February 25, 2022

Episode #44


The Power of Rituals & Tending to the Sacred Through Times of Transition with
Day Schildkret

Laura Dawn drops in with ritualist and award-winning author Day Schildkret about the significance of rituals and how they can help us make meaning through times of loss and change.

Ritual and ceremony are very important ways to cultivate a skillful, purposeful, and beautiful relationship to change. One that doesn’t turn away from it, but turns towards it. One that doesn’t promote more fear, but respect.
Day Schildkret


About This Episode:

Day Schildkret is an artist, ritualist, and award-winning author. He’s the author of Morning Altars, and just published a new book called: Hello, Goodbye: 75 Rituals for Times of Loss, Celebration and Change. 

As we collectively move through these times of enormous transition, more people than ever are trying to make sense of these times. Rituals and ceremonies are profound tools and catalysts for meaning-making. The power of ritual helps us to make contact with the fullness of the present moment, inviting us to pause and remember how to turn towards and tend to the sacred. Rituals can help us punctuate the chapters of our lives with meaning and purpose and a greater depth of significance. 

In this episode, Day shares why rituals are so important, especially right now. He shares various ways of defining and understanding what ritual is and explains the difference between ritual, ceremony, and routine.

Core Themes

Explored in this episode:
  • The significance of rituals
  • Why rituals are so important as we move through times of change
  • Exploring the various definitions of ritual
  • The act of returning to and tending to the sacred
  • Ceremony of Life
  • Rites of passage
  • Why rituals are important for reorienting our lives around meaning
  • The difference between ritual, ceremony, and routine
  • Rituals and cultural appropriation
  • The meaning of catastrophe
  • Microdosing morning rituals

Links &

useful resources

Episode Transcript

Episode #44: Day Schildkret Psychedelic Leadership Podcast.


Laura Dawn: My name is Laura Dawn and you’re listening to episode #44 of the psychedelic leadership podcast featuring my beautiful conversation with artist, ritualist, and award-winning author Day Schildkret. 

As we collectively move through these times of enormous transition, the power of ritual helps us to make contact with the fullness of the present moment, inviting us to pause, and remember how to turn towards and tend to the sacred. 

And when we do this, rituals can help us punctuate the story and the transition through the various chapters of our lives with meaning and purpose and a greater depth of significance. 

As many of you know, I’ve personally been moving through times of major transition in my life, as many of us are, and rituals, and ceremony and daily practice have been such a profound and powerful tool to help me find inner stability through these shifting tides. 

And that’s why I was so thrilled to invite Day Schildkret onto the show to talk about the power of ritual. 

He’s the author of Morning Altars, and just published a new book called: Hello, Goodbye: 75 Rituals for Times of Loss, Celebration and Change.

I just adore this man. And just feel such a deep sense of kinship with him and love his work so so much and feel so honored to be able to spend time speaking with him because I learn so much from him. 

One of the things I love about Day is that he calls himself a word nerd, and he shares the etymology of words like ritual and ceremony, and all the way at the very end of this conversation he breaks down the meaning of the word catastrophe, which I highly recommend tuning in until the end to listen to what he has to say about how the meaning of the word has sort of like, instructions for us, for how to navigate through change without fearing it. 

In this episode, we talk about the significance of rituals, and how a symbolic action is essentially a tool for meaning-making, and he shares why rituals are so important, especially right now. Day shares various ways of defining and understanding what ritual is and explains the difference between ritual, ceremony, and routine. 

Day is just such a heart-felt human and he shares some beautiful deeply personal stories, and He also comes out of the psychedelic closet for the first time publicly and shares how he microdosed throughout the entire writing of his latest book, hello goodbye, which I highly recommend getting a copy of and I’ll include a link to his book in the shownotes. 

And just a reminder that all the resources mentioned in each episode can be found on my new website LauraDawn.co and for each episode it’s just / and the number so to access more information about Day and his work, all the resources mentioned, the full transcript and to learn about the featured musician, you can go to LauraDawn.co/44. 

I also have a bunch of free downloadable resources on my website, including integration guides, questions to vet your shaman, free 8-day microdosing course, playlists for psychedelic journeys and beyond and other free resources as well. 

Also My Psychedelic Leadership Mastermind for Medicine Women called Your Message Is Your Medicine, and that starts March 2nd, so it’s coming up very soon, and I have a few spots left for that. And it’s a 12 week program. I have an amazing group of women coming together for that. And if you’re feeling the call to step out and contribute your voice to the psychedelic space and the medicine movement, and you want to learn how to cultivate your thought leadership and refeine your core message, and build an offering around that, then this is likely a program for you. And it’s more than just covering strategic tools, it’s also really diving into what it means to embody feminine leadership and how we can learn to expand what we believe is possible,  and we’ll explore what I think of as the codes to upleveling. Choosing to step out requires a lot of courage, because it really brings up all of our core stuff, which is why our message is our medicine, which makes it a path for inner transformation, growth, and healing. 

So I’m actually going to keep this intro pretty short today, a rare occurrence I would say, as many of you who’ve been listening to this podcast you know how much I love long intros. 

And I’ll be leaving you with a song called the Offering by my dear medicine song sister Aea Luz. And this was such a perfect song for this episode and I can’t wait for you to hear it. 

One last thing, as many of you know, just such an enormous amount goes into the production of each episode and so if you have been tuning into this podcast and have been enjoying it,  I would sincerely appreciate it if you could take a moment to leave me a review on itunes and let me know how this podcast has impacted your life. That would mean so much to me. And if you send me a message on Instagram at Livefreelaurad letting me know you left a review, I’ll share your review with my audience in my stories and tag you in that post. 

I’m also starting to release my episodes a little more raw and uncut, which I’m really enjoying actually,  so you’ll hear that in this conversation, I started recording when we hopped on the call together, so you’ll hear us settle into the conversation together. 

Ok, that’s all from me for today, thank you thank you thank you for tuning in to the psychedelic leadership podcast, thank you for witnessing me grow on this path, it’s been quite the journey. 

and just so much love and gratitude to my brother Day for this epic conversation that nourished me on so many levels.

Day Schildkret: Hey, there.

Laura Dawn: Aloha, hey, brother.

Day Schildkret: Hey, how’s it going?

Laura Dawn: It’s going well. Day Schildkret, I was practicing it. Schildkret, Schildkret.

Day Schildkret: Schildkret.

Laura Dawn: Schildkret. Did I get it?

Day Schildkret: Yeah. Think of it like shield, but it’s with an all, Schildkret.

Laura Dawn: Schildkret. Yes, I’m getting it

Day Schildkret: And I told you what it means, right?

Laura Dawn: No, you didn’t tell me what it means, this is the best part.

Day Schildkret: It means turtle.

Laura Dawn: Yes. I like that. I’m lighting some Palo Santos, after we spoke the last time, I feel really inspired to actually just invoke the ritual process for my episodes.

Day Schildkret: Beautiful, yay.

Laura Dawn: Yeah, I’m really excited to dive in with you. I just want to say, I so appreciate the work that you are doing in this world.

Day Schildkret: Thank you.

Laura Dawn: Yeah. I just really want to elevate your voice.

Day Schildkret: Thank you, darling. We’re all in it together, you know what I mean?

Laura Dawn: Yeah.

Day Schildkret: It’s really; the only way we’re going to make an impact is by uplifting each other, so thank you.

Laura Dawn: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, and just speaking to these times, and I would also like to dive into some of your story, but I almost just want to start at this place of the narrative of this time that we’re living in and ritual as this powerful tool for meaning-making. So, I’m kind of curious, what is the narrative that you’re telling yourself about this time that we’re transitioning through right now?

Day Schildkret: Change. Really, it comes down to we’re in a major transitional period. Most of us have been taught to fear change, most of us are showing up to this time craving normalcy, even the word, the new normal, it’s in the mainstream culture, it carries so much value. And really what that is, is change phobia, we’re terrified of change. I get it, I have a lot of change in my life, it’s scary, especially when that kind of change makes the ground fall out from under you. However, change is the only constant in our life, and showing up to change as an amateur is really not a skillful option, especially as an adult, so the question becomes, how do we cultivate a skillful and purposeful relationship to change?

There are lots of ways to do that, meditation is one way, psychedelics is another way, music is another, there are many ways, I’m not promoting one way, I’m not a monotheist like that. But ritual and ceremony is a very, very important way to cultivate a skillful and purposeful and beautiful relationship to change, one that doesn’t turn away from it, but that turns toward it. One that doesn’t promote more fear, but more respect, one that doesn’t make us feel isolated, but lets us feel collected in or gathered in, and so that we can cross our thresholds both personally and collectively with beauty and be changed by change.

We’re talking about evolution both as personal, as people, and as a culture, evolving, transforming, renewing, these are all qualities of ritual.

Laura Dawn: It’s so interesting because actually at the heart of it, we have a very similar core message, so much of what I talk about is actually bowing at the altar of impermanence and how we actually cultivate that warrior strength to show up and actually sit in the middle of the fire of the emotional pain of what it takes to actually touch it completely and turn towards it. And yet rationally, we can sit here and say, yes, everything changes, we know this on a rational level, but emotionally, this is so hard for us to grasp, and actually, this is the root teachings of the Buddha and Eastern philosophy that the core root of suffering is this fundamental denial of the true nature of reality, which is fundamentally impermanent and always changing.

Day Schildkret: Exactly. And, I think you said bowing on the altar of change or something like that, part of my work is making altars and I’m also a word nerd and the root of the word altar means to raise up, that’s what the word etymologically means. It means the things that you’re putting on the altar you’re uplifting them, so Altus is the Latin, and so putting change or objects of change onto the altar, in some ways it uplifts them so that you’re not kind of smashed or buried or depressed or fearful of them, but you’re raising them up so that you can elevate them to being beautiful, being valuable, purposeful, not something that shouldn’t be.

And that’s a skill just like playing the piano, the more you play it, the better you get, it’s just kind of, that’s the dynamic of practice, so the more that we can practice turning toward change and facing it, welcoming it even, honoring it. The keyword here, which I love, and very few people talk about, but I freaking love this word so much, it’s the word hospitality; I think I’m going to write a book about this. Hospitality, how are we as a guest? How are we as a host? When change knocks on your door, what kind of host are you? How skillful are you at the old tradition of hospitality?

And in our culture, I’m talking about people that live in North America, we suck, we absolutely suck at hospitality compared to so many other cultures around the world. I can tell you, I’ve traveled around; I went to Ukraine years ago on a mission, bringing medicine and supplies to elderly and housebound people, people that couldn’t leave their houses, poor people. And I walked into their houses and waiting at their dinner table was their best fish, their best vodka, their best everything, they had no money, but they gave it all to me because I was their guest, and that’s the rules of hospitality in those cultures.

So here, it’s the same thing, when change shows up at your door, are you giving it your best or your worst? How are you treating your guests? To me, let’s talk about that, I love the skillsets of hospitality, it’s a reciprocal relationship, change is trying to give you things, it’s trying to change you, trying to take things from you and give things to you. Are you trusting that? Are you open to that? Are you interested in what it has to say and what it has to offer? And ritual is one way where we can elevate change and treat it as the holy guest that it is.

Laura Dawn: I’m curious about your perspective, and I want to ask you your definition of ritual in a moment, but I love the way you frame this as a skillset and in this notion of hospitality, which I love this narrative around that. And I also think of the skillset of how we hold our seat and our center at the altar of impermanence, which is a skillset, how do we not get knocked off in this way or knocked off in that way by, the good thing happens, the bad thing happens and actually just root in awareness and making direct contact with what is. And I’m kind of just, I’m really curious, how does that weave into your narrative of hospitality?

Day Schildkret: Well, first and foremost, anyone that practices anything knows that the core skill of practice is fucking up, that’s the core, I play classical guitar, it’s all about fucking up, the mistakes are necessary, that’s what makes it practice. That’s how you learn, you have to, I play a chord or note and it sounds terrible, and I’m like, oh, that’s teaching me how to get better at it, so getting knocked down is kind of the core function of change, you have to get knocked down. We live in a culture, the dominant culture of North America that has its roots everywhere now in the world that is competency addicted, it’s addicted to always needing to get it right, always needing to look good, always needing to be competent.

I’m doing my absolute best, maybe you are too, of trying to proceed genuinely to my audience, genuinely meaning, I’m heartbroken, and today was hard, and last night I had trouble sleeping and I’m worried and just being a real human. And not always being competent, not always getting it right, not always being on point, sometimes sitting at the altar is full of tears and sometimes I’m collapsed and sometimes I don’t know, it’s not necessarily about not getting knocked down. it’s about how do you return.

Laura Dawn: Right.

Day Schildkret: And to me, that’s, this is such a beautiful word, return, it has the word “re” in it, meaning you do it again and again and again, and it has the word “turn”, which means to turn toward or turn away, but to turn toward, or to spiral in again. So, calendrically, New Year’s is a time where we return in the circle or the summer solstice or the spring Equinox, we return again, or a birthday or an anniversary, we return, so it’s like we leave and we come back, and that’s part of change, is you have to depart and you have to come and arrive back. And I think the skill is how do you do that?

In some cultures, we just celebrated the Chinese New Year, I’m not Chinese, but gosh, a culture that does that beautifully, so beautifully, with color and celebration and food and ritual and tradition and family and ugh, it’s gorgeous, it’s so hospitable for the year. It’s delicious. So, we in the west need to remember how to return beautifully, even if that’s you sitting at your altar and you had a shitty day, or you lost something or something ended, or someone died and you’re collapsed. How do you return beautifully with all of your imperfections and all of your sadness and sorrow and include that into the wholeness of that moment?

Laura Dawn: I love that, it actually makes me think so much of Pema Chodron’s teachings, she’s the one that I learned meditation from and it’s like the mind leaves, that’s just what the mind does, it just goes, and meditation is really just the returning of the mind back to center over and over and over again, and it’s like training a puppy. When the puppy goes all over the place, you don’t hit the puppy, it’s, oh, you’re training the puppy, good puppy, we want to love the puppy, so it’s returning with that sense of loving-kindness and compassion and, it’s okay, life is really wild for a lot of us right now.

Can we actually even hold the paradox of grief and joy in the grief and the hope in grief, and knowing that it’s full spectrum right now, and can we just be open to all of it?

Day Schildkret: Yeah. That to me is, and you’re talking, Pema is a beautiful teacher and that teaching applies personally and communally and collectively that teaching of leaving and returning, there’s no question, it’s kind of, it’s a miracle I arrived at the name of this book because it’s just, literally you’re talking about hello, goodbye. Whether it’s you and your mind, goodbye, hello, goodbye, hello, whether it’s you and a relationship, whether it’s you and your kid growing up and then going off to college, whether it’s you and your parent, whether it’s you and your home.

We face so many moments, whether it’s us and democracy, you can, whatever, whether it’s us and climate, it’s these moments of endings and beginnings, and you can bring it back to meditation, ending, beginning, endings, beginnings, always this moment of coming and going, coming and going, that’s why hospitality is crucial. I swear I’m going to write this book after this interview.

Laura Dawn: I love it. Okay, let’s dive in, how would you define ritual?

Day Schildkret: Well, you’re talking to a word nerd and that means I love etymology, okay, it’s even more profound than that, I’m not a word nerd, I’m a root lover. I love the roots of things, I love how deep they are and how invisible they are to the eye, and so words have roots, they come from places, they travel just like people, and just because we’re speaking a word doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the origin of the word. So, the word ritual comes from, it etymologically means to count; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, however, I come from the theater, I also play music, I used to dance, and so musicians and dancers count very differently than that.

They count like this; 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, so they count in patterns, rhythmically, that’s how they stay in rhythm with the music, if a dancer stops counting, they’re all over the place, if a musician stops counting and they’re playing with other musicians, they’re gone, they’re lost. So, the counting helps everyone stay together in the music, ritual works the same way my friends, it helps us stay in rhythm with our lives. When things change, when things get ungrounded, when things get chaotic, when things go wacky, ritual helps us remember the counting of the music, oh yeah, that’s where I am, oh, right, this is where I am, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1.

Because otherwise we get lost so easily, collectively, we get lost, personally, we get lost. Do you ever read the book, ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’?

Laura Dawn: Yes, I just actually returned to it recently a couple of weeks ago.

Day Schildkret: So, it’s Robin Wall Kimmerer and inside the book, she put it perfectly, for those of you listening that don’t know; this is a book written by an indigenous woman, she’s a botanist. And this book is very much a bridge between indigenous plant wisdom and scientific botany wisdom, and she’s that bridge, and inside of it, she says something like, our elders say that ceremony is our way to remember to remember, whoa, ceremony and ritual is our way to remember to remember.

Why? Because being human, we forget all the time, that’s what being human is, it’s so easy to forget, so we need these things that we do called ceremony and ritual, that literally snap us awake and say, oh, yeah, right, this is important, oh, yeah, the season just changed. Oh, yeah, my father who died, we’re coming on the anniversary of his death, oh, yeah, something tragic happened, oh, yeah, someone was born, it’s these moments that snap us awake and help us remember where we are, who we are, what now, where we’re going, it helps us to remember.

Okay, one more word nerd thing, remember there is that “re” again, that doing it again, but we don’t really have the verb to member, but remember, basically says something was dismembered or forgotten. So, we have to bring it back into a whole again, called memory, oh, yeah, things get scattered and dispersed, we have to bring things back to the whole, to the memory, and that’s the rhythm, forgetting, remembering, forgetting, remembering, and ritual is a very important way that we can do that.

Laura Dawn: When you just expressed the definition of remember, it makes me think of the word integrate. So, in a way, I wonder if there’s a way we can also loop that into this narrative because, especially in the plant medicine space, integration is such a big topic, but in a sense, as ritual, we’re sort of, the way that I define ritual, or one of many ways, is that it’s an invitation to make direct contact with the present moment. And in that way, we’re punctuating the days and the chapters of our lives with meaning and significance, and so in a way, when we’re doing that, we’re also integrating the process of, oh, this has been a year now, since the passing of this loved one, it’s actually a meaning-making tool.

Day Schildkret: Bingo. Yep. It’s a meaning-making tool for integration, for transformation, for wholeness because when we say these things, for instance, integration, this is a word that sounds great and is great, but we have to include when we talk about these things, the disintegration. We have to name the thing that we’re not saying because, for instance, I don’t know if you’ve had a lot of death in your life, in your family, but I have, and there’s a lot of forgetting that happens in that, there’s a lot of grief that happens spontaneously in that, there’s a lot of letting go and there’s a lot of different, messy experiences that happen with death.

So, the integration means to include back, but why? Because it gets scattered, because it gets forgotten, because life’s busy, and crazy, and chaotic, and forgetful, and all of those things. So, an integration doesn’t just happen, we have to do it, and therefore it’s a skill, ritual can’t be thought, it has to be done, our hands have to do it, our mouths have to do it, our feet do it, our bellies do it, whatever it is, we have to do the ritual. So, we do it, and the mechanism to remember is when we realize we’re forgetting, that’s the mechanism, oh, right. If we don’t do it, then it just continues to go into the space of forgetting.

Laura Dawn: Oh, yeah, I want to dive into that deeper, o you have your book close by?

Day Schildkret: Got it right here.

Laura Dawn: I’m curious. Yeah, I love it. I love it, and I’m curious, are there a couple of other definitions from people that you shared in there?

Day Schildkret: Of ritual?

Laura Dawn: Yeah.

Day Schildkret: Yeah, for sure. These are not mine, but I’ll end with mine. Okay, so just know that I’m reading other people’s definitions. Someone said, and by the way, just to give a little backstory, I interviewed about 250 people for this book, hour-long conversations each, most of the time we’re both crying, it fed me as much as it fed them. Not a lot of people want to speak to you on the phone about a major moment in your life where you get to unpack it, it was a moving conversation, they are the bones and muscles of this book.

So, one of the questions I asked everyone, the only question that everyone got asked, the same question is, how do you define ritual? And, of course, there were over 250 answers to that question, really interesting, so these are some of the ones that I thought were really worth highlighting. It’s a language for meaning-making, interesting a language, something you do to mark occasions out of traditions, a meeting place where the spiritual meets the physical, the unseen meets the seen, the formless meets the form, concretizing the sacred. Woo, that one was good. I’ll read a few more. I see ritual as a cue or road sign to point me in the right direction.

Laura Dawn: Oh my gosh, that is beautiful.

Day Schildkret: Ritual is a mini-journey, you start somewhere, sometimes you have a destination that you seek in the ritual and sometimes not. And the last one I’ll read here is, a ritual says I am, or we are here. And then I finish that with mine, to me, a ritual midwives us through transitions, helping us acknowledge the change and transform us from who we were to who we are now. That’s how I define it, as a midwife.

Laura Dawn: I love that. I love that.

Day Schildkret: Thank you.

Laura Dawn: Why from your perspective, is it also an act of doing, that we speak the words, that we break the branch, that we write the thing or rip it up, why does that have to be a real catalyst for the ritual?

Day Schildkret: Why does it have to be done?

Laura Dawn: Hmm-hmm.

Day Schildkret: Why do rituals? Well, okay. Change, transformation, we sometimes experience a lot of things internally, if you go through a divorce, a lot of that’s happening inside of you, a lot of the heartbreak and the separation, and the fear and the grief is happening internally. Sure, there are external things, you sign papers, you see a lawyer, you move out of the house, whatever, but those are really, they’re routine, they’re practical, but they’re not symbolic. And we are all mythopoetic people, we come from mythopoetic people, meaning that we come from ancestors who weren’t just interested in the practical, no matter where you come from, no matter who your people are, they all had ways of being that were based in symbolism, metaphor.

They did things that to a rational mind didn’t make sense, but they did it because the mythopoetic parts of us, it made a lot of sense. For instance, I’m thinking of my own tradition, my own culture, I come from a Jewish culture, I was born into a rich ritual tradition and I’m thinking of one of them, the marriage, it’s a ceremony, but there are many rituals within the wedding ceremony, a popular one that many people know is that we break a glass. Traditionally the groom breaks a glass, steps on a glass at the end of the ceremony and everyone screams mazel tov, and it’s the end of the ceremony, but what practical reason would someone break a glass?

What does that functionally do? It doesn’t do anything but symbolically it does a lot, and I can go into the reasons, I’m not sure.

Laura Dawn: Yeah, I’m kind of curious because in some ways it’s like we need something for the mind to use as a catalyst to make meaning out of.

Day Schildkret: Yeah. Breaking a glass, there are lots of interpretations, what I love about symbolic actions is that they don’t necessarily have to mean one thing, and most often they don’t, they’re interpreted, that’s the beauty of poetry, it’s not operating in a scientific, practical, utilitarian mindset where it means one thing, one truth. We’re operating in a realm of many things, many truths, many interpretations, wonder, and curiosity are the skillsets for the mythopoetic mind, not truth, it’s not a monotheistic way of being in the world, it’s more poly.

So, breaking a glass, for instance, for some traditionalists, it could mean the loss of our homeland, we’re remembering the place, to some it’s Jerusalem, we’re remembering the place where we lived, our ancestors lived. For others, it’s remembering the heartbreak in the midst of joy, or for others, it’s remembering the brokenness in the midst of wholeness, it’s taking a very happy, beautiful moment, and it’s also breaking something.

There are lots of interpretations of what that means, but it’s symbolic, meaning you have to step on a glass and break it to end the ceremony, and that almost transforms the thing from we’re in the ceremony to you are a married couple and it doesn’t have any purpose, but to transform the people and to transform the whole group gathered.

Laura Dawn: Right, it almost makes me think of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Day Schildkret: Yeah. Yeah. I coined a phrase yesterday, I was on a call, I run a teacher training for my work and we were building curriculum yesterday and I coined a term, you’re going to be the first to hear it publicly, but I called it the Miraculization. It’s the miraculization of that moment, it takes a very small moment, happy but small, and it brings it into a much broader field. How did it get to be that we got to this time? That all of these ancestors came together to bring these two people together, it brings time, it brings us into a much broader landscape of time, ritual and ceremony bring us into a much broader landscape of where we are in time.

Ritual and ceremony bring us into a much broader landscape of where we’re going in time, so it’s not just limited to this small moment, it helps us remember a much bigger moment, and to me, that’s a miraculization.

Laura Dawn: Yeah. I hear you saying ritual and ceremony, and I know some people have distinguished definitions of each one, and even, how do we make ritual a continued ritual without it becoming habituated and routine?

Day Schildkret: Well, those are two different questions, so let me start with the first one. A lot of people interchange, ritual and ceremony, they’re not the same thing, they have two different purposes. It’s fine if you do, but let’s learn about what the difference is, there are so many ways to learn that, etymologically, they have two dually different definitions. Ceremony actually refers to a place, I don’t know if you know that, it has a whole history about what Rome did to this place, ceremony actually refers to an actual city. Okay. But the best definition.

Laura Dawn: Wait, that’s kind of blowing my mind, can we just unpack that for a second before we move on, considering that we live in this era of plant medicine ceremonies galore, so let’s unpack that?

Day Schildkret: Sure. I can’t off the top of my head tell you what the name of the place is, but it refers to a place that was attacked, destroyed, changed by Rome’s influence. So, we get this word and it means something to us as modern people, but it actually has a very, very interesting history to it, not trying to say don’t use the word, I’m just trying to say, learn about the word. But putting that aside, you can look that up, but putting that aside, ceremony traditionally means something different and the best understanding of who talks about it is a man by the name of Victor Turner.

Victor Turner was a student of an ethnographer, Arnold van Gennep, who wrote an amazing book called, ‘Rites of Passage’, many, many, many years ago, definitely worth reading if you are interested in initiation, in ceremony, in rites of passage, this was the grandfather book of it. He went into many, many cultures all around the world to learn how they did initiation, and I refer to him quite a bit in my chapter on rituals for puberty. Okay. So, Victor Turner was also an ethnographer and wrote a lot about rites of passage and initiations, and he said, and this is the one that I love the most, he said that the difference between ritual and ceremony is, ceremony confirms, rituals transform.

So, think of it like this, a graduation ceremony, you’ve graduated, you are being affirmed publicly in your accomplishment, an initiation ceremony, you are being affirmed by your community that you have crossed this threshold and you have passed all these things and you’re a different person. A wedding ceremony, you’re being affirmed as a couple. Ritual weaves into ceremony, like a thread through a piece of fabric, ritual transforms, so there are many rituals within ceremonies, as I was talking about before, a Jewish wedding where we break a glass, that’s a ritual, the bride, well, I’m talking about a heterosexual wedding, the bride circles, the groom seven times, that’s a ritual.

They drink wine, that’s a ritual, there are many rituals woven into the ceremony, the rituals themselves are meant to transform, they’re meant to change things, you are no longer this, you’re now this, this is no longer, now it is; it takes something and it makes it different within the ceremony, it’s almost like a program inside of a bigger program. And so, you can have them both exist together, but learning the distinction can help us understand their purposes. So, you can have a ritual without having ceremony, but you can’t have a ceremony without having rituals. It’s a lot of information.

Laura Dawn: No, it’s great, I love it. And so, yeah, I’m thinking about the contrast here, so it’s when the ceremony of whatever it is, let’s say the ceremony of Ayahuasca comes to an end and then the ceremony of the rest of our lives continues. And so, there’s also this contrast between mundane, ordinary, and then paying attention and turning toward tending the sacred, and so how do we make sure that the ritual stays alive in the sense of not putting it back into the mundane of the routine of, oh, I wake up and I make my coffee and I do my microdosing morning rituals, and it’s rote.

Day Schildkret: First off, you’re asking such great questions, number one, you are really, you’re nailing it with the questions here, beautiful.

Laura Dawn: Thank you.

Day Schildkret: Yes, I adore them. I’d say first and foremost, keeping rituals alive is a personal and communal endeavor, meaning rituals are like anything that travel through time, they have to be kept alive, which is such a weird thing for us as modern people to understand. We barely think a tree is alive, we’re so into objects, we put humans as the only thing that are really alive on this planet, we’re so lost in understanding what is alive. Rituals are alive, they travel through time, they have a purpose, they’re kept alive by people or persons, and because they’re alive, they can get old and they can die and they can lose relevance.

There’s a caveat here I want to acknowledge, which as in my book, I speak quite a bit about cultural appropriation, where people, they’re in the presence of a ritual or a ceremony that is so alive and have been kept so alive over time that it’s almost like attending a rich feast where you attend, and you’re like, oh my God, it could be like this. And maybe for many of us, we haven’t been fed, we’re so hungry that we show up to these rituals and ceremonies starving and we can’t help it, but want to take. And so, a lot of the time cultural appropriation is the result of starvation.

And so, I have a hard stop in my book about that, I’m not promoting cultural appropriation, I’m not promoting taking, if anything, anyone that comes from an intact culture understands to show up to these things with gifts generously, so you don’t show up empty-handed to a feast, you show up to feed. A man by the name of Martin Shaw, Dr. Martin Shaw, he’s a mythopoetic teacher, he has a quote, which I absolutely love, which is, if you want to be fed, become bread. Yum, such a great quote, if you want to be fed, become bread, if you want to eat feed, amazing reciprocity.

So, that’s number one, keeping ritual alive, it’s about first and foremost honoring the life of rituals and the cultures that carry their own and not showing up to take all the time, and a lot of that, this is my own journey. A lot of that is rooted in me learning my own people’s rituals, not going to other cultures to take, but first learning to be fed by my own, and some of the time the devastation’s real, most of us grow up without anything, but that doesn’t mean that your own people had nothing.

It’s a long walk, but to learn your own people’s rituals and customs, and traditions, and languages and food and clothing, and all of the things that make culture, is a very rich learning. But that’s a good place to start, especially if you’re going to engage in other cultures’ rituals, and ceremonies, the more you can acquire and remember, and learn about your own people’s traditions and rituals and ceremonies, the more you’ll be able to bring as a gift to those other cultures. That’s number one.

Okay. Then the second thing that you mentioned was about turning towards the sacred, I’m going to bring up that man, Arnold van Gennep again, he has this quote that I actually end the introduction of my book with, which I freaking love so much and he calls it pivoting towards the sacred. And basically, the crux of it is, anything could be ritualized, your coffee, your shower, combing your hair, brushing your teeth, the most mundane stuff can be made into a ritual; it just requires a turning toward it.

And that’s a conscious decision, to make this moment matter, to make this moment meaningful, and that basically says, Hey, you, you have been created, you can be creative, ritual is the realm both of tradition and invention. So, it plays in both ways, it’s poly.

Laura Dawn: I love it. I love it.

Day Schildkret: It’s poly, it loves to play in tradition, but it loves to be reinvented. It’s like a good recipe, you’d have traditional recipes, but some of the best restaurants, and I live in Portland right now, and some of the best restaurants are reinventing the recipes. Ritual works in the same way, it likes to travel, but it really needs to be reinvented, it needs to be renewed, and so let me summarize what I’m saying. People and cultures carry rituals, amazing, some cultures have carried them for 10,000 years, wow, amazing, that is part of my own people’s culture, 4,000 years of some of these rituals, amazing.

However, I am a modern, contemporary human being, and I’m not going to carry some of these rituals as if they’re stale, I am reinventing them because I am the person carrying them. And I’m an artist and I’m queer and I’m creative and I’m alive, and I’m going to reinvent these rituals and make them relevant now because we have different problems right now than 500 years ago, so I empower everyone listening to both learn about where your stuff came from, who your people were, what they carried, all that richness. And you are a creative, alive, inventive human being, step into that power and reimagine these rituals for this modern time because we need that, we need you to be creative right now, that’s the power of who you are and what this time needs.

Laura Dawn: I love that invitation, and I want to get into some of the nitty nuances here. Do you think, okay, if you show up with your own creative rituals, is it in your perspective because you’re holding a hard line around cultural appropriation, which I really appreciate the emphasis on that? Some rituals seem to be universal, building altars seems to be very cross-cultural or making an offering to the earth or lighting a candle, invoking fire, so it seems there are some rituals that are very universally applicable.

And then do you think that, can we maybe get an example here because if I show up at this buffet and I’m also bringing my own rituals, are you saying it’s also okay if I’m eating the buffet and consuming some of that if I’m showing up in an exchange and with an attitude of respect, is the underlying intention of how we hold space for a ritual that let’s say, honors another culture, in your books is that, quote-unquote, okay?

Day Schildkret: Well, first off I’m never a prescriber, I’m a describer, I don’t like prescribing, there are so many ways that things are different, but I’d say I’d go back to the topic of hospitality. Everyone listening has been a guest, everyone probably has been a host, the way that you show up as a guest might be the same, but it also might be very different. So, for instance, you might always bring a gift when you go to a new home, but the gift might be different depending on who the host is, or it might be like, Hey Ken, I bring you a gift, would that be okay? Or would be insulting?

Some people don’t want that, it’s all about learning what your host loves and giving it to them, and that’s such a beautiful courtship, to learn what the host loves and give it to them, maybe even without them asking for it. And so, the same thing is true, if you go to another culture and they’re inviting you into a ceremony, that doesn’t mean you show up and you give the thing you love, you show up and give the thing they love, and learning what they love, well, that is quite an amazing act of education and learning.

That’s a very deep learning too, and by the way, there have been cultures throughout time and places, these have been acts of diplomacy, there are cultures that would send ambassadors to learn the language and the food and the dress and the dances and the humor of certain cultures. And then they would invite that culture to make a diplomatic mission, and these people would show up in another country and all of their foods and their dress and their music would all be there, and that would lead to some amazing diplomacy, to learn what that culture loves, and to give it to them.

By the way, for those listening, this is the key to a happy relationship, learn what your lover or partner loves, and give it to them, that’s an amazing way of being in a relationship. And it’s a never-ending story, to learn what your partner loves and to give it to them without even asking for it, so it works the same way with culture.

Laura Dawn: Beautiful. I want to get into some examples, but I want to get into one more question about the nuance between routine and ritual, what would you say distinguishes the morning coffee routine, for example, as a ritual versus being on autopilot, would you say it’s really the act of turning toward and paying attention and that’s the distinguishing factor?

Day Schildkret: I’d say, first off, look at the words, I wrote a whole part in my book about the difference between routine and ritual. So, first off, look at the words, routine says route, that’s the word, it says, or however, you want to pronounce it, root or route, it’s a point A to point B situation, it’s like a GPS. Routines are trying to get you from where you are to where you want to go, your bedtime routine, washing the dishes, putting the things away, if you have kids, putting the toys away, brushing your teeth, washing up, reading a book, getting in bed so that you can get to sleep; routines are all about destination.

Rituals have no interest in that, ritual is about transformation, not destination, so for instance, a lot of people say, my morning coffee ritual, well, that might be true, but what makes it a ritual versus a routine? So, I’ll tell you when I wrote this book, I did this really if you want to borrow this, please, I love this little ritual I invented, but I would communicate to my future selves, what does that mean? So, at nighttime, before I went to bed, I would take my coffee filter and a pencil, and I would write a phrase that I wanted my morning self to remember, something I learned from that day that I wanted to remind my morning self, and I’d leave that coffee filter out on top of my drip.

And so, I wake up and I would look in my kitchen, and on top of the dripped coffee, I’d have this beautiful reminder that I would remember as I poured my coffee. And so, that whole coffee filter was almost infusing the coffee with that remembering, and I did the same thing that morning, every morning I would write a note to myself and I’d put it under the pillow of my bed, and whatever I was remembering that morning I wanted my nighttime self to remember before he went to sleep. And these are really simple ways to pivot towards the sacred and to pivot towards remembering.

Laura Dawn: When we spoke last, you mentioned a name for the stacked rocks, what was that word?

Day Schildkret: Cairns, C A I R N S. This is a kind of New York, North American pronunciation, that word comes from, I believe Ireland, so I’m probably saying it without the right accent, but I say, Karen.

Laura Dawn: And what does that mean again? What does that define?

Day Schildkret: Cairns are, so if you go for a walk, especially in a mountain or hills, sometimes you’ll see stacks of rocks, you’ll see just a mountain of rocks, don’t touch it, maybe add to it, but don’t remove it. Why? Because the person or people that came before you are trying to tell you to not go forward, turn, they’re markers, they’re saying the trail is confusing here, don’t keep walking straight, maybe you’ll walk off the cliff, turn here. So, they’re a really interesting metaphor for what rituals are because life is like that, we just live our lives and it’s really easy to just keep on moving forward, especially in a culture that keeps on saying, just keep going, don’t stop, just keep building, keep growing.

It doesn’t ever want us to pause and Cairns basically say, actually, hold on one second, turn, turn here, don’t keep going straight, so rituals do the same thing but instead of turning, they say return, return to yourself, return to this time, return to the year, return to your family, return to your home, return to your original intentions, return to the season, whatever it is, but don’t keep going straight. Do you know those signs on the road that say, be prepared to stop? Just like that.

Laura Dawn: I feel that’s the collective metaphor of our time right now, many of us intuitively know we can’t keep going the way that we’re going, and that’s why this work is so important, more than ever. So, I love that, and I’m wondering, do you feel open to sharing a personal story about some really big transitions that you’ve been going through and how you’ve woven in ritual to help punctuate those experiences with meaning?

Day Schildkret: Yeah, I’ll share one that’s really tender, and it’s literally the first story in the introduction of my book. My mother has dementia, I just was in New York a few days ago visiting her, she’s in a memory care facility, it’s heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time, my mother is all love right now, she’s like a little girl who just wants cuddles and kisses and love, and it’s quite beautiful, and it’s also really sad. About a year and a half ago for the first time, she forgot my name, and that experience was monumental, I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t carry on with my day, I had tons of emails and phone calls and interviews, and I had dinner plans at night and all of that seemed irrelevant, this woman gave me my name and then she forgot it.

And so, I looked to my own tradition, I looked to my own culture, Jewish culture, what do I do? And Judaism was like, I don’t know, so at that moment I had to do something, I didn’t know what to do, I was heartbroken, and I honestly was so wrecked by it and so confused by it that even me as a ritualist, I was kind of groping. So, as the story goes that I wrote in the book, I grabbed two candlesticks and those candlesticks had layers and layers of wax on them, almost a stratum of stone.

And they had wax from a good friend’s birth when I lit candles to honor her giving birth to her daughter, it had wax from the time where my best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, it had wax from my other best friends who had a pandemic wedding. Lighting candles is a really easy and accessible way to mark moments, as a Jew, that is one of the most important ways we do it, so I thought to myself, I should light a candle, I should just mark this moment by lighting candles.

So, I lit the candle and I honored that moment, this moment where my mother forgot my name, but I was just like, this seems insufficient, I don’t know why, but this seems insufficient, so in the moment I basically invented a ritual, and I took out more candles and I lit each one to call in a relative that I wanted there with me, either living or dead because I was like, I don’t want to be so fucking alone in this. So, I lit a candle to honor her aunt, Miriam, and I lit a candle to honor her mother and her father and my aunt and my brother and my sister-in-law and her best friends, and so by the time I did that, my bedroom had 40 candles lit.

And I looked around and I was like, this room is so beautiful, 40 candles, it’s a lot of candles, I was living in the woods in a southern part of Salt Spring Island in Canada, and there was not a lot of outside light. And so, my room was this beautiful elegant candle-lit room and suddenly I was like, wow, I’m turning my grief into beauty.

Laura Dawn: That’s a beautiful story, oh my goodness. And just to give people some creative ideas around the doing aspect of ritual, so we might write something, we might light a candle, rip a paper, break a branch, what are some other creative ways of acting out, saying words?

Day Schildkret: Yeah. So, back to the symbolic action conversation, these are recipes. So, in the same way with food, you can refrigerate, you can freeze something, you can melt something, you can char something, you can broil, you can whatever, sauté, it’s the same thing with rituals. There are a lot of tools in your ritual recipe tool book that you can do, you can submerge, you can rip, you can tear, bury, blow away, toss, whatever.

In the book I am the chef, so I offer what I think would be a really good recipe, but I keep on saying to my reader, Hey, but you’re cooking this up, so choose what works for you, and for instance, the divorce ritual of burying the ring is not your jam, and you want to toss it into the ocean or you want to renew the ring and submerge it into water…please. Just because these are my recipes doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re good for you, for instance, I’m gluten-free, so I replace that kind of flour with gluten-free flour, it’s the same kind of metaphor, so I offer a lot of these different kinds of actions, but invent your own, this is the beautiful part about being creative, is that, for instance, there’s a chapter on sabbaticals, we all work a lot.

How often do we take a break from our work? So, a ritual for a sabbatical and inside of that, I have them bind their hands together with string, each wrapping of the string is another way of acknowledging, especially amongst your friends, how you’re bound to your work, how you’re bound to your family, how you’re bound to your routines, how you’re to money, how you’re bound to all of these things. And then the second part of the ritual is the cutting of each cord and unbinding yourself for a limited amount of time, to take that break from work, from family, from money, from all of these things.

So, the symbolic action is binding and cutting, but if that’s not your jam, create something else, so it’s really offering these ideas as an artist, as a creative, and then saying, you too, guys, you’re creative, feel into what works, feel into what inspires you. We’re all just creating eating something together.

Laura Dawn: Do you have time to share the story of the ritual you implemented after you lost your dog?

Day Schildkret: Oh, sure.

Laura Dawn: Oh, it’s such a good one.

Day Schildkret: Yeah, pet loss is, it’s shockingly underrepresented and shockingly devastating. Culturally, religiously, we really don’t do much, but it’s like if you have a pet you know that pet is your life, that pet’s your best friend. When my last dog died, I had a flight and I called the airline, did I tell you this? Okay, I did, I’ll tell your listeners, I had a flight and I called the airline and they basically were like, oh, yeah, you can cancel that flight, not a problem, and just send us the death certificate. And I said, well, I have to call my vet, it’s my dog, and they said to me, oh, that’s not your family.

That was like taking a dagger to my heart, really, not my family, she was my family, I don’t have children. So, there was a real devastation in that, and I decided to write a chapter in the book called, Rituals for Pet Loss, and there are a variety of rituals, one for the weeks before your pet’s death, how do you say goodbye? How do you not just say goodbye to your pet, but invite every friend that loves your pet to say goodbye too, that could be an opportunity for all your people to come together?

So anyway, I think the one you’re referring to is that a day after Rudy died, her leash was sitting by the front door, and this was an object, a routine object that we used every day for years, every day, every morning, every evening, same leash, it was a real routine object that had wear and tear of this everyday use, and then suddenly this everyday object had no purpose at all. And it broke my heart to think about tossing it in the garbage, so I was inspired by my own culture’s tradition, we have a tradition where when someone dies, we tear our clothing.

For those people that don’t want to tear their clothing, they get this pre-torn black ribbon that they wear over their heart, and it’s a symbol for them and for others that they’re mourning. So, I took Rudy’s leash and I cut it and I wore the little clip where it clipped onto her over my heart for a year, and this object that literally tethered us to each other became a way to still tether me to her. And that’s a great example of turning a routine object into a ritual.

Laura Dawn: That’s beautiful, thank you so much for sharing. I don’t know if you know this, Day, but one of the programs I teach is actually around microdosing morning rituals, and how we bring in these really powerful plant teachers and not just go into the routine of microdosing, where psychedelics are now entering a cultural context where there’s a Western medicalized context here of just pop a pill, treat the symptoms.

Day Schildkret: Happy to know by the way that this hello, goodbye, I microdosed every morning.

Laura Dawn: Okay, well, that’s what I wanted to ask you because I was like, I’m so curious, what’s your relationship to microdosing and to plant medicine? And I haven’t really heard you speak about that publicly, but I’m actually going to make this part of the program, required reading for the program, is to encourage all my students to purchase this book, which I just want to support so much.

Day Schildkret: Yeah. I have a very, as you probably do, a long and winding road involving plant medicines, I’d say the first plant medicine that I partook in culturally was wine, that is my culture’s plant medicine, we bless wine at many occasions, this is our medicine of transformation. What I particularly love about wine, by the way, is that it’s a medicine that takes lots of grapes and it reduces it down into wine, so the real medicine, the transformation is about taking kind of an overabundance and deepening it, wine is about deepening.

So, that’s the first plant medicine that I’ve ever encountered and used ritually, and I have my own relationship with Ayahuasca, having gone to Peru to drink that, and I have a, I’d say past relationship with marijuana, but it’s not really a part of my, it’s not really my teacher, except now it might be around bedtime. But I’d say the medicine that is the most friendly to me and the one that I rely upon as a companion and a friend is Psilocybin, and so every morning with that cup of coffee, I would microdose a little bit of Pscilacybin when writing this book.

And that was a sanctification moment, a moment to really turn toward the earth, I turned toward the earth in lots of ways, I had a ritual of going to the sea every morning before writing this book, and I write about that in the book. But in terms of microdosing with mushrooms, that was a moment for me to turn towards this plant ally, and to say this is not just about me, this is calling in lots of different allies to help the spirit of this book come through.

And so, and coffee also, by the way, is a plant ally to me, and so within my alchemy and chemistry, they played well together and by the way, plant medicine is not just, I don’t believe it’s something that we ingest, I create nature alters, and that is food that is medicine, but it’s not to be taken in by me, it’s actually plant medicine back to the land. And so, I think we have to really expand our understanding of what this medicine is in a much more creative way and to see that we are ingesting this medicine, but also we’re not the only ones and we have to feed the thing that feeds us.

And this is the first time, by the way, that I’m kind of coming out publicly about microdosing, and that’s part of my, there were years and years ago, I came out publicly about my sexuality, and that was enormous support about that, and there was this moment of, what does my work have to do with being queer? And then it was this, it has everything to do with it, and so, what does my work have to do with plant medicine? Everything.

Laura Dawn: I love that, oh my gosh. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Dr. Bruce Lipton and his work, ‘Biology of Belief’, he also came out of the psychedelic closet for the first time ever on this podcast. He said he wouldn’t have discovered epigenetics if it weren’t for Psilocybin, I was like, wow, that’s pretty big.

Day Schildkret: Yeah. And it also helps us to remember that we’re not sitting at the top of the pyramid, we’re in a much bigger world, much bigger world than we think we’re in, and these plants are our teachers, and they’re our great rememberers, they’re our great reminders of how big, how enormous, how vast it is, how mysterious it is. And hopefully, we’re humbled by that, and in the same way, I spoke about hospitality, to show up to this plant with gifts and gratitude and praise and try and feed the thing that feeds us.

Laura Dawn: Yes. Yes. I so appreciate that, and it’s this bridge that I just, yeah, I want to arrive at this one other aspect of ritual that I haven’t asked you about yet. But when I work with microdosing in the morning, and I really tend to the sacred and engage in my practices, and then when I sit down to create content or write, I’ve also published a couple of books, and I know what it takes to dedicate to that. And then I would really open my work practice with a ritual by actually connecting to this greater life-force, and may I step out of the way so my channel can open, and I’m curious, do you have work rituals that you’ve explored?

Day Schildkret: Sure, yeah. For instance, writing this book, it was just really one ritual after the next, but one of the biggest ones was, I had a room for writing, I lived in a tiny house in the southern tip of Salt Spring Island in Canada, I literally lived across the street from the sea and down the street from a First Nation’s Reserve, and that’s a whole other story about how the pandemic led me there. But anyway, I had this one room in a tiny house where I was writing and I, of course, had an altar on the floor, and I had different candles around the room to honor the directions.

And so, there was a lot of ritual around lighting that altar and what each direction stood for, what I was calling in through that direction, and also speaking of plant medicines, I burn Sweet Grass also as an attractor. This is something that was taught to me by an elder from the Shoshone tribe, about the importance of burning Sweet Grass, and if you do burn sweet grass, it’s good to learn what it’s for, its purpose, it’s how to respect it, how to honor it, how to give back to it, not just take from it. But anyway, I burned Sweet Grass as I did this morning, and I moved in my room in a certain direction, lighting these candles, and then I would sing a song, and reminding myself.

I think it’s important to remember, you mentioned this before in our conversations, something about things getting stale, or routines kind of feeling a little bit by rote, taking them for granted, and one of the songs I would sing is an old African American spiritual called, This May be the Last Time.

Laura Dawn: Do you feel like singing it, what’s a line of it? Let’s hear it.

Day Schildkret: Because this may be the last time, this may be the last time children, this may be the last time, may be the last time, I don’t know. Like that. And this song always pops me out of taking that moment for granted, what if this is the last day I had to write this book? Suddenly, I light the candles, I sing the song, and I sit down and I’m like, if this is the last day, this is the last time, I’m going to fucking write a great book. And that’s all I have to say about it, I’m like, if it’s the last day, I’m going to approach this thing with lots of wonder.

Laura Dawn: And to do it for the joy of coming alive in the moment, and being in the process of it, and I think that’s such a, I just want to emphasize that point right now because there are just also so many people who do the thing to get to the destination, which you touched on, like the routine to get to the destination, but ritual is alchemical, it’s transformational. And that’s the process of exactly how I relate to creativity, that’s what I study in graduate school, it’s creativity studies, and so it’s this alchemical catalyst and just to do it because that unique genius gets to move through your being, and that’s how we come alive and make meaning in our lives on a much deeper level.

Day Schildkret: Yeah, get out of the way, create the environment, that’s almost a courtship that attracts the spirit that you’re looking for, and then get out of the way.

Laura Dawn: Right. Right. I love that, courtship. I also love Salt Spring Island, I don’t know if you know this.

Day Schildkret: Oh, you do?

Laura Dawn: Yes, I’m Canadian, I grew up in Montreal, and I spent years and years out west in British Columbia, all over, the interior, Christina Lake, yes, and on the islands and up in Powell River, one of my dear sisters, Autumn Sky Morrison, is up in Powell River. Yeah.

Day Schildkret: One of my homes and that island has claimed me, and unfortunately there’s a thing called borders that says I’m American, not Canadian, and so I can’t live in the place that has claimed me, one of the places that have claimed me. And so, I can only return and that island is magic, and the last sentence of my acknowledgments in the book is calling the island by one of her indigenous names, Wenenec, which is a South Nation’s name for her and honoring her and the gifts that she gave me every day when I was there.

Laura Dawn: That’s exactly how I also feel about Pele, I spent the last 10 years on the big island of Hawaii, and she taught me about the paradox of creative, construction, and destruction, the creation and destruction, and holding that paradox and the beauty of impermanence. Which is actually such a full circle to where we started because that’s really the essence of what that island taught me, is how to actually bow at the altar of impermanence after spending years building a volcanic hot spring retreat center and putting blood, sweat, and tears into that, and then the volcanic eruption happened and changed our lives instantly.

And here I am on the mainland, it’s, yeah, mind-blowing, and also this is the time to actually make peace with this fact that there is no ground to stand on right now, and that’s the paradox that actually ritual can root us into a ground within our being that isn’t solid.

Day Schildkret: The thing that your and my story have in common is we’re both lovers of islands, and so in a groundless ocean ritual offers us a temporary island to stand on.

Laura Dawn: I like that. I know, I’ve been playing with this metaphor, are you familiar with Pema’s teachings of groundlessness? And how the root cause of suffering is always trying to find ground to stand on, so I’ve been playing with this metaphor of the ground within our being that’s not physical, but I also like this island metaphor as well.

Day Schildkret: There’s a man by the name of rabbi, Joshua Heschel, who in reference to Shabbat, our Sabbath, he calls it an island in time. And so, I borrowed slash was inspired by that phrase, and I use that in the book to describe ritual, as it’s an island in time and place because really it is all impermanent, it is all changing, but we can create these little places to stand on and orient ourselves and say, where am I? Whoa, that just changed, where am I? And you do need a place to stand on, albeit temporarily, and so you can get oriented and then change direction.

Laura Dawn: Right. Yeah. I love this inquiry, and then it also seems like, oh, yeah, everything is always changing moment by moment in our individual lives, but we do go through these more significant transition portals where it’s like, whoa, way upheaval or the loss of someone that we love. And it seems that’s kind of what we’re going through collectively right now, it’s like, oh, the big, big portal of transition.

Day Schildkret: Well, imagine if we all collectively could learn how to ritualize our global transitions, rather than resisting climate change or resisting our government’s actions or the opposite, which is just turning away from and ignoring. What if we can head down into, I don’t know if you’re aware of the word catastrophe, this is a great word to learn, do you know about this word?

Laura Dawn: No, let’s cover it.

Day Schildkret: So, it involves two words, cata, and strophe. Cata is literally the part of the music when you’re listening to a song and it kind of, like classical music, it gets really loud, and then it kind of goes down into the new part, it gets soft; and that’s cata, it literally means down and in. And “catastrophe”, the strophe part means to plate or to braid.

Laura Dawn: Oh my gosh, I love it.

Day Schildkret: Like a road or a rope.

Laura Dawn: Or like sweet grass.

Day Schildkret: Yeah. So, the word catastrophe doesn’t mean this horrible thing that’s happening, learn the word, it actually means the time where the road or rope that leads us down and into the next thing, like the underworld. Down and in for transformation, whoa, well, that’s not something we want to avoid, actually, tons of myths talk about those moments of going down, that’s all the hero’s journey, or initiation, down and into the next thing. So, that requires totally new skills and new resources and new ways of being in the world when we’re in the underworld, so don’t fear catastrophe, this is not the time to be scared, this is the time to access new skills and to come together and to mark the entering in and down.

Laura Dawn: It’s actually so funny because that is the exact narrative of my seven-week course with the shift, is that this is a time where we have a new journey ahead, and it’s not about turning away from it, it’s actually about what are the skillsets, the mindsets and the heartsets that we need now to move through this next phase of the journey and how to.

Day Schildkret: And isn’t it cool that the words themselves are telling us how to do it?

Laura Dawn: It’s amazing, I love this love. You’re really inspiring me to get more into the root of words, I love that, I love it so much. Gosh, is there anything else that you feel inspired to share before we wrap up right now?

Day Schildkret: I’ll share the last thing that my dad told me before he died, which is keep the faith, keep on, like practice, keep on showing up, keep on putting it down, keep on building, keep on making beauty, keep on letting go, keep on returning. It’s the repetition piece that’s really important right now, and the more we can do it together the better, the more we’re not isolated and alone, this culture is really tearing us apart. So, the more we can come together, make beauty together, grieve together, celebrate together, make things together, share food together, the better, so keep keeping the faith, the underworld is dark, it’s not about seeing with your eyes.

Laura Dawn: Totally. Totally. Yeah, it’s like this line that I like to say, a crisis can be the catalyst for transformation and darkness is an ally. It’s actually into the abyss that we actually open up a different eye, our inner eye, and that’s where we can create from because we’re not sort of sucked into the illusion of the 3D reality and playing in, it’s like we get to go into a blank canvas and create from the mind in that place.

Day Schildkret: I’ll give your listeners and you a teaser, not going to share this, it’s a teaser, buy the book, which is the word crisis doesn’t mean what you think it does.

Laura Dawn: Okay.

Day Schildkret: It’s a clue and a spell.

Laura Dawn: Okay. I’m so encouraging everyone to buy the book. Yes, I so appreciate you, Day, and I just, I feel you’re just family, I’m going to hang out with you at some point in person, I’m really looking forward to that day.

Day Schildkret: And giving thanks to East Forest for bringing us together, I think.

Laura Dawn: Yeah. Yeah, it was East Forest.

Day Schildkret: Yeah. And also just kind of the unknown and unexpected ways that we met and may this be the beginning of many collaborations.

Laura Dawn: Yes, thank you so much, Day. I so appreciate it.

Day Schildkret: Thank you for asking such great questions, and for being such a good host to me.

Laura Dawn: Aww, you’re so welcome, such a joy, and I really appreciate it, I feel like every time I have, not in every conversation, but there are quite a lot of conversations that I really feel I’m receiving someone’s deep transmission. And I actually just feel really honored that you offer that, that you’re offering your energy and that you’re really expressing yourself from that place, and that I’m receiving that in real-time, so I feel actually deeply honored and grateful to be in this shared moment with you.

Day Schildkret: It’s mutual.

Laura Dawn: Awesome. Okay, sweetie, have a beautiful rest of your day, and we’ll be in touch soon.

Day Schildkret: Okay.

Laura Dawn: Okay. Bye, sweetie. Aloha.

Day Schildkret: Bye, you too.

Outro: Hi, friends, thank you so much for tuning in to another episode of the Psychedelic Leadership Podcast. If you’ve been enjoying the show, I would sincerely appreciate it if you could take a few moments to leave me a review on iTunes, please subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you know someone who might benefit from tuning into this show, or this episode featuring Day, talking about the power of rituals, then I encourage you to send it to a friend or to share one of your favorite episodes on social media.

If you share this episode on Instagram, you can tag me at livefreelaurad or if you feel inspired to reach out and get in touch, I love hearing from people who are listening to the show. You can send me a DM on Instagram, once again at livefreelaurad, or reach out and send me a message through my website, lauradawn.co. If you’d like to access all of the resources mentioned in this episode and learn more about Day and his work, you can find all of those resources, including a full transcript and the featured musician at lauradawn.co/44.

I’m going to leave you with this song called The Offering by Aea Luz. Once again, my name is Laura Dawn, and you’re listening to the Psychedelic Leadership Podcast, until next.


Day Schildkret


Day Schildkret is internationally renowned as the author, artist and teacher behind the Morning Altars movement, inspiring tens of thousands of people to make life more beautiful and meaningful through ritual, nature and art. BuzzFeed calls his work, “a celebration of nature and life.”

With nearly 100K followers on social media and sold-out workshops, installations, trainings, and public speaking events worldwide, Day is a thought-leader devoted to healing the culture by teaching people to ritualize the big and small moments of our work and our lives.

Day is the author of the up-coming book, Hello, Goodbye: 75 Rituals for Times of Loss, Celebration and Change (Simon Element), hitting #1 on Amazon for two days straight, as well as the author of Morning Altars: A 7-Step Practice to Nourish Your Spirit through Nature, Art and Ritual (Countryman Press). 

Day has taught workshops and created installations at Google, The 9/11 Memorial Plaza, The Hammerstein Ballroom, The Andy Warhol Foundation, California Academy of Sciences, Esalen, and many others. 

His work has been featured on NBC, CBS, Buzzfeed, Vice, Well+Good, My Modern Met and four times in Spirituality & Health Magazine.

More about Day at morningaltars.com and dayschildkret.com

Featured Music

This Episode of the Psychedelic Leadership Podcast features two songs called
The Offering by Aea Luz.

Aea Luz - The Offering

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About Laura Dawn

Through her signature Mastermind Programs and Plant Medicine Retreats, Laura Dawn weaves together science with ancient wisdom. She teaches business and thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, and creative professionals how to mindfully explore psychedelics and sacred plant medicines as powerful visionary tools for inner transformation, fostering emotional resiliency and unlocking new depths to our creative potential.