A Camp Fire Perspective
By Annie Fuller
Everyone is talking about the Phoenix
According to one story, as this mystical bird nears the end of its life it builds a nest of aromatic branches and spices, sits upon it, and purposefully sets it on fire. Consumed by flames, the Phoenix becomes ash. That’s when a miraculous transformation takes place. At some point a newly formed Phoenix manifests, and in its own unique timing, rises, expands its wings, and flies away.
This classic metaphor of rebirth leaves me wondering about the “miraculous transformation.” What is it? How does it happen? And aren’t ashes by-products of hot coals?
November 8 dramatically changed the lives of at least 50,000 people when the Camp Fire destroyed Paradise and nearby towns. Homes and land transmuted into coals and ashes, as did each person who lived inside those homes and upon that land.
First we were in core survival. Stay alive. Drive through the fire. Then what? Where do we go? What happened to our family, friends, and neighbors? Did our house burn? Minute by minute, day by day, bottomless wellsprings of fear, disbelief, loss, and grief flooded our senses. Our emotional bodies are still staggering from the shock. Clothing. Insurance claims. Debris removal. Financial aid. Facebook groups. Town meetings. Trees. Paperwork. Water.
We’re alive, yet everything we knew and counted on is gone. Who but us has an understanding of what it feels like to lose an entire town? Did you excavate personal items? For me there are no words to describe the insanity of sifting through debris searching for remnants of a life. Still living the nightmare, we wonder: “Will it ever end? Is healing even possible?”
One day while feeling shattered and strewn about, I was graced with an “ah-ha” moment. I’m dismembered!
That’s when I recalled this teaching:
“There is an energy of dismemberment occurring on the planet. Structures are toppling. Foundations are crumbling. We see this within individuals, families, communities, states, and countries.
Dismemberment must occur for change to happen.
Human beings can become stagnant. The ways one does things must collapse and dissolve. Old and familiar limitations no longer apply—for yourselves and the planet.
Release the energies of the past; they no longer have a place in your present. It’s time to expand and create new ways of being and acting.”
I finally understood what happens to the Phoenix while it’s in the ashes. It becomes dismembered.
Dismemberment is a breaking down or separation. What once was whole becomes parts. It’s a classic shamanic initiation. We Camp Fire survivors have been thrust into the disorienting initiation of the Phoenix. In our individual coals and ashes with every known thing stripped away, we’ve been dismembered.
Recently I was blessed to be able to buy a new house. I say house, because I’m in the beginning stages of making it a home. Landing does not mean I’ve risen. Who am I? I used to know. The past is over, yet the present is filled with the past. My town is gone. The first home I ever owned exists only in memories and pictures. The land is in the process of being cleared from a nuclear bomb site to flat barrenness. No more guardian trees as PG&E takes over and decimates what was left. I’m still dealing with the insurance company; are you? I have no familiar personal belongings. A core friendship dramatically deteriorated. Deep sorrow, once held in check by ancient survival strengths, finally has space to emerge. The future? Unknown and unpredictable. My perspective about everything has shifted.
We are living the initiation of the Phoenix. How could it be that eight months later we’re still in the dismemberment phase? This in-between dimension of coal and ash requires more time than we can ever imagine. Luckily there’s good news, for deep within this inexplicable, mysterious realm an alchemical process is at work. It happened to the Phoenix, and it’s happening to us.
In his dismemberment discourse, my teacher suggests:
“Each day will bring its own unique challenges. Enjoy them. Laugh. Say yes! Another structure has fallen. What is the new way for today? As everything crumbles new potential and possibilities present themselves. Dismemberment brings forth great opportunities for expansion. And within expansion, one finds the Self.”
In this process of finding our selves again, let’s notice opportunities for expansion. Laugh often. Love freely from the center of our hearts. Spend time in nature. Seek support and healing.
We aren’t exactly like the Phoenix. Our fire was not purposeful. We did not consciously choose to dissolve into ashes and become dismembered. It happened to us. Yet like the Phoenix, we’ve been placed within a realm of coal and ash where we are miraculously being re-membered. Unified. And in time, we will rise. Transformed into newborns with the wisdom of the sage, we’ll expand our wings and fly away to new lands and lives. Brothers and Sisters, we might still be covered with ash, but fear not: In every story, the Phoenix rises.
Annie Fuller is an international spiritual healer/teacher. She lost her home in the Camp Fire and recently relocated to Chico. Annie sees clients of all ages for healing ceremonies and offers workshops on shamanism, spiritual healing, and Andean mysticism. She’ll be teaching a Shamanic Journeying Workshop September 13-15, 2019.
Explore her website: www.FullCircleSpiritualHealing.com.
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