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A living laboratory for a sustainable human future.

Building Community Through Ritual


Above: 2017 Ancestor Feast Altar featuring Chuck, Suchi and Kimchi


by NikiAnne Feinberg


Rituals to help land-based and regional communities process what has happened and is happening in our world are so powerful. We look to ritual to help us digest the unsavory and the unpalatable. We connect with teachers whose wisdom, guidance and experience can help our concentric rings of community continue to process the grief and sorrow we experience, to some degree on a daily basis.

So many of us are skilled at honoring birthdays, seasonal holidays, and the memory of famous people, but how many of us are ready to authentically honor the changes and losses of life?

Here at Earthaven, we’ve buried three community members this past year. The ritual tools Sobonfu Somé shared with us have been enormously useful in helping us know what to do when tragic events occur. They gave us a common language for addressing our grief, as well as a solid foundation from which to build our own rituals based in connection to the natural world and each other. We’ve had quite a bit of practice these last two years in how to process grief in the present and transform it into a sense of well-being, of life moving forward…. (So many of us are still longing to honor and grieve Sobonfu’s passing…and will have an opportunity to do so in the upcoming Transform, Connect, and Heal Ritual Weekend here May 4-6.)

There are many ways to use these emotional and spiritual tools and practices:

  • for the loss of loved ones.
  • for the untended historical trauma over the extermination of indigenous peoples.
  • for the fear and dismay at what is going on in the nation’s political arena.
  • for outrage at the racial injustices in our institutional and governmental policies.
  • for the powerlessness we feel over ever more major, irreversible environmental atrocities.

We want to continue practicing the language and expression of emotions and communion with the ancestors in the presence of others. We also want to learn new rituals we can grow into (and with) as community. We want to use ritual to honor the land we live on and make offerings of gratitude for all that it provides for us.

I want to be a voice for Earthaven being a place that has learned to welcome death as a part of intentional and integrated living. Through demonstrating and also sharing what and who we learn from, we contribute to our community’s dual missions of transformative lifestyles and education.

These trainings have been essential to Earthaven’s journey of maturing into a community that embraces death, not only by gracefully accepting it as a reality in life, but by skilling up on tending to our own beloveds’ deaths.

Led by two of Sobonfu’s long-time students and friends, Susan Hough and Jennifer Halls, the Transform, Connect, and Heal Ritual Weekend will focus on the practice of ritual, in which the true outcome might not be understood until long after the end. On the immediate level, however, ritual is a powerful way to transform inner and outer situations, connect to Spirit, and deeply heal on many levels. I invite you to join me and others from all over the country in this powerful ritual of honoring and growing.

grief, NikiAnne, ritual, Sobonfu Somé

NikiAnne Feinberg

NikiAnne (she/her) was born and raised on a horse and cattle ranch on the ancestral lands of the Salinan people in the Central Coast of California. She currently lives at Earthaven Ecovillage on unceded lands of the Catawba and Cherokee (Tsalagi) people. Her ancestors come from Eastern and Western Europe — France, Germany, and English Isles as well as Belarus, Lithuania, and Russia, from Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. Throughout the last two decades, NikiAnne has been immersed in community and in service to a wide range of educational endeavors focused on nature connection, personal empowerment, and community resilience. NikiAnne considers herself the grease and glue – that which helps things run smoothly or holds things together. Before co-founding SOIL in 2012, she worked and traveled through much of Asia, the Americas, and Europe, which made her formal education at George Washington University in International Affairs come alive in ways that can only happen through personal experience and relationships. Collectively, these experiences have undeniably shaped her cooperative cultural values and commitment to supporting leaders to think, feel, act and design from a foundation rooted in interrelationship. No matter what she’s teaching, NikiAnne is always on the same mission: to raise awareness of our whole selves – gifts, passions, blind spots, shadows – and help those whole selves find and fill niches in their communities. This is how the web of life is woven, and the fabric of culture repaired. She’s especially eager to support those in transition – between vocations, stages of life, and stories of world and self. Within this context, she is particularly passionate about community grief tending and death care midwifery.

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