Lessons From The Spawning Salmon: Surrendering To The Natural Cycles Of Change, Death And Rebirth

By Jillian Vriend

It is the sound that originally draws me during my daily beachfront walk. I am in Powell River, British Columbia, two ferry rides from the Vancouver area. I am drawn by the sound of flapping fins and rustling waters. And, there they are: dozens of large grey and pink fish swimming in a tiny stream flowing into the ocean; straining to move upstream against the current. My brain struggles to catch up with what I am seeing; it just feels so strange to see these near two to three feet long fish from the deepest ocean swimming in eight inches of water, clustered together in tight rows. The young part of me named Aurora finds the scene compelling at first, exclaiming inside my head, “Look, fishes! Huge fishes in the stream!” And she (along with my dog Koda) stand captivated for many moments watching them.

Then a young boy also watching the fish shouts, “That one is dead, mom. They are all gonna die, right?”

I feel Aurora wanting to protest, tell the rude boy to be quiet, and then we take in the whole scene. At the mouth of the stream and the ocean, dozens of seagulls are gathering, as if waiting for a feast to be served. The path the fish had taken across the beach to get where they are currently struggling to get upstream is impossible for them to go back down. Their trip is one way only. They are, indeed, all going to die.

I remember hearing about this phenomenon before, although being newer to Canada, hadn’t witnessed it yet. It was the annual salmon run where the fish return to their place of birth and spawn the next generation of their species before dying themselves. The instinct to return to their birth place is ingrained in them deeply, even going counter to their survival instincts as they can’t possibly make it through such a journey. While Aurora’s heart seems to break at this reality, I find myself moved and touched by the symbolism of the beautiful fishes instinct to sacrifice themselves in order to birth future generations.

This reminds me of the phoenix cycle, which in SoulFullHeart work is what we call the birth/death/mourning/rebirth process that is a natural part of the life cycle and, thus, is natural in our emotional and spiritual healing process as well. This death and rebirth process is the great equalizer and balancer. I have experienced personally that to the degree that we are open, proactive, and surrendered to undergoing in our own lives this process of transformation is the degree we can be in more surrender, less reaction and resistance, and in more flow with the changes that are happening in our world. Also, the more we feel our parts in reaction or in resistance to the process, the more we are able to arise from the ashes embodying our more authentic form. Just as the salmon are trusting that their surrender to the upstream climb will lead to the next life cycle, we offer to clients that when life brings them, or when they initiate the phoenix cycle in their own lives, it is the degree that they can trust this process that leads to deeper acceptance and transformation.

It can be a very painful process. However, we offer that the Divine would rather have us burn off something false and get it over with, then have us suffer in repeated loops of teased growth that doesn’t sustain or really change anything in our lives. In the SoulFullHeart process, you negotiate and navigate these transitions through ongoing dialogue with your parts, especially your more expressed ones such as your Daemon (soul guardian) or Prime Monarch (main personality part), so that it is at a rate that you and your parts can bear. These parts resist change and transformation as they would rather keep life safe, known, and constant for you.

The invitation to surrender to phoenix cycles continues all our lives, as it is the force of the natural world, yet the grace and acceptance at which we respond to it grows as we become more in touch with what is false in our lives, especially related to our relationships and career choices. This can be particularly painful when people in relationship with us, especially family and friends, are in different places and phases from us in terms of growth and transformation. It can be a challenging crucible to vulnerably advocate for what we most deeply want and who we are in these relationships, while at the same time inviting our loved ones to explore this new ground of healthier boundaries with previously suppressed feelings being invited to be expressed. It seems to be rare that this exploration finds alignment, which can lead to much hurt and misunderstanding. This too, though, is an aspect of the Phoenix Cycle. The Divine invites us to trust that, “only what is false can be lost.” Whatever the authentic connection is that we have with others or our authentic expression is in terms of our professional choices, it will sustain and grow through the crucible of the phoenix cycle, which naturally burns off what isn’t serving us any longer.

Wayne and I recently experienced an intense phoenix cycle related to money management and our relationship, which I write about here. We invite these movements into our lives, as we have experienced that change fueled by our authentic desire, responded to vulnerably and with willingness to feel our reactions, always leads to growth, more nourishment, and deeper intimacy with ourselves, each other, and the Divine.

This week as I walk by the salmon, who are actively in the process of dying yet are also, at the same time, birthing their next generation, I feel both sadness and hope. The sadness comes from the loss of their current forms and the hope comes from what is possible in the offspring that arises from their death. This is the same bittersweet feelings I have about the intimate changes I feel happening and am holding with our SoulFullHeart clients and in the global phoenix cycle that we are all connected to and impacted by that is playing out in the looming changes that are coming, whether we invite them into our lives or not.

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