Along roughly 12,000 miles of United States coastline, ocean waves reliably keep time as they wash over ever-changing shores. In a seemingly non-stop world, it can be difficult to justify slowing down, being aware of and marking the passage of time rather than just existing day by day until all of a sudden the end of another year is upon us and we’re wondering what happened to the past 365 days.
That’s where Pam Packard and Candace Ryan come in. Packard is a Life-Cycle Celebrant ® who has been performing ceremonies to mark important milestones in her clients’ lives since 2010 through Mountain Song Ceremonies while Ryan is the owner of Soulstice Life, a holistic healing organization that offers sound baths for those looking to de-stress. The two came up with the idea to collaborate in marking dates such as the full moon or solstice with intention in 2015.
“We are a very in-the-moment society,” Packard says. “Those of us who do yoga and stuff like that, we’re always told that the now is what really matters, and I find sometimes that what happens is we tend to forget what the now felt like just a few months ago. And just a few months ago, it was very dry here and we so longed for water, and then the fires came and now we have sandbags everywhere and people are really afraid of the water.”
Following a dry season on the Colorado Plateau and in the wake of the Museum Fire, it seemed obvious to Packard that this year’s ceremony should be rooted in water with a symbolic hand washing to let go of what’s left of 2019.
“I always like to try to connect with what’s going on in the community and I want people to remember how much we value water and we respect water, and when it comes, let’s hope for no damage of course,” Packard says. “Just remember that the cycles and the seasons are always changing, and we’re going get through it like we always do.”
This year marks Packard and Ryan’s third ritual and sound bath to say farewell to the old year and welcome in the new one. But it’s not necessarily a solemn event. The two, in an effort to combat misconceptions, want to emphasize to newcomers that this is more about building community and finding moments of peace than giving others a strict outline on how to live out the new year.
One of their favorite things to do following the ceremony is ask everyone gathered to howl like wolves.
“It is so fun,” Packard says. “We started it, of course, with the full moon ceremonies, but people loved it so much that we do it at New Year’s Eve as well.”
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“It’s such a release, and it’s the only time you can howl when you’re out and no one’s going to call the cops on you,” Ryan says with a laugh. “So there’s a freedom, you know.”
The two are proud of the community they’ve been able to build over the years, with people coming back time and time again.
“We do have so many opportunities to go to a bar and socialize,” Packard says. “We have so many opportunities to ski and hike and go to yoga, but to come together in a very non-threatening community [is rarer].”
“It’s a space where you can come and sort of just leave stuff there, you know,” Ryan adds.
Ryan was gifted crystal singing bowls in 2012, and has since been exploring the healing power of sound. While some sound baths may incorporate other instruments like voice, drums or even didgeridoo, Ryan prefers to simply use her collection of crystal bowls and bronze gongs, gently striking each in turn and allowing the sound to resonate, creating pure waves that are felt all over.
Deep tones from the larger bowls blend with the clear, bright pitches emitted from smaller bowls, swirling in the air above participants as they sit or lay down, some relaxing deeply enough to fall into a light sleep while the sound washes over them.
Outside of hosting these community events, both Packard and Ryan enjoy finding time on their own to mark the passage of time. For Ryan, something as simple as being present while she drinks her morning coffee can be grounding. Really, a moment of silence is all we can ask for amid the crashing waves of everyday life.
The New Year’s Eve Ceremony and Sound Bath will be held Tuesday, Dec. 31, at the Northern Arizona Yoga Center, 113 S. San Francisco St., beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Participants are asked to bring a yoga mat and blanket to sit on, as supplies will be limited. Visit www.northernarizonayogacenter.com for tickets and more information.