woman performing ceremony with flowers
During the festival of Tihar, a homestay grandmother conducts Laxmi Puja to attract the goddess of wealth using colorful powder designs, candles, and offerings. Photo by Juliet Holmboe, student.
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How We Create Ceremony at Dragons

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Dragons Admin

You’ve found your way to the Dragons website, and now you’re reading this piece. What brought you here? Are you a former student brought here by the nostalgia of the program and place that brought new meaning into your life? Are you a parent curious to know if a Dragons program would be a good fit for your child? Are you a Dragons instructor, catching up on our community news? Are you an educator looking for inspiration in or outside of your classroom?

Instructors just before the welcome ceremony of our all-staff orientation in the High Sierra mountains, California. Photo by Parker Pflaum.

Just reading the last paragraph is a pause, this breath of grounding to remember why you are here, and this is one of the first steps in creating a ceremony. Travel offers the opportunity for reflection and shifting our perspectives, and grounding ourselves through ceremony is one way to ensure that we are taking it all in and making lasting meaning from our experience. Many of the communities where we travel have their own ceremonies and rituals, and participating in these activities through the invitation and facilitation of our local hosts allows us a deeper glimpse into their lived realities, rhythms, and worldview.

While we’ve likely all attended at least a few of the most significant ceremonies facilitated by our own culture – graduations, weddings, funerals – there is no reason to wait for these kinds of big life events to bring intention, grounding, and celebration into our lives more frequently. And while there is a particular magic in the space that can be created while traveling, we can also follow a few steps to create ceremonies in our lives back at home.

Pick an occasion

What are you celebrating or honoring? This could be a routine birthday or holiday, a solstice or equinox, or it could be a ceremony marking the transition from one semester to the next. It could also be a celebration of an accomplishment of a remembrance of someone who passed.

Set the scene

Pick an appropriate time and place. Setting up under a starlit sky, or walking to a quiet place with a beautiful view at dawn or dusk, pausing on a mountain pass, or under a copse of trees next to a river would all be inspirational places to hold a ceremony. Even if travel or nature aren’t accessible, you can create a special feeling in a familiar space by changing the lighting, shifting the arrangement of the furniture, or adding decorations to make a familiar space feel new and special. 


Before starting, ensure that your participants are grounded and ready to give their full attention. It’s understandable that people cannot be present if they are hungry or rushed,so make sure that everyone is comfortable and that their basic needs are met. Consider keeping phones aside, and starting with a grounding exercise such as a silent walk, a guided meditation or a piece of music to draw in a mood conducive to reflection and presence. 

Speak to the senses

Use darkness, candlelight, closed eyes, sunrise, sunset, moonlight or fire to appeal to our sense of sight. Use essential oils, candles, or incense to set the mood through scent. Call in taste with a treat; this could be a square of nice chocolate or sharing a special food. We engage touch in choosing where we’re sitting, and depending on the setting and the vibe of the participants, you could include dance, the creation of something. And finally, we can engage our sense of hearing through music, bells, singing, creating rhythms together, and sharing meaningful words in the form of quotes or poetry or offering gratitudes or appreciation. 

For our alumni, we’d love to hear about any memorable ceremonies that you experienced on your program. For everyone else, we’d love to know what ceremonies you create to make meaning in your lives back at home. Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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