Faith

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

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Walking the Path

Morpheus Knowing the Path.jpg

Why is it so very hard to do what we’re supposed to do, as in what’s best for us? Especially when we know what we have to do?? Why is that so tough? I mean, you would think it would be easy because its common sense, to walk a certain path which I know is the right path. So why is it so tempting to retrace our steps on an old path? Is it a fear of what the new path may hold, or the familiarity of the ‘old’ path? Most people make the mistake of thinking that they’re making the right choice by going back, simply because it’s so familiar that it feels comfortable and ‘right’, even though it usually isn’t. Comfort in familiarity and all that. But if I am aware of the fear, the comfort of familiarity and all the rest of it, already why do I do this?

Sometimes I feel like I sabotage myself over and over. It’s as though whenever I feel I’m on the verge of doing something great or being something great, (and I don’t mean ‘great’ like finding a cure for AIDS, or Cancer, solving the problem of Global Warming, or writing the novel of the century, I’m referring to something meaningful, purposeful, and fulfilling, that could make me, and others around me, happy), this is usually the point where I slowly but surely turn on my heel and step in the opposite direction. Sometimes I even run! It’s annoying, frustrating and depressing. I know I have issues with self-worth and believing that I deserve more, but shouldn’t loving myself and believing in myself grow with time and practice?

Master Planner or Procrastinator?

I have recognized that one of my problems is that I’m a ‘master planner’. Once I see that something needs ‘fixing’, I’ll get all excited about it and come up with a great plan! I think: “Yay, PROJECT!” Then once the plan is on paper, I feel happy that I have a plan and then immediately hit the brakes for a while because I’m no longer frustrated or unhappy. That’s my cycle. I’m really worried, because here I am planning again, making My New Life lists, and jotting down notes in my Happy Me journal, and bookmarking Work From Home websites, and then, stalling. I am this close to leaving my job, yet I have not sent out proposals to get my new career going, even though I have five potential clients lined up! I should be grateful and honour these opportunities by giving them my all. (Teeny tiny voice in my head: What if my all isn’t good enough?)

Sometimes I just think it comes down to habits to break. Maybe it’s as simple as that and maybe I just have to break the ‘bad’ thinking habits too. The thing is, unless I cultivate good habits to replace them, I’ll always have time for ‘bad’ habits. What puzzles me is despite the fact that I know what I have to do, and I know what will make my life better, I just don’t do it. I read something yesterday:

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” (Marianne Williamson).

Which brings me back to what I was talking about, why am I so afraid to take that step? A line from a song I heard this morning goes: “That first step you take is the longest stride.” Maybe that’s true. I was talking to a good friend of mine about all of this and I told him that I don’t like the fact that I haven’t been able to get it together and annoyed that every time I feel like I’m progressing, I fall back. He asked me what I thought I wasn’t ‘getting together’. I had to think about it because I wanted to be honest with myself. What I’ve been running away from is the same three things for years: recognizing my purpose; loving myself; and allowing myself to be loved the way that I deserve to be loved.

Fear

I know I hold myself back, out of fear mostly. Fear of being out of my comfort zone, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of opening myself up to love, fear of getting hurt. All of these fears fill my mind and stop me from moving forward, toward new adventures. They take up so much space in my mind and heart, leaving little room for appreciating what I do have and what I do know, and even less room for hope and promise.

Let Go?

A lot has been shifting and changing with me for the past couple of weeks and is a source of inner turmoil, but what if this is  an opportunity for release as well? I am trying so hard to steer the ship so to speak that what if there is incredible freedom when I let the rudder go? What if I surrender to what will be and not try to predict the weather and make adjustments to suit. What if I choose to focus on what makes me happy and fulfilled and give up on worrying about the dark sea beneath or about keeping my ship afloat. What if I allow myself to enjoy the anticipation of huge rolling wave and the excitement of the ride. What if I trust in all the work I’ve done over the last couple of years and have faith that a greater plan has been put in motion? What if I choose to follow my heart and allow the mystery of my journey and destination to unfold?

What if? Indeed. 🙂

https://youtu.be/13WAhlE02ew

~*~

On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is fast approaching and my January posts, inspired by fictional philosophers who’ve inspired me with their bad-ass thoughts, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.

 

If I Should Have A Daughter

B (If I Should Have a Daughter)
by Sarah Kay

Instead of “Mom”, she’s gonna call me “Point B.” Because that way, she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me. And I’m going to paint the solar system on the back of her hands so that she has to learn the entire universe before she can say “Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.”

She’s gonna learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air. There is hurt, here, that cannot be fixed by band-aids or poetry, so the first time she realizes that Wonder-woman isn’t coming, I’ll make sure she knows she doesn’t have to wear the cape all by herself. Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I’ve tried.

And “Baby,” I’ll tell her “don’t keep your nose up in the air like that, I know that trick, you’re just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to a burning house so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him. Or else, find the boy who lit the fire in the first place to see if you can change him.”

But I know that she will anyway, so instead I’ll always keep an extra supply of chocolate and rain boots nearby, because there is no heartbreak that chocolate can’t fix. Okay, there are a few heartbreaks chocolate can’t fix. But that’s what the rain boots are for, because rain will wash away everything if you let it.

I want her to see the world through the underside of a glass bottom boat, to look through a magnifying glass at the galaxies that exist on the pin point of a human mind. Because that’s how my mom taught me. That there’ll be days like this, “There’ll be days like this my momma said” when you open your hands to catch and wind up with only blisters and bruises. When you step out of the phone booth and try to fly and the very people you wanna save are the ones standing on your cape. When your boots will fill with rain and you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment and those are the very days you have all the more reason to say “thank you,” ‘cause there is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it’s sent away.

You will put the “wind” in win some lose some, you will put the “star” in starting over and over, and no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.

And yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting I am pretty damn naive but I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily but don’t be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.

“Baby,” I’ll tell her “remember your mama is a worrier and your papa is a warrior and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.”

Remember that good things come in threes and so do bad things and always apologize when you’ve done something wrong but don’t you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining.

Your voice is small but don’t ever stop singing and when they finally hand you heartache, when they slip war and hatred under your door and hand you hand-outs on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.

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Open Mind and an Open Heart

Zuko_and_Iroh_at_the_Western_Air_Temple

Uncle Iroh: You know, Prince Zuko, destiny is a funny thing. You never know how things are going to work out. But if you keep an open mind and an open heart, I promise you will find your own destiny someday.

In 2011 during a particularly enlightening yoga workshop I recognized my purpose: I knew with absolute certainty that my purpose in life was to help people heal through creative expression. I had no idea how to do it but I saw myself thriving if I found a way to fulfill that purpose. I talked to people in the field who I trusted and respected, and sought advice from business owners. I created a Project Scrapbook and in it wrote daily, all of my plans and ideas, colouring and highlighting them with sketches and drawings and dreams.

By the end of that year, after the disastrous break-up of a dysfunctional co-dependent relationship, I was drinking often. Too often of course, but I did not see that back then. I did not know, as I do now, that my drinking was fostering fear and uncertainty in my life. I was using it as an escape and all it ever did was stop me from tidying up my side of the street. Hell, it kept me from tidying up my little space on this Earth. Tidying it up and preparing it for it’s true purpose. My Project Scrapbook stayed closed for a long time. I could not find a way to believe in myself and kept my mind and heart closed. I was afraid that I would never do anything worthwhile and that my life, that I, was worthless. So I stopped dreaming. I was in despair and I did not even know it.

Goethe says, “Take care of your body with steadfast fidelity. The soul must see through these eyes alone, and if they are dim, the whole world is clouded.”

This quote means so much to me now.  In February 2014 when I quit drinking I focused all of my attention on dealing with early sobriety and the onslaught of reality checks and emotions it brought with it. I focused on understanding the changes I was going through and on getting healthy. I began tidying my little space. I moved into a smaller apartment, paid off my debts, and made practical plans for my financial future. I worked on my spirit too. As I began to feel healthier, my mind cleared as did my intuition. I started to trust myself more and had decided to let my heart lead me where it would. I felt the pull and tug of certain workshops and classes and I followed with an open mind and an open heart, sometimes not knowing what to expect, but never regretting the decision to attend. Without the physical, psychological and emotional fallout from drinking, there is more space and time in my life for opening doors and widening avenues on my true path.

Four years have passed since that eight week yoga workshop and although my initial venture did not blossom, I am as sure as ever that my destiny lies on this path. I’m going after my dreams again. This time with excitement instead of anxiety, with faith instead of fear, with gratitude instead of despair, and with confidence that I am open to the possibilities.

“We think when we stop drinking that we are giving up a mind-expanding substance, when in fact sobriety is the true freedom, and opens up new horizons beyond anything we could have dreamt.” ~ Primrose

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This is Post O, 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.