Let the ashes of hurt and pain become the launching pad of self-awareness, love and strength.
We all have a story to tell. There’s hurt and pain in all our camps and somewhere along the line that pile of ash can make or break us.
My story probably isn’t much different than yours. Perhaps the actual events are different, but that pile of ash is still swept up in a corner of my past, much like yours. The difference comes in how we each deal with the pile.
For years I continued to work my proverbial broom—sweeping, sweeping and sweeping under rugs, into dark corners and behind closed doors with hopes that if I couldn’t see the ash piles, I could ignore their existence and move forward in life (albeit with my head in the sand) without acknowledging the effects of those little piles of pain. Has this method worked? Not at all. And I have begun to suspect that this method works for no one.
So I tried other methods.
Maybe you will recognize some of these: over-exercising, reading self-help books, yet never implementing any of their plans of action, underestimating the hurt to make it feel less hurtful, overeating, under-eating, keeping busy so as not to have time to think. Oh, the list could go on. I’m quite positive our lists are similar.
I, for one, still suffered, continued to be plagued by the piles and found myself creating more self-destructive ways of dealing with the pain rather than finding any relief. Until one day, I stumbled across the Legend of the Phoenix. Its relevance to my own heart’s hurt caused such a stirring within me that I knew with certainty that there are amazing lessons to be learned from this age-old legend.
The Legend of the Phoenix
Across many cultures and religions lay an ancient story of a magnificent creature, a bird of beauty with a song of equal beauty that comes from within, inside the deep places of its very spirit.
The Phoenix finds its place in the pages of Greek mythology, Egyptian folklore, Chinese and Arabian stories along with Native American pantheistic legends, and despite the unknown source to its true origin, each legend bears the same truths.
The Phoenix, a powerful bird of beauty and grace, envied by other creatures and whose magnificent feathers are coveted by mankind, is a symbol of immortality, resurrection, rebirth, strength, power, light, energy, passion.
The story goes as such:
There lived a large, beautiful bird with glistening feathers of red and gold which caught the attention of the Sun. The Sun was so mesmerized by the bird’s beauty, and the reflection of its own light in the bird’s feathers, that the Sun laid claim on the bird and promised that the Phoenix would live forever and would belong to the Sun, himself.
The Phoenix was overjoyed to belong to the Sun and reserved the most glorious of songs to sing to the Sun each day. However, the overwhelming beauty displayed in each of the Phoenix’s feathers and the syrupy song of the Phoenix’s voice was noticed and coveted by others, causing the Phoenix much distress.
One day the bird flew away to a faraway place in the East to live a life of solitude and to continue to sing songs to the Sun, who rose to greet the East every morning. Five hundred years passed. Flying freely and with a melodious song on its breath, the Phoenix began to tire. The beloved Phoenix, in a moment of despair, sang a different song to the Sun—a song that pleaded for youth and strength. Silence. Day after day the beautiful bird sang the song, beckoning an answer from the Sun. Silence. The Phoenix considered the possibility that the Sun had not actually moved from its original spot in the sky where the original promise of immortality was given.
Perhaps if the Phoenix flew back to its home, the Sun would be there waiting to hear the new song. The journey was rigorous, as the Phoenix was weak and aged. During its many periods of rest, the bird collected spices and fragrant leaves to build a new home upon reaching its destination.
Once home again, the Phoenix collected myrrh from a nearby tree, formed an egg and placed the egg in a new nest made from the leaves and spices collected. The nest was located atop a lone tree that stood on the summit of a glorious mountain. From this nest the bird sang its song to the Sun, asking once again for youth and strength.
The Sun heard this new song and replied by calming the winds and chasing away the clouds and shining its intense light upon the Phoenix. All other creatures hid from the Sun’s strong, luminous rays, but the Phoenix remained in its nest high on the mountain top. The Sun’s beam was so intense and hot, like a laser, that it consumed the Phoenix as if swallowing it whole, yet leaving the tree and the nest intact. The bird became a heap of ash in the middle of the nest and faced its own mortality.
After the mound of gray ashes had settled, there came a stirring within them. Moment by moment the ashes began to rise up out of the nest forming the shape of a bird. The Phoenix itself was reborn from its own death and completely ruined state. It rose up young and strong, brilliant and beautiful again, just as it had requested in its song to the Sun.
Once again the Phoenix sang its praises to the Sun before flying off to a land far away to reside alone with the Sun. Every 500 years when the Phoenix began losing strength and youth, it would fly back to its nest where death to self, resurrection and renewal would occur once again.
What the Legend of the Phoenix taught me:
1. I, you, we are not alone!
Every demographic of people experiences hurt and pain. This legend spans the globe. All people relate. All live a life wanting to be cherished and loved, accepted and allowed to feel beautiful. All want to be acknowledged and will go to great lengths to devote themselves to the one who acknowledges them, believes in them, protects them and desires nothing but what is best for them.
Yet all experience hurt and pain (of many shapes and forms) throughout this lifetime. The moment we understand that we are all in this together, in spite of the various degrees of our experiences, we are taking the first step to not only self-awareness singularly, but self-awareness amidst the masses. No more should we feel we have to bear the weight of any burden alone. And since we are not alone, we can bring our self-awareness to the table of vulnerability and seek help through talking, writing, sharing our stories. Flight begins here!
2. Learning how to trust again.
The sun, light of the universe is constant. It is I who moved, ran, panicked. There is order among chaos. There is light as well as darkness. There is Yin and Yang. I am to trust the constant, even when all else around me seems dark, when I feel unheard, when my flight or fight mentality reverts to flight. I must remember to trust in what is constant.
The sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Each day is new. Taking my head out of the sand and looking up is my second step toward spreading my wings, initiating a standing position and even considering taking on a new flight pattern in life—a new and improved way of dealing with hurt in order to love myself again. I must find the constants in life and begin to build my trust again, even when I’m afraid.
3. Return to the root of the hurt and face the pain head-on.
This is a difficult process and one that can only be done once the standing up position has been accomplished. Hurt and pain, self-inflicted or by others, holds a strong position in life. It can become this larger-than-life entity that is all consuming, all powerful and completely destructive. It is driven by fear which is also a larger-than-life entity that can be all-encompassing.
Going back to one’s roots takes courage and can truly only be accomplished from the standing up position of bravery, where we meet our pain eye to eye and disallow fear to crumble us. It’s a conscious decision to stand up like a wall and provide a fortress around your heart and meet your life-killing adversary head on!
How? Well, for me it helped to watch or listen to empowering, motivational videos to boost my confidence and give me a fist-first mentality. Download positive music rather than listening to the music that weakens the spirit. Simultaneously conquer a tangible goal to enable facing the inner demons that haunt. Do things that are scary to build up confidence and tear down fear.
4. Let the hurt die.
The only way to do this is to let it go. After facing it at its roots, standing up to it, one must allow a death of that part of self to occur.
The phoenix built a nest much like the piles of ash that I swept into the darkened corners of my heart. I, along with the phoenix, felt safe there because I had been the one to build a place for my hurt to live…thinking that I could control its dreadful spread into other parts of my life. However, I was wrong.
The hurt had to die in order to end its path of destruction. I had to die to that part of myself. I had to let it go. This is a process. It takes time, great strength and endurance. It is tiring and causes even more pain to rise to the surface. There are tears and anguish…a ripping away of self. It is scary moving out of the self-made coping mechanisms (a nest that does not actually work) and allowing oneself to be consumed in the fire of truth, honesty, vulnerability. It feels like a burning flame that could destroy all of self. But once the scorching is complete and the hot-white flame of purification and purging has done its work—and oh what a beautifully new creature emerges.
5. Spread your new-found wings and fly! Soar! Be free!
Sing a new song of renewed innocence, brilliance and beauty that could never have occurred without the death of the old and the rebirth of the new. Understand that there may come new hurts and pain in life, for the universe doesn’t promise a life free from these.
However, remember the process of healing. Don’t forget the steps that were made to bring about this new-found freedom. Facing one hurt only brings confidence to be able to do the same again and again when necessary. In the meantime, continue to soar to new depths of self-awareness, love and strength and bear witness to the masses who also experience deeply woven hurts in life that there is hope, redemption, renewal and resurrection!
Author: Michele Sodon
Editor: Catherine Monkman