Ceremony is an essential part of daily life at Aurora. Deliberately structured days are an important behavioral treatment for the chaotic brain states that are manifest in active addiction.
Upon awakening, we introduce new positive ceremonies that will help re-establish healthy lifestyle patterns, and “get our head in the game” to live purposefully, one day at a time. There are many daily and weekly routines practiced, such as morning prayer and meditation. The distribution of the 365-day recovery books Daily Reflections and Just for Today support that structure and routine.
For alumni, we email out Aurora’s Daily Gift in order to reinforce the morning routine of self-reflection. Weekly we have the Gratitude session for members completing the residential phase of treatment, Sweat Lodge Ceremonies, drum building and the House Meeting with its sharing of present moment gratitude. Each month, Kevin Koroscil leads a Grief and Loss Ceremony. These are just a few examples drawn from our rich community life at Aurora.
Recently, we have been blessed to have some extra ceremonies here at the centre. Kevin conducted a four-day sacred fire and cleansing ceremony, which required his presence on-site for the duration. Many staff and members assisted with regular smudging of the property. We were also lucky to have a special ceremony brought to us by MCS staff member, Silvia Harder.
The Day of the Dead, or Dia de Muertos in Spanish, is a holiday celebrated by Silvia in her hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. It is held over two days, November 1st and 2nd. This period of the year is recognised by many cultures as a time when the veil between the living and the dead is pulled back, hence our Halloween celebrations.
“It is a special time dedicated to remember family members and friends who have died. It is not scary like Halloween, but more spiritual,” says Silvia.
It is a time of celebration rather than mourning.
The inspiration to recognize this holiday at Aurora began during Halloween in 2019, when Member Care Administrator Tara Kirton costumed up in Mexican manner. Silvia followed suit.
“I had it in my head that, next year, we will make it bigger,” said Tara.
As the date in 2020 approached, Kevin communicated his desire to go ahead and hold this celebration.
Traditionally, on the day of the holiday, people go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed, and private altars are constructed in homes. Silvia provided guidance on constructing an altar here at the centre. Prior to the altar being set up, Silvia had the opportunity to gather our community in the auditorium, explain the ceremony and let members know that they were welcome to make offerings and participate or not. Informational handouts were created and made available as well.
Traditionally, the altar has three symbolic levels, with photos of the departed forming the top level. We set the altar beneath the Recovery Day Tree painting. The Night and Stars Tree was created by artist Ruby Rain and is meant to remember those who have succumbed to the illness of addiction. Silvia made traditional offerings, such as a special bread called pan de muerto, and representations of orange Mexican Marigolds. The pleasant scent of marigolds is meant to attract the souls of the dead to the offerings.
Silvia shared the beautiful intentions behind the holiday.
“It’s how we keep them alive in spirit. We offer things they like, such as food and candy or favourite items, do activities they like. We talk about them and remember them. They are not here physically, but alive in our hearts.”
As Silvia summarized, “you are only dead if you are not remembered.”
Aurora is fortunate to be introduced to another way to grieve in a healthy manner and access our spiritual selves through ceremony.