Asking For Help

Phoenix From The Ashes

Shadow.Ash.Spirit.Flame. - Gabriel García Márquez

Last November I finally told my Dad about my decision to give up alcohol. He’d never really known about my binge drinking or about everything that had happened because of it, mostly because we were not really close for most of my adult life and did not see each other that often. There were a couple of times when in desperate need for peace I asked him to take me to see healers or guides but I never really told him why and he did not ask. So, last November I explained to him that February 2nd, 2016 would be the anniversary of a life-altering decision I made in 2014. I asked him if he would have a thanksgiving hawan (prayer) for me. He said yes, simply and quietly.

Two weeks before Christmas Dad fell sick with pneumonia. It was really bad and on the fourth day the doctor told him there was nothing more he could do. Now, my father is very stubborn and may have decided to fight his illness just to prove the doctor wrong. For whatever reason, he pulled through and even though extremely weakened and still on oxygen and drips twice per week, he was up on Christmas Day, enough to have a few pieces of fruit on the family lunch table. As the days in January rolled by I had decided that I would not burden him with having the hawan for me, so when he called a week ago to ask if I would still like to have it, I was surprised and very moved. I asked him if he was sure he was up to the task and he said that he believed it would be good for him too. It would be a thanksgiving for both of us.

A hawan is a sacred purifying ritual, in which a sacrificial fire is built in a kund, and specific ingredients are burned according to Ayurvedic tradition. These fire ceremonies are performed for all types of occasions: to let go of patterns and obstacles in our lives, for healing, purification of the environment and ourselves, to pray for success with a particular venture, or to express gratitude. Before we began my father welcomed our guests and started to explain why we had gathered together. But the only words he managed to get out were “my daughter” before he was overwhelmed with emotion. I think it moved him that I’d struggled and ‘come home’, perhaps proving him wrong in believing that he failed as a father by never providing a “home” for his daughters to return to. I spoke up and explained that I’d made a choice two years ago which turned my life around and that I felt it best to honour what I’d been given. With my second chance and Dad’s health, our ceremony was a thanksgiving for my life and for his.

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Having not been brought up in the Hindu faith, even though my father is Hindu, I don’t remember much from my childhood in terms of the significance of the ingredients used and of the meaning of the mantras (prayers in Sanskrit) but my stepsister sat right next to me and guided me along.

The mango tree is a symbol of love, prosperity and fertility, and on Sunday it provided the kindling for our fire. Ghee (purified butter) was used to feed the fire and signified light being brought into our lives. Several little blocks of camphor was burned throughout the ritual. Camphor represents the negative qualities in us and when camphor burns, it leaves no trace. Guggul is a resin formed from the sap of the guggul tree, and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over two thousand years. It too, shrinks and removes negative energies. Sweet rice was added to the kund too as rice is symbolic of wealth and success.

Samagri is a mixture of spices and each item of the samagri is significant. Ashoka, considered to be sacred tree, is also a herb that fights disease. Loban (frankincense) creates positive energies, creating a seal locking out the inflow of negative. Harmal seeds crackle on being heated, acting like grenades and explosives in the energy field, and drive away the negative astral energies in the environment. Specific Sanskrit mantras were chanted and sung too and these, together with the offerings to the fire create purifying vibrations that are beneficial to all present.

As the fire burned, the fragrant aromas triggered happy childhood memories of running through bamboo arches with deyas full of light, of delicious food and lots of family.

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Can you see the Phoenix? 🙂

I stared at the flames as they danced in the kund, charring the mango wood black then white. Dad spooned ghee over the ingredients yet to burn and pushed the camphor into unlit corners to ignite. There was forgiveness in those flames and hope in the heat I felt on my face. It is said that the smoke that rises from the kund contains a powerful healing energy, and as it rises to the heavens it purifies the atmosphere, both physically and subtly, encouraging peace.

For the last mantras (the ones I am the most fond of because they resonate with me, reminding me of a forgotten time) we rose to our feet. As the others sang I was very quiet, focused on the kund and what was left of the fire. I felt all my mistakes and my shame, guilt and remorse about them, reduced to black ash. I felt a surge of gratitude for all I have learned, for the courage and strength I was given, for all the new blogging friends I’ve made and the relationships with loved ones I was given the chance to deepen. I looked across at my father and he smiled at me. I am so thankful for this second chance. Late morning breezes began to blow, stirring the coconut and fruit trees in our garden into action. I felt love and reassurances all around me, from family, friends, the sky and sunshine, from myself.  Through tears I watched as the wind swirled, picking up the ash and carrying away everything I no longer needed.

“Happy New Year Phoenix, Year 3 is going to be even better.”

Love and light to you all, Phoenix

Reconnect with Loved Ones

Toph and Korra

Toph: Your problem is, you’ve been disconnected for too long. Disconnected from the people who love you and disconnected from yourself.

Whenever I’m going through something difficult I have a tendency to pull away from loved ones. Especially in the past when I was still drinking. Sometimes it was because I felt ashamed or guilty for how I behaved and apologizing was too uncomfortable to deal with. Other times it was because I wanted to punish myself further and reinforce feeling alone. In other words I wanted to keep feeling sorry for myself. Sometimes I simply wanted space to figure things out, which is fair. But staying away for too long never did me any good.

I used to think that pulling away from loved ones would allow me to ignore my issues, but it didn’t. Over time and through much heartache, I learned that I can’t run away from the people who love me because in the end I need them as much as they need me. We are connected and share a bond because we were meant to be there for one another. Some journeys we cannot undertake alone and we should not put pressure on ourselves to do so.

I’ve learned that it is important to find a group of people (family members, friends, blogging community) who are willing to share your journey, cheering you on, caring for you, learning with you and helping you to heal. It is as important to also allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to ask for help. I did not do that in the past. I was ashamed and did not reach out when I really needed to. I equated vulnerability with weakness when it is actually the opposite. It takes strength to reach out and admit that we need help.

On that note, I am listening.
Love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

This is Post R, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

The Choice Is Yours

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There comes a point where you realize that you can’t blame anyone but yourself for the way you feel about things that happen to you or for the place you’re at. You’re unhappy and frustrated in that crappy and unfulfilling job because you chose to stay. You think you don’t have career options because you chose to procrastinate on revamping your resume and sending it out. You’re left holding the short end of a broken relationship because you chose not to see the warning signs. You’re unhappy about your weight because you didn’t make that commitment to yourself to just start exercising, even at home, to one of those shows on FitTV. You’re unhappy with your health because you chose to skip the fruits and veggies you love. You’re disappointed and fed up with yourself because you were afraid to accept the fact that you have a problem with alcohol. So there it is: you only have yourself to blame.

But then you realize ‘blame’ is too harsh a word. Yes, you are responsible for the choices you make, but owning up to those choices and then choosing how you react to the emotions and feelings they bring is also up to you. You can choose to judge yourself harshly and walk about cursing the day, scaring the hell out of small children and motorists. You can choose to wallow in self pity and cry “It’s not fair!” into your pillow at night. You can choose to be a victim or a warrior and fight for the person you know you can be.

You can choose to understand that your feelings of dissatisfaction, frustration and disappointment are all indicators that you are not where you are meant to be. You can choose to man-up (or woman-up) and own and understand your feelings, not bury them or let them overwhelm you, but instead allow them to push you to make the necessary changes. You can choose to recognize that awareness is only half the battle, WILL is what will get you where you need to go. You can choose to accept responsibility for yourself and get help. You can choose to stay the course and not give in. You alone can motivate yourself to change your situation, whatever it may be. The choice is yours.

Phoenix