I’m a trauma queen. My therapist says I’ve been through a greater variety of trauma than anyone she’s ever worked with. Jokingly, I “brag” about it. In reality, I’m surprised I’m still alive. And, miraculously—with heaven’s help—my past is becoming the strongest part of my present and the brightest part of my future. It is in this same spirit that I’m celebrating Holi this year, for the first time.
Holi is an ancient Hindu holiday celebrated mostly in India and Nepal. It starts the night of the full moon just before spring—this year starting March 12th. People gather round a Holika bonfire that symbolizes the burning away of the bad and the victory of good. It’s a time to let go of the past, to forgive and forget. The following day, people gather together and celebrate by “coloring” each other. Brightly colored water and colored powders are thrown on each other until everyone’s drenched in color. It marks the beginning of spring. A time of peace and harmony. A fresh start.
We each have things from our past that can interfere with the present. Whether they’re mild or severe, we’re prone to collect them and the negative emotions attached. Like when someone has said or done something hurtful. Or, when we’ve done something embarrassing or hurtful to someone else. The more upsetting the event, the more likely we are to remember. And, the more the emotions can make us feel worse, over and over again.
So, using a fire to symbolize the burning away of the bad and the victory of good can be healing. Fire is often used to purify, cleanse, and change. In nature, fire makes room for new vegetation to grow and the resulting ashes provide nutrients. So, as a Holika fire symbolically burns away emotions from the past that weigh heavy, it can make room for new growth. Allowing for a celebration where we can enjoy the present.
A few years ago, I was in a group therapy discussion where we were working through difficult issues from the past. The instructor had us write down, on a piece of heavy paper, those memories that kept coming up and troubling us. Then, we went outside, walked off by ourselves, and each burned the list. The paper was thick, so it burned rather slowly. I watched as each troubling emotion was consumed, disappearing into the sky as smoke and falling to the earth as ashes. I was making room for new growth and providing important nutrients for that growth to take place.
I’m looking forward to my first Holika fire. And, the next day, where I can welcome a colorful new season of life.
Laurie Campbell can be found, on the first night of Holi, watching past burdens turn to smoke and ashes. Her celebration of spring the next day will likely be a “Westernized version” where she’ll enjoy Peeps of all colors.
Everyone has heard of yoga. You just say the word and immediately picture a group of people in stretchy pants looking so calm as they strike perfectly balanced poses on different colored mats. While this may be what you imagine in your mind, yoga is so much more than a stretching exercise. It comes from ancient traditions of self-development and self-realization.
It has the power to heal and strengthen not only the body, but also the spirit.
You’ve heard the word “yoga” a million times, but do you actually know what it means? Like its literal definition? Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to join” or “to unite.” By this definition, you could say yoga is the uniting of the body, mind, and spirit.
Yoga itself is not a religion, but it can increase your spirituality as you take time to reflect on what’s truly important to you and all you have to be grateful for. As you open your mind and heart to spirituality, you can tap into the healing power that comes with it.
In an article from Yoga Journal titled “The Healing Power of Yoga for Veterans,” five veterans describe how yoga is helping them heal from years of disturbing war. One veteran in particular caught our eye. Chris Eder retired in 2013 after serving in the military for 23 years. He felt his mind and body start to struggle and turned to yoga for healing. Chris said in the article, “I’m pretty sure without my yoga and meditation practice, I would be a statistic. I had a pretty solid home practice and began teaching in 2008, but over the past three years, my therapist have taken me into some seriously dark places. The comfort and security of my mat, my space, and my practice have kept me going and given me hope.”
So it honestly doesn’t matter what religion you practice or if you even practice one, yoga can help you cultivate peace, inner strength, and the faith to face life’s challenges with a courageous heart.
In my first month of studying abroad in Edinburgh this past spring, I felt a bit of a stranger to Scotland. Drinking tea with milk, riding the “lift” and sleeping in a “flat,” trying to come up with the best team name at weekly pub quiz nights (“You’re a Quizzard, Harry”). I needed to know my kilts from my ceilidhs, scones versus crumpets, tartans to saltires. And I had to find a better way of answering the question, “Where are you from?”
My first view of Edinburgh on the plane in January. We are pilgrims on a journey, homeward bound. (Image via Anna Delamerced)
Whenever someone asked me that question, my throat tightened a bit. I had never really thought about ‘where I am from.’ Explaining where Ohio is, is more difficult than I had thought.
“Is that near Canada?” someone asked.
“Oh!…” They throw me a quizzical look.
I resort to broadening the geographical scope by explaining it’s in the Midwest.
“It’s in the Midwest? Sorry, you said the Midwest?”
“Is that…where is that again?”
Understandably, my United Kingdom friends find it hard to locate the Buckeye state mentally on the map. (After all, I myself did not know much of the geography of Britain before arriving.)
Such is my life as a study abroad student.
After several weeks in Scotland now, I do feel settled in. The students have been so friendly and the church community has been so welcoming. They’ve fed me, hosted me, opened their homes to me. At the same time, I bear an acute sense of awareness that I am not from here, and I don’t know if I will ever be able to say I truly belong here. Since I am only here for a few months, my ‘citizenship’ is temporary.
This got me thinking:
Where am I really from?
Where is my true home?
Where do I belong?
In our ever-increasingly globalized world, we cross boundaries, move to different cities, travel over oceans. What is the meaning of ‘home?’
My semester abroad in Scotland has been teaching me that our true citizenship is found in the kingdom of God.
We are called to be citizens of a kingdom that knows no bounds, a kingdom where all are welcome, a kingdom better than the ones we see on earth.
I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, but I attended university in Rhode Island. My parents are immigrants from the Philippines, and so I was raised in a household where a plate of spring rolls would sit next to the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, where my Filipino culture harmonized with my American way of life. And now, I’m currently living in Scotland for a few months. But my true identity is rooted neither in my nationality nor in my ethnicity. It is not in the passport I bear, nor in the driver’s license stored in my wallet. It is not in what city or state or country I come from.
Rather, as a child of God, my identity is rooted in my Christian faith. My ultimate home is founded in a place that cannot be raided, in a place that cannot be broken in. In a place that stands, permanently. That is where I am truly from.
I know this world is not perfect. There’s a lot of suffering, dying, hurt, and pain, but we can hold onto the hope that we were not meant to live in this world. We were meant to live in our true home. I believe we belong to another world, one in which peoples of all nations will come together – people from all neighborhoods, zip codes, and cities – will gather round as one. A world in which there will be no more crying, no more death, no more pain. No more feeling like a stranger in a strange land, but rather, a child at home.
It may not be now, it may not be tomorrow, it may not even seem like it will ever come.
Prayer is universal. It’s a thing we do instinctively, and regardless of religious affiliation or apathy we all trust in something greater than ourselves.
Sometimes prayer can be a practiced ritual before going to bed; sometimes it’s a spontaneous outcry in a time of need; or sometimes it’s as simple as closing our eyes when words and reason fail, and just hoping. Often without us even realizing it, prayer is the ground upon which we stand.
When we need something, when we don’t understand, when we’re afraid, when we’re grateful, when we’re overwhelmed, when it all falls apart or when it finally comes together, we pray. It’s an instinct as natural as a child calling for its parents. Because prayer is a part of us.