I have tried many times over the past few weeks to sit down and write a new post, but with the busy-ness of the holidays and stresses of life, I have been feeling increasingly uninspired. Unlike my usual outlook of “change and challenge are exciting adventures!”, I’m feeling more like “how am I ever going to make all these pieces fit together?”
Of course, there have been moments of joy, and even peace, spent with loved ones and in nature, and I am reminded daily of all that I am grateful for, but mostly I’m feeling overwhelmed.
Being overwhelmed is not something that happens to me very often, and so I find that instead of being more gentle with myself about it, I push my already drowning self under with guilt and contempt. The result is me gasping for air I feel unworthy of breathing. How silly is that?
I am a student of New Thought theologies and if you know anything at all about New Thought, you know that everything I have said up to this point is as about anti-New Thought as you can get.
New Thought = I am good. I am strong. I am worthy. I am divine.
Me right now = I am a whining wimp.
So, I’m a member of my local Unity Church and we had our annual Burning Bowl Ceremony last Sunday. The Burning Bowl ceremony is a fire ritual that has been a part of the Unity tradition for about 50 years. It is a ritual that provides a sacred way to release old, unwanted conditions, feelings or events in our lives and clears the way for new beginnings. Most Unity churches perform this ceremony on the first Sunday of the new year as a way of purging griefs and troubles before beginning the creation of a new reality for the coming year. We purge ourselves of unwanted habits, memories, and feelings by reducing those words on paper to smoke and ash. The smoke rises into the atmosphere, far away from us, carrying our burdens with it to the Creator where they are overcome by Love. And the ashes can then become for us a symbol of rebirth and renewal.
I was the facilitator/speaker for our service this year, leading the congregation in this re-birthing of our church and ourselves. It was a beautiful service and I was hoping that in the process of writing and leading this ceremony, I, too would be reinvigorated and inspired, but that didn’t happen. In fact, something much sadder occurred; I felt relief that the service was over and it was one more thing I could check off my list of “to do’s”. How disheartening.
I keep thinking I just need more sleep or a sunny day or a good movie or a cuddle with my dog or pizza or chocolate or whatever. Or I think maybe my depression is back and I need to talk with my doctor about increasing my medication or I need to go back to seeing my therapist or I need to meditate more or do yoga.
But what I really think is that within the past two months (which is a relatively short period of time) my entire life has begun a drastic change, and while I’m really looking forward to what’s coming, I haven’t really done my proper grieving for what’s been. How can I ask myself to purge the past when I still need to do my inner little memorial service/celebration of life for it? How can I possibly arise anew from the ashes of the Burning Bowl, like a Phoenix taking flight, when the heaviness of my grief holds me tightly by the ankles?
So what is the moral of this story? Stop whining, be gentle with myself and take the time I need to fully process the changes taking place in my life. Yes, I feel that my calling is to minister to others, but sometimes that can’t happen until I minister to myself. How much of a “doh!” moment is that? With a degree in psychology and several years of mindfulness therapy, this seems like a no-brainer, but I think one of the great abuses our current society/culture heaps upon us is that there is no time for self-care and expressing grief is weak.
So, as my first “resolution” of this new year, I endeavor to tell society to f@#k off, ask everyone and everything in my life to wait just a moment, and close my eyes and breathe. And cry. Maybe throw something, hit something, kick something, scream, yell, rend my garments, tear out my hair, keen a song of grief to the Universe.
And only then can I emerge from my crouch within the ashes of my burnt offerings, spread my glorious renewed wings and fly up to meet what’s coming next.
There is a poet I discovered recently named Aberjhani and he has, over the years, written a collection of poetry that evolved through much contemplation and experience. Inspired originally by several visions of angels, Aberjhani transcribed thoughts and feelings into poetry. The words seemed to take on a life of their own, guiding his hand and determining their direction and form despite the author’s thoughts or feelings. He eventually had to give up his idea of this dream and surrender to the evolution. The resulting book is called The River of Winged Dreams. Here are some quotes from both his thoughts on the process, and the poetry itself ~
The death of a dream can in fact serve as the vehicle that endows it with new form, with reinvigorated substance, a fresh flow of ideas, and splendidly revitalized color.
A bridge of silver wings stretches from the dead ashes of an unforgiving nightmare to the jeweled vision of a life started anew. Hearts rebuilt from hope resurrect dreams killed by hate. Hope drowned in shadows emerges fiercely splendid – boldly angelic.
Souls reconstructed with faith transform agony into peace.
Dare to love yourself as if you were a rainbow with gold at both ends. Even when muddy your wings sparkle bright with wonders that heal broken worlds.
This is what our love is – a sacred pattern of unbroken unity sewn flawlessly invisible inside all images, thoughts, sounds and smells.
Love taught me to die with dignity that I might come forth anew in splendor. Born once of flesh, then again of fire, I was reborn a third time to the sound of my name humming haikus in heaven’s mouth.
These days, I am finding his words comforting, assuring me that everything will be ok. An affirmation that I CAN rise from the flames renewed and reborn, cleansed by the fire and invigorated with the breath of Life. And that only AFTER I allow that death to occur can I commit to create a world in which I hear the sound of my name being sung by the Creator. A world in which busy-ness and stress and grief give way to stillness and silence and peace.
In a mighty Divine coincidence, last Sunday was also the Christian Holy Day of Epiphany. Commonly known as the end of the twelve days of Christmas, in the Western church this is the commemoration of the coming of the three Magi to the manger at Bethlehem, following the guiding star. It is the first manifestation of the Christ to those he has come to teach. It is an unexpected and difficult journey the Magi are called to undertake, and an illuminating discovery they make at the other end.
So now, as I ready myself to first die into and then rise from the ashes of my old life, I open myself to this spirit of Epiphany – a sudden perception of the essential nature and meaning of who I am and what my life is meant to be.
I AM the phoenix, willingly confronting the death of my past so that I may be reborn into my present.
I AM one of the Magi, following the Light to a mind-shattering discovery of the truth of who I AM.
I AM a Child of God, born today to recreate heaven here on earth and spread a message of Love, deserving of all that Love has to offer.
And everything will be ok.