Friday, October 31, 2008

BlissQuest: Healing the Wounds of Repression with Dia De Los Muertos

My most recent Guadalupe.

Listening to: There is not a time when I listen to this that I don't get goosebumps. (And if you haven't watched this yet, what the heck are you waiting for?!)

Bliss: Time to get sugared up! Watch more scary movies. Drink red wine and pretend you are a vampire. Enjoy the children all dressed up. Enjoy yourself all dressed up.

Earlier this month, I posted a Thich Nhat Hanh quote that I think can bear repeating, especially at this time of year:

It is not possible for us to throw away one thing
and run after another.
Whether our tradition is Christianity, Judaism,
Islam, or something else,
we have to study the ways of our ancestors
and find the best elements
in the tradition for ourselves and our children.
We have to live in a way that allows
the ancestors in us to be liberated.

My partner, Frog, barely knows a fact or a story about the people who made the people who made the people who made her. It is always shocking to me that she doesn't know the name of the town her family lived in before they made that dangerous journey across ocean to a new life and very likely an early death.

I wonder why people choose to do things like that? Why leave the safety of soil and the familiarity of faces seen since birth? Why risk everything for an unknown? There has to be a compelling reason, but Frog has no idea how to answer any of this.

It shocks me even more that her own parents can't provide any insights.

We are made of blood and genes and breath, but we are also made of stories. We are like skin-sheathed libraries, really, containing the multitudinous myths of those who have gone before us. Whether we know it or not, those myths (and what more could they be? with people's memories and personal agendas always getting in the way)...those myths build us.

Buddhists believe that everything is interconnected, and I think it happens through story -- whether shared and told or not. Story is an invisible guest at every dinner or family celebration. We can ignore her and let her starve, but she remains.

And starving her is not very smart. This will only anger her. To move from a metaphor to possible pyscho-babble, you could say that I'm talking about the damage wrought by repression.

To know who you are, you have to know what you came from.

And that is the grand beauty of Dia De Los Muertos right there: the ecstatic celebration of the dead and the invitation extended to them to join their corporeal cousins in celebrating life.

The Aztecs who originally celebrated Dia De Los Muertos, at least 2500 years before Christianity came along, did not see life in the same stultifyingly precious way we do today. They saw it as an illusion; they believed that true awakening happened in unencumbered death, when spirit was free to fly.

So we have our task for the next few days -- and if you are in the same position as my partner, perhaps it is a task for the next year. (Making a year-long commitment right now is appropriate since the Celtics believed this was the New Year.)

And the task is thus: either celebrate your ancestors and invite them in to share their wisdom or figure out who you should be celebrating next year.

Perhaps you need to do some research or take a trip or talk to some elders in your family but begin collecting the pieces of the puzzle that comprise you. This is a multi-dimensional puzzle, connecting your physical self to the spirit realms.

After all of this, perhaps the searching and the deep sea diving will produce the treasure we seek: a fuller understanding of who we are, a liberation of ourselves that includes all the others who are always present around and within us.

Picture yourself in the middle of a grand mandala comprised of every single person who has lived and died to make your moment right here, right now possible. See that all of them -- the crazy ones, the mean ones, the sad ones, the beautiful ones -- all of them were needed, and all of them are whispering in your veins no matter where you are, no matter if you admit to hearing or not.


Ecoyogi said...

I am enjoying my Day of the Dead altar a lot this year. Lighting candles and burning copal with pictures of relatives going back a few generations propped up next to each other. A fine metaphor I think. Though, I believe it's Thich Nhat Hanh who said, we are actually standing on the shoulders of our ancestors

Instead of tequila and limes--like in Mexico--I've placed a bottle of Irish whiskey and potatoes around my European and European-American ancestors. More their taste : )

Bob Weisenberg said...

Two quick thoughts on your exhortations that we MUST know all about our past.

One simple defense of not knowing much--living in the present. I think you should be easier on those of us who have little interest in personal genealogy. I think that's just a personal preference, like preferring history or music.

More importantly, our past is entirely with us in the present, as you say, but I don't believe it has to be conscious, and be the subject of guilt if we don't do it.

Tomorrow I'll be having lunch with my 89 year old father and my 11 month old granddaughter. That's the kind of geneology I enjoy.

Just an friendly alternate point of view for you.