Why the Phoenix?

When Delaney and I set out on this collaborative project, we knew what we wanted out of it: a series of transformative retreats and workshops that embrace the whole self. We’re human beings, after all, creatures of body and mind. Any change in the mind precipitates and is precipitated by a change in the way we physically move through the world. We understood how yoga practice lends itself to leadership coaching and knew the synergy between the two (and between us) would create something beautiful and meaningful.

Our first hurdle, though, was the name. The two of us brainstormed for weeks, passing dozens of suggestions back and forth. We wanted to preserve the idea of leading from the heart. The image of the phoenix had come up a few times as well, so we put them together. Phoenix-Hearted resonated with both of us and clarified our vision.

Overall, the phoenix is a good fit because of the obvious symbolism of transformation: the fiery bird is consumed in her own flames, remains ash for a time, and then a spark ignites her renewed existence.

Oftentimes, we see our own lives as a line on a chart. As we age we imagine peaks here and there, but the lifeline trends downward after 30, or after marriage, or after children, or for some, even after high school (How tragic is that?). This is a misconception. We are not paper airplanes doomed to crash-land after coming down from a single exalted bygone peak. Life is a series of glorious cycles. The layers we accumulate over time don’t have to weigh us down to the end. We can move to a cyclical rhythm, a fiery dance of surrender and renewal.

We see such transformation everywhere, particularly in the revolution of the year:

Fall—the phoenix being consumed
Winter—latent heat stirring in the ashes
Spring—the spark igniting new life
Summer—the phoenix aflame, soaring into the sky

In keeping with the solar rhythm, we designed the Phoenix-Hearted workshops to correspond with the seasons. Thus, for Autumn, we assigned the title "Recognize". As the phoenix is consumed, as the leaves are shed from the trees, so do we start our personal cycle by shedding what no longer serves us: habits, relationships, situations, attitudes--things which seem like necessary parts of ourselves. However, once we come to honestly assess the layers of the self (and give ourselves a space and time to make such raw, honest assessments) we realize that the essential part of ourselves is not something we have to struggle to keep. The challenge is to get to the core of who we are through all the ephemera of identity. If we can connect with our vital selves, we are less likely to get caught up in the stress of who we think we should be and fully enter into who we are.

Photo by Colter Olmstead on Unsplash