Flying after Failure


What fires have you walked through?  What ashes have you arisen from?

Elizabeth Lesser “Broken Open”

Sometimes in moving forward in our lives, we feel we must first deal with the past.  I keep running into people who are dogged by the question “Why”.  Why did this happen?  I love how we as humans think the world is somehow fair.  That Why has an answer that would satisfy us so we could move on.  Or that there is a master author above ( or below) who is writing our story and keeping tally of your turn and my turn for good and bad.  And when those things we feel are bad happen more than once, we all look to the tally sheet we are keeping and try to figure out why we seem to have so many ticks in the column of disappointment, or loss.  We try to steal glances at someone elses’ sheet that the author is keeping tabs on and compare ourselves.  And again with the Why, we ask, “Why me?  Why not them?   They have so much luck.  I have so much in disappointment.”

If you can turn away from Why for a moment, I want you think about What instead?

What will I do next?

What can I give myself credit for?

What needs to be released so I can move on?

What did I learn?

What can I celebrate surviving?

What happened that changed me and how am I living that change?

This brings me to the wonderful story of the phoenix.  This mythical bird is said to live a 500 to 1,000 year cycle.  When its’ life is ending it builds a nest that it ignites and the nest and the bird are consumed by flame.  From the ashes it rises.  A new, young phoenix  and lives anew.

Elizabeth Lesser writes in her wonderful book “Broken Open” about the phoenix:

“The Egyptians called the bird the Phoenix and believed that every five hundred years he renewed his quest for his true self.  Knowing that a new way could be found only with the death of his worn out habits, defenses, and beliefs, the Phoenix built a pyre of cinnamon and myrrh, sat in the flames, and burned to death.  Then he rose from the ashes as a new being-a fusion of who he had been before and who he had become.  A new bird, yet ever more himself; changed, and at the same time the eternal Phoenix.  Of the Phoenix bird, the Roman poet Ovid said, “Most beings spring from other individuals, but there is a certain kind that reproduces itself”.

Are you ready to reproduce yourself?  In your life, perhaps you have had a cleansing fire that burnt something of you to the ground.  If you are the phoenix, what has arisen from your divine ashes?

Recently in workshops with young singers the question came forward of how to deal with not getting what you want.  The phoenix offers us a powerful tale in which we can write our story of loss into one of powerful re-creation.

How happy is the pure gold

When it enters the fire,

As it may practice its artistry

And show its real value in the fire.


Forget trying to steal looks at other peoples gains and losses and know that we all gain and lose.  In life, change is the constant.  We are never in perfect balance, but always moving closer to or farther from it.  Knowing that change is constant then we are guaranteed to all get burned in this life.  Our nests will be torched and we will be turned to ashes.  Look around you and really see the fires that others lives have been touched with.  Look to see their phoenix, or lack there of.

Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth, the egg of the phoenix”

Christina Baldwin

Look for your sign for rebirth and don’t ask why you have to go through the fire.  Instead, ask “What fires have I walked through?  What ashes have I arisen from?”

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