Phoenix

Sometimes it’s important to destroy our own mythologies, to deconstruct our memories and beliefs and reforge ourselves. There’s always a time in our lives when we have need of stepping into the role of a phoenix and living through the metaphorical death of personal evolution; the eternal myths of rebirth speak this truth. Change is constant and sometimes it needs to be an immolation.

While I’ve been on the dancing, turning path of change for as long as I can remember, the event that pushed me into great change was a departure. One month less than two years ago a visit by my lover of that time, Ashley, was coming to an end. She’d spent several weeks with me and we’d had a very pleasant time together. Before leaving the airport I bought a book by the Dalai Lama, largely on a whim, that set in motion my interest in a new spiritual path.
In the following weeks I would miss Ashley terribly and build momentum in change. I had been studying computer science here in Halifax for two years but hadn’t developed any passion for what I was learning; my final term had left me sapped and terribly depressed with that aspect of my life. Somehow, reading the Dalai Lama’s book had firmed my resolve to take some time away from formal studying at university and to work on finding a direction for my life. Most likely it was the ever-present wish I have to help others well that was tapped into; I knew I wasn’t living in a way I could feel actively compassionate to either myself or others.
So in September I returned from staying with my parents to my apartment in Halifax, ready to turn over a new leaf. I’d started learning about Taoism before the move and was struggling to incorporate its teachings and a meditation practice into my life. I was opening up very slowly to the spirtual aspects of life in a way I never had before, not even when I had a child’s faith in Christianity during my youth.
Outside this spiritual growth things became bleak, however, with the first sign being a mighty blow from nature. The end of September brought a hurricane that battered Nova Scotia and left me without electricity into October. It was a harbinger of the destruction my life would be crawling through for months to come. I didn’t realize this at the time, oh no, I was deep in delusion.
For much of the year following I struggled to find work and watched both my relationship with Ashley and her health deteriorate.
Soon after she returned home, Ashley’s parents expressed disapproval of our relationship, which amplified the difficulties our long-distance relationship held. Ashley also descended into an eating disorder that would alter who she was drastically and plagues her even to this day, threatening her life. Before I knew it our romance had ended in a dramatic, horrible mess that left me feeling deeply worried for her, heartrendingly betrayed and, coupled with my lack of work, utterly devistated; I was lower than I had ever been before. This was my death.

The archetype of the saviour has always facinated me. Growing up with Christian teachings I had an unalterable respect for Jesus and his fundamental message of universal love; however, the religions that claimed to follow him seemed largely false and not in accordance with that core so I knew they were not for me. Through studying storycraft, spirituality, history and sociology I’ve thought a lot about the role of saviours, their motivations and the good and harm that can come about by their actions.
The ending of my low, the impetus for healing and rebirth, was incorporating Buddhism into my spirituality. There were many aspects of it that helped to transform me, but none so vital as the goal and means to end suffering in oneself and others. Buddha was a saviour portrayed in the way I had always believed was Jesus’ true form; he gave us the ability to transform ourselves and cultivate love in ourselves. The true purpose of a saviour to me was never to inspire worship but rather to create saviours in each person, to inspire a universal compassion.
So at last I was ready to start to rid myself of the suffering I had been living with for so many months (for how could I help others if I let myself decline?). Buddhism taught me to recognize desire as the root of this torment I was going through. I desired to be with someone I couldn’t and shouldn’t be with. I longed for the respect and ease that working again would bring. I surely desired other things too and all of this was crippling me. As I loosened the hold of desire over me things improved; my spirit was lighter, I was able to find work again and I became better able to help those around me.

In the months since I’ve been building a life I can be content living. I’m living more and more simply, more and more holistically, and it’s been enriching in every respect. I feel love more purely than I could even conceive two years ago; I’ve mended and grown in ways I wouldn’t have expected and I’m ever-thankful for that. I’m more whole than I’ve ever been and I feel strongly I wouldn’t be if I had not fallen low and broken, if I hadn’t burned.

Last night I told Ashley about my budding relationship with Susana. In the past few months Ashley and I have tried to maintain a friendship as best we could with her difficulties and I wanted to share this with her. Despite my constant insistance that my feelings for her were as a friend, I discovered that Ashley had held an obession and desire to be with me again; that had no doubt fueled her troubles with her disease. She tells me knowing I’ve moved on has helped her bring closure to her own longing. I hope she’ll take the steps she needs to heal and live her own phoenix chapter.

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