7 Festivals Around the World that Celebrate the Dead

Halloween lies on the last day of October in the United States where candy, costumes and haunted houses come to life. Modern Halloween is more about fearing spirits and dressing-up as a character for the day.

Many other cultures instead of fearing spirits honor the dead and commensurate their spirits.

Today is not only a new moon; it is the day of the dead. I thought a fresh look at festivals around the globe that celebrate the deceased would be eye opening.

  1. DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS, MEXICO

Possibly the most famous celebration of the deceased, Mexico’s Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead festival, traces to the pre-Columbian era and spans from October 28 until November 2. The Day of the Dead is about remembering loved ones and honoring family members who have passed away.

The country’s most vibrant celebrations take place in Mexico City and Oaxaca, where cemeteries and homes display altars adorned with yellow marigold and red terciopelo flowers, intricate sugar skulls, and papel picado, a colorful perforated paper engraved with skeleton designs.

  1. FIESTA DE LAS ÑATITAS, BOLIVIA

 Bolivia’s Fiesta de las Ñatitas (Festival of the Skulls) is an ancient ritual among the indigenous Aymara people, honoring the special bond between the living and the deceased.

Ñatitas are exhumed human skulls that some Bolivians believe protect them from evil, help them achieve goals, and even work miracles. The skulls spend most of their time indoors, but are paraded in La Paz’s main public cemetery every year in early November, where they are decorated with flowers and pampered with cigarettes, coca leaves, and other treats.

  1. HUNGRY GHOST FESTIVAL, CHINA

The Ghost Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, is a traditional Buddhist and Taoist commemoration, celebrated in China on the seventh month in the Chinese calendar. It is believed that spirits are able to roam the Earth throughout this month, and on the 15th night specifically, these spirits have the chance to visit their living descendants.

Throughout “Ghost Month,” gifts are made to the deceased, traditional theater is performed, and people set places at tables for dead members of their family. After the festival, people light lanterns and float them in bodies of water to help lead spirits back to the underworld.

  1. FÊTE GEDE, HAITI

This annual voodoo festival in Haiti takes place throughout November, but the majority of celebrations occur during the beginning of the month. Voodoo believers converge on Port-au-Prince’s main cemetery to honor the Gede (a family of spirits with the powers of death and fertility), laying out gifts such as homemade beeswax candles, flowers and—to warm the Gede’s bones—bottles of rum stuffed with chile peppers.

Dances, rituals, and costumes play a large part in this unique festival celebrating the dead.

  1. OBON FESTIVAL, JAPAN

The Obon festival is a Japanese Buddhist holiday celebrated July 13-15 or August 13-15 (depending on the region in Japan), honoring the return of the spirits of deceased ancestors. People revisit their hometowns to tend their relatives’ graves, which are cleaned and decorated with flowers.

There are Obon festivals all over Japan that combine traditional dances and celebrations. On the last night of Obon, people light candles and have bonfires to mark the departure of the ancestral spirits.

  1. CHUSEOK, SOUTH KOREA

Chuseok is one of the largest and most widely celebrated holidays in South Korea. The primary reason for Chuseok, held on the fall equinox, is to honor ancestors and deceased relatives. However, the holiday is considered a general time for families to congregate, reconnect, and enjoy fantastic feasts. Traditionally, Chuseok has also allowed South Koreans to celebrate the autumn harvest after a season of hard work.

Chuseok is largely centered on the culture and history of South Korea. To honor the traditions that connect them to their roots, many families will visit their ancestors’ villages, perform rituals and ceremonies, and visit graves while wearing traditional garb.

  1. GAI JATRA, NEPAL

Gai Jatra, also called the Festival of the Cows, is celebrated in August and September in Nepal. During the celebration, a procession of cows is marched through the streets of Kathmandu, led by family members who have lost a loved one within the last year. Cows, which are considered holy in Hinduism, are thought to be able to guide the recently deceased to the afterlife. Following the cow procession, participants dress in costume and dance in the city center.

Gai Jatra is regarded as a celebration, meant to help people accept death as a reality of life and to help ease the passing of those who have died.

Do you have a ritual or particular way to help ease loved ones who have passed? I’d love to hear how you have dealt with death in your life. If you need help with the grieving process or want to explore your spiritual growth, please feel free to contact me at april@aprilwrigththerapy.com.

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Take a Walk Through a Castle To Learn More About Yourself

Have you ever wondered…

How easily do you take risks?
What do you think will happen in the future?
What images do you believe others have of you?

Use your imagination to take an imaginary walk in a castle to discover more about your character.

As you go through the exercise, the symbols provide perceptions of your overall view of life, your attitude toward new experiences, the image you have of your life, and how you imagine your future. Take into account that culture influences and signifies your personal context on how certain metaphors, images, and symbols suggest various uses and understanding of your life.

It is up to you to decide for your self how the symbols function in your life. This exercise is offered as an aid to enrich the activity and perspectives of your life.

You will need a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil to note your responses.

Begin by taking a few long deep breaths to relax your mind and to settle into your seat. Now imagine you are in front of a castle. Continue to read and answer the following questions to unfold your personal storyline.

  1. You are in front of the door of the castle. How exactly do you imagine it?
a. It is a simple door
b. It is covered by plants and is somewhat hard to find
c. It is a huge wooden door with metal details and it looks a little frightening

2. You pass the door of the castle and realize that there is no soul. It is desert. What is the first thing you see?

a. A huge library, wall to wall full of books
b. A huge fireplace and a hot fire burning
c. A large banquet hall with huge chandeliers and red carpets
d. A long corridor with many closed doors
  1. You look around and find a staircase. You decide to climb the stairs. What does the staircase look like?
a. It looks sharp and massive, leading nowhere
b. It is an impressive spiral, grand staircase
  1. After you climb the stairs, you reach a small room in which there is only one window. How big is the window?
a. It appears normal
b. It’s small, like a porthole
c. It’s massive and take up most of the surface of the wall
  1. You look out the window. What do you see?
a. Large waves crashing furiously on rock
b. A snowy forest
c. A green valley
d. A small, vibrant city
  1. You go down the stairs and you’re back in the area where you were when you first entered the castle. You go ahead and find a door at the rear of the building. You open it and go out in a yard. What exactly does it look like?
a. It is full of hypertrophic plants, grasses, broken wood and fallen barbed wire
b. It is impeccably maintained with countless colorful flowers
c. It’s a jungle, but you can imagine how beautiful it would be if someone cleaned and put it in order

RESULTS

QUESTION 1 – The Door

Your Attitude to New Experiences

The door represents your attitude to new experiences.

a. The Simple Door

If you imagined a simple, everyday door, you probably are not afraid of any new challenge and will test your luck in new things and situations without a second thought.

b. The Hidden Door

If you have chosen the hidden door, you probably do not know what you need to do in the future and your life in it, and it looks blurry and undefined.

c. Big, Scary Door

Of course, if you have chosen a big, scary door, then you probably are afraid of the unknown and find it difficult to get out of your comfort zone and try new experiences.

QUESTION 2– Inside the Castle

Idea You Believe Others Have of You

The space inside the castle is what you believe others perceive of you. For example, if you saw a library, you probably think that you are the person who supports others and helps them find answers to their problems.

a. Large Fireplace

The large fireplace gives a feeling of warmth and passion that you think you cause in people.

b. Fancy Ballroom

A fancy ballroom suggests that you feel that you can dazzle people around you and that you have a lot to give.

c. Long Corridor

If you ended up in a long corridor with closed doors, you feel that you are difficult to understand and others will have to try much to ‘penetrate’ more within you.

QUESTION 3– The Staircase

The stairway shows the image that you have of life.

a. Sharp and Massive Staircase

The sharp and massive staircase shows a person who sees life as suffering, with many difficulties.

b. Beautiful Spiral Staircase

The beautiful spiral staircase shows that you are a romantic person.

QUESTION 4– The Window

The window is the way you feel right now. The size of a window is relative to your culture, where you grew-up, and your environment. Thus what one person may call “small” may be “large” to another person. What matters most is your interpretation.

a. Small Window

A small window means that you feel depressed and trapped in your life. It may feel like there’s no way out of what you are experiencing in this period.

b. Normal Window

A normal-sized window shows a person with realistic demands and expectations of life at this stage. You realize that there are limitations, but the future is here and it looks clear for you.

c. Gigantic Window

If you chose, the gigantic window, you probably feel invincible, free and able to achieve what you want.

QUESTION 5 – The View From The Window

The view from the window is the overview of your whole life.

a. Stormy Sea

A stormy sea shows a hectic and erratic life.

b. Snowy Forest

A snowy forest is associated with a person who lives isolated and detached from the crowds.

c. Green Valley

The green valley shows that your life is calm and steady, without much stress and anxiety.

d. Vibrant City

People relate the vibrant city to someone who generally lives life with lots of socializing and is generally surrounded by lots of people.

QUESTION 6 – The Courtyard Of The Castle

The image of the courtyard is the image that you have in mind of your future.

a. Neat and Shiny Garden

If you chose a neat and shiny garden, then you feel that your future will be heavenly.

b. Picture of a Neglected Garden

Picture of a promising but neglected garden shows an optimistic person, who is worried if he can find the energy to take control of his life and make his future more beautiful.

c. Grassy Damaged Garden

Those who chose the grassy, damaged garden are pessimistic that do not have a nice picture of the future.

The symbols represent aspects of your life but are not like most typical symbols where there is a code or rule to obey.  An example of common, modern symbols include traffic lights, where red means stop and green means go.

The images here are part  of a complex language in which green can mean jealousy or fertility or even both, depending on your personal background. It is up to you to explore the script you chose in the walk through the castle and work through it sensitively.

Use the Wisdom of Your Future Self to Make Your Dreams Come True

“It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.”   Donald Winnicott, Playing and Reality

We all have dreams and hopes for the future but so many of us have lost of self in the daily grind.

Your future plans have gone astray and your dreams feel like a distant memory.

Your life feels blurred and undefined.

You want to connect with your dreams and are ready to commit to a path to make your dreams a reality. Many lingering questions arise.

Where do you begin?

How do I get there?

Will I ever achieve my dreams?

How can I gain some clarity in my life?

Visualization

Visualization is a profound technique that offers an opportunity to tap into and draw upon the wisdom from our deepest consciousness. By using our imagination and the joy of play, we create scenes, patterns, and dramatic processes.

  • Transpire new beginnings
  • Resolve trauma
  • Comfort a younger you
  • Provide resolution
  • Grieve endings and losses.

Many of our emotional reactivity, fears, and worries stem from unresolved issues from our history. We have the skills, strengths, and knowledge within us that can help to better navigate current challenges or obstacles.

Here is a guided visualization to Meet Your Future Self and Gain Wisdom and Clarity for Now

Settle into Relaxation

Find a comfortable place to sit.

Sit upfront, putting your feet flat on the floor and gently resting your hands on your thighs.

Relax and center yourself.

Sitting comfortably.

Closing your eyes.

Take a few long deep breaths.

Start with the in breath.

And then with the out breathe.

Let the breath release and just let go.

Again.

And again.

Welcome a Loving Light

 Letting the breath settle into its natural rhythm, imagine a bright, loving light surrounding you and protecting you.

With each new breath accepting the loving light more

And more with love and relaxation.

Begin to Transport in Time

Now allow the glowing light to fill your body and lift you up out of your seat and exit the room.

Imagine yourself slowly drifting upward, high above your building, looking down all around you.

Now imagine this glowing protective white light carrying you forward in time.

Choose Your Timeframe

You may go three years into the future or…

Five years,

Ten years…

Depending on how old you are and where you are in your journey.

Meet Your Future Self

Now I invite you to encounter your future self.

Let yourself see what they look like.

And what the feeling of their presence is like.

What’s the quality of that presence?

What’s the feeling of how they look at you?

Communicate Your Struggle

Let your future self know of something in your life that is difficult. Maybe to do with work, your health, relationships, how you relate with your self.

Ask for guidance.

Allow your self to be available and to listen with an open heart.

Gain Wisdom From Your Future Self

Before leaving, find out if there is anything else you need to know.

Is there a message your future self wants you to know, to leave you with, that will serve you well right here.

Today.

Tonight.

Right here, over the next few days, in the moments of your current life.

Use Your Senses to Embrace Your Newfound Wisdom

Take a moment to imagine the feeling,

The vision,

And the wisdom of your future self filling you.

Filling your cells.

The spaces between your cells.

The spaces in your heart and mind.

Connect with and Embrace the Shared Wisdom

Sensing the expanded light and the warmth of your future self within you. And the possibility of remembering and connecting with this awakened heart during daily life. Sense the calming; the knowing, and the wisdom of your future evolved self.

Come Back to the Present Moment

Now take the words of wisdom and courageously bring it back to your self here and now. Allow yourself to journey back to the present, to this room, where you are right now.

And when you’re ready open your eyes.

Let yourself engage with that, going forward in time.

Journal

Write down what your future self looked like.

What messages did your future self want you to know?

What will serve you now?

What will serve you tomorrow, in a month, six months, a year?

What feelings about your self arose?

What was the essence of your future self?

What is the feeling of how your future self looks at you?

What was the main lesson or wisdom learned?

After writing about your experience with your future self, solidify the experience by gathering old magazines, watercolor or acrylic paints, oil pastels, markers, or pens to create a vision board.  Piece together images of your dreams and the wisdom shared on how to make your dreams a reality. The vision board is a powerful tool to remind yourself daily of what you need to know now. Your dreams are possible. Begin today with your vision and the daily steps will follow.

How to Release From Emotional Blocks

The Mind

Our mind is constantly working. It has three basic functions of thinking, feeling, and desiring. We then respond consciously or unconsciously depending on how aware we are of our thoughts, feelings, and desires.

Many patients share stories claiming they don’t think. When I inquiry deeper, they discover they do think but deliberately distract themselves from paying attention.

The pain of their thoughts is too great to face. They rationalize, “if I’m not aware of my thoughts; they don’t occur.” It’s the old adage, “if I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.”

Suppressed Emotions

It is not uncommon for a child to be conditioned to suppress their emotions. Cultural views or mishandling of a child’s natural reaction to pain, hurt, or not getting what they desire teaches the child not to show feelings.

Suppressing our emotions doesn’t make them go away. In fact, it makes it more difficult to manage imminent life distresses. Research shows when we deny our thoughts, feelings, and desires they become stronger.

The Body

Our emotions don’t go away, they build-up in the body. Neglected emotions cause inflammation in the body, which then increases stress on the body. Risk for hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and anxiety rises.

Unreleased emotions causes the immune system to weaken and then bones begin to fracture easily, joints become stiff, and illnesses become more frequent.

Relationships

The effect of suppressing emotions continues to not only have detrimental effects on our mind, body, and overall health but also on our relationships.

Relationships start to deteriorate due to unfamiliarity of social cues and gestures propelled. Frequent misunderstandings cause resentment, anger, hurt, and sadness. As communication skills decline, consequently relationships begin to fail.

The Brain and Trauma

During a traumatic event such as an assault, a robbery, or a car accident our thinking part of the brain naturally shuts down to protect us. Our brain is then able to fully focus its attention on surviving. Our body responds immediately ready to fight, flight, or freeze.

The similar way our pain receptors block us from feeling intense pain at the time of physical harm, the mind functions to suppress intense, negative emotions during times of crisis to defend us.

The brains’ response to trauma protects us. However, when we consciously disconnect from our emotions during normal life’s tribulations such as a fight with our spouse, death of a family member, anxiety from work, or from the loss of a job; our mind, body, and relationships suffers.

Common signs of stored emotional pain:

  • You overly distract yourself to maintain self-control.
  • You keep yourself extremely busy and moving to avoid negative thoughts.
  • You avoid talking about the incident because you don’t want to feel undesirable emotions.
  • You avoid people, places, or objects that remind you of the incident or that bring up adverse emotions.
  • You numb emotional or physical pain with alcohol or drugs.

It takes deep reflection, awareness, and efforts to uncover denied emotions let alone release them. Many of us, have a hard time even putting words to the sensations felt.

Nevertheless, it is important to find time to express your emotions in a healthy way.

Modified from Deepak Chopra teachings, here is a beneficial method to release emotions.

  1. Think of a specific event and write what happened. In your narrative, explain how you felt using feeling words such as:
  • Anger
  • Resentment
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Blame
  • Hostility
  • Rage
  • Sadness
  • Grief
  • Sorrow
  • Envy
  • Jealousy
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Worry
  • Apprehension

As you are experiencing these emotions, feel them in your body. It may be a physical sensation of stiffness, discomfort, tightness, or pain in the stomach or around the heart. A headache or a tightening of the throat is also common.

  1. Next write what other people did and how you reacted afterward.
  2. Write another narrative but this time from the point of view of the person who hurt you. Pretend that you are that person. Write down what they are feeling, why they acted as they did, and how they responded afterward.
  3. Finally write a narrative using the same event but from the perspective of a reporter. In the third person, write how an objective observer would tell readers about the incident. Be as objective and even-handedly as you can.
  4. Share your experience. Tell your experience to a good friend, loving family member or a therapist. Keep from relaying your three stories to the person who hurt you. They will most likely not understand or be supportive. It is crucial to tell your tale to someone sympathetic and has your best interests at heart.
  5. Create a ritual to set free your three stories. Burn them, flush them down the toilet, make paper airplanes and release them to the wind. As you release your stories, visualize all your pain; sorrow, and frustration leave your body.
  6. Take yourself on a date. Go out to dinner, get a massage, buy yourself something nice. Choose an activity to cherish the work you did and the emotional release.

Meditation + Yoga = Stress Relief

Meditation and yoga are the perfect additions to our fast-paced modern lives. These ancient practices come with huge rewards for the mind, body and spirit. Incorporating meditation into your daily life has profound benefits including reducing stress, improving concentration, boosting the immune system, increasing happiness, and slowing the aging process. In addition to calming and anxiety-reducing benefits, when you practice yoga, you build muscle strength, improve your posture, prevent cartilage and joint breakdown, improve bone health, prevent digestive problems, and set yourself up for a better night’s sleep. Nourish your entire being, balance your soul, and enhance your life when you practice yoga and meditation.

Alzheimer’s Disease is at epidemic levels. Here’s what you can do now.

boost brain function with exercise

I had the fortunate opportunity to witness Rudolph Tanzi PhD present at the March 2017 Mind, Consciousness, and Cultivation of Well-being Conference at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Tanzi asked the question, “What can Alzheimer’s teach us about the brain, mind and self?”

Tanzi has diligently utilized funding from private and government sectors to discover many facets of the brain that cause the onsite of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). His research is imperative because contrary to heart disease that is finally on a 14 percent decline, AD is on an 89 percent rise.

Tanzi and his team discovered AD begins fifteen to twenty years prior to symptoms even appear. Recent research indicates, AD affects 5.4 million patients in the United States and 50 million worldwide. Tanzi noted that women consist of two-thirds of AD patients due to females being more susceptible to inflammation in the brain than men.

Such astonishing figures shows the disease is at an epidemic level.   Thus Tanzi’s research is fundamental for the large aging Baby Boomer population and subsequent generations. This article addresses some of Tanzi’s research results and recommendations for maintaining a healthy brain, mind, and self.

Read the full article here.

 

 

Perfection

“For just one second, look at your life and see how perfect it is. Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there’s nothing else. It’s here, and you’d better decide to enjoy it or you’re going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever.”

~ Lev Grossman