop was stunning with the snow capped San Francisco Peaks (Sacred Name: Diichilí Dzil - Abalone Shell Mountain) and peaceful, glassy water. A gentle breeze blew and there was barely a cloud in the sky. The ceremony began with an ancient tradition of honoring the four directions and elements, Mother Earth and Great Spirit. It was such a privilege to smudge the bride and groom as well as several of the family members. The bride and groom brought their own sage and a sacred rattle that I was entrusted with to use for the ceremony. The couple of honor took part in drinking from a traditional Native American wedding vase and as they kissed to seal their commitment, all applauded!
As I was leaving Buffalo Park, a sweet young lady noticed me and asked if there had been a wedding. I explained how I had the privilege of marrying couples and she shared with me that her and her boyfriend were about to have a Valentine's Day walk at the park. I was wondering if he was going to propose! Once I was introduced to her boyfriend, she confessed that they had stood in front of the Buffalo and it was there that he first professed that he "liked her"! How adorable! I insisted on taking their picture in front of the Buffalo, so sweet!
The next ceremony was for a local Flagstaff couple and took place at Theatrikos in the Green Room! I had never been in there- so cool! This couple was so in the moment that they literally purchased their marriage license that morning, hired me by 10am, and were pronounced married by 2:30pm! Flagstaff locals have a way of pulling amazing gatherings together at the last minute. A number of their local friends gathered to celebrate with them, one of whom I actually knew. I'm looking forward to seeing the pictures as we all stood cascaded on the steps outside of Theatrikos, again, with the magnificent mountain in the background.
Afterwards, I received a phone call from a lovely bride to be who was touched by the bio on my website, felt a kinship with me and knew that she wanted me to marry her and her fiance. This was such a wonderful Valentine's gift of acknowledgement.
To end this magnificent Valentine's Day, my sweetie and I went out to Salsa Brava for an intimate dinner and exchanged gifts. I unwrapped a beautiful bracelet which reminds me of water, and I definitely felt like I was living in the flow on Valentine's Day! As I told my husband, Ron, I felt like I was the Minister of Love on Valentine's Day!
I feel so blessed to live in Flagstaff - such a breathtaking setting, and also to be doing this work - if you can call it that!
I have found that I do best when I do what the wise one's say - Invite your grief to tea. It has much to teach us. There are so many things I grieve - the shift in my primary relationship, the aging of my children, the aging of my own body, the uncertain times we live in, even the change and growth of myself - "oh I used to be this person and now, I am this person, how interesting." It is all part of life and all part of the continuous loss of experiencing living. Does this mean I wallow? No, I do not. Well, maybe, sometimes - this often depends on my hormonal state - ha! ha! Ultimately, though, it means I simply honor that this is part of my experience of being a human being, what a glorious gift. Not all beings can feel emotion to the depths of which we humans can. Therefore, it is a gift. Difficult? Absolutely! Enriching? Without question! For I find that as I grieve, the gifts that come from it are humility, compassion, grace and gratitude. It is important though to not seek these outcomes as one grieves, although, it's a natural consequence, like, hey! what's my pay off? I find that empathy towards myself as I am grieving, such as "yeah, honey, this is hard" or "oh, you are such a good mom and you have given it your all" or "it is so hard to watch my brother or sister suffer" or simply, "I love you". These words of self compassion bring comfort to me. Also, if I call on my guides, angels or higher being for guidance, I find that they are there to comfort me as well. It is one of the mysteries of life - grief - and it takes so many beautiful forms. Have you invited your grief to tea recently? What did it tell you?
Many blessings on your journey dear one, Jen Paul of Life Passages.
As a child, I was always told, "You're so sensitive!" and this was not meant as a compliment - heh heh! Today, I've learned to embrace my sensitivity and capitalize on it. I recognize my sensitivity as a gift. For instance, when I walk into a room, I can "read" the energy of it. If people are excited, angry, sad, confused or whatever emotion might be happening, I can feel it and feel it on a very deep level - to the core of my being! I can then project love into that situation and that can create a feeling of satisfaction within me. I also find that I have an ability to bring people together and create a feeling of cohesion or togetherness rather than separateness. Of course, this depends on my ability to be "tuned in". If I am not in balance, then I will generally absorb whatever feeling is going on. And then, I become ill. Being sensitive, to me, means feeling deeply; easily capable of picking up on other's emotions; easily capable of absorbing other's emotions; and having the ability to ask the universe to transform those feelings. When I check in with myself, I often recognize that another's emotions are rattling around in my bones and psyche. This has also been called, being "empathic". For many years, I poo-pooed the word "empathic" and thought, oh, that's just a cop out to not feel one's own feelings. It's just another way to not take responsibility for one's feelings, a way of saying, "I'm carrying your feelings! If you would just take responsibility for your own stuff, I wouldn't feel this way!" Of course, that is coming from a victim stance. I've discovered that as I have made peace with being a "sensitive soul", I have also made peace with being an "empath". I do experience other people's feelings at a deep level. However, now, I can often identify those feelings as being separate from my own and then I can ask the universe to transform them into another realm so as to relieve the stress of those emotions. This is part of my purpose! Of course, I find that it is easier to do this with strangers or acquaintances than it is with members of my own household because I have my own set of desires and needs that I project onto my loved ones. In other words, I have expectations about their behavior. The more I can let go of my expectations and take care of my own needs, therefore, coming into the relationship filled up, the more I accept them. Learning to witness my loved ones pain without taking it on is a skill that I continue to hone. In order to continue to develop this ability as an "empath", I find the following practices to be key in my normal life routine: cleansing my body with sage or eucalyptus spray, chanting, daily meditation, walks in the woods, healthy eating and connecting with like minded people. This is the food for my "sensitive soul".
I would love to hear from you and learn about your experience as an "empath" or "sensitive soul"! I am so glad that you are a light in this world and I am happy to join you on your quest! In service and gratitude, Jen Paul
Love is the magic that brought Jay and Dena together. They were wed on a warm summer day - August 15, 2016 at Horseshoe Bend. As we walked up the path, I held a golf umbrella in an attempt to shade the bride and keep her cool. When we arrived at the overlook we had some concerns about finding the right spot as there were swarms of sightseers. However, we quickly found the perfect platform overlooking the magnificent Colorado river. It was easy to find two witnesses who were honored to join us. One of the witnesses was a woman whose daughter had passed away and her daughter's name was the same as the bride, Dena. It was a beautiful moment for all of us to have that soul connection. The mother felt the presence of her daughter and found healing in that experience. What a blessing!
I turned my attention to Jay and Dena and we took a moment to center ourselves on that sacred ground. The ceremony included lyrics from the Led Zeppelin tune "Thank You"... 'If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you, when mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me.' Our hearts were wide open as Jay and Dena sealed their vows with a kiss!
Of her Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon Ceremony, Dena said...
Jen was absolutely amazing. From our first conversation prior to booking, I felt incredibly comfortable. We were getting married in a place we had never been before so I was understandably nervous. Jen was so helpful with suggestions to make the day go smoothly. She wrote an incredibly beautiful ceremony which brought tears to my eyes before I heard it at our actual ceremony. She is incredibly down to earth and made us feel so special, like she had known us for years. I cannot say enough nice things and I would recommend Jen Paul of Life Passages 1000x over!