August 26, 2014

The Fire of Change & What Gets Burned.

burning art embers

We recently visited a wonderful hot springs.

There’s a super hot bath there that could boil an egg. When I first step into the molten water, I cringe. I’m only in up to my knees but already it seems impossible to go deeper. My whole nervous system’s shouting “Get out of here!”

That’s what it’s like when you’re moving deeper into your life.

Everything heats up. Your mind, emotions, body, relationships . . . everything is on fire. In the ancient language of Yoga, this fire is called tapas. It’s the fire that is always present in times of transformation when you’re moving to a deeper level of authenticity, aliveness, and awareness in your life.


You don’t light this fire.

The fire of transformation or tapas arises not through effort, will power, or goal setting—but from awareness. Effort, will power, and goal setting come from the self—and the self’s attempt to improve. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. It’s great stuff. Just not transformation.

Transformation takes less effort and more awareness.

Transformation is stoked by the naked, uncontrived awareness that sees—without blinking—that your old patterns of thought, speech, and action are outmoded. Really, really seeing this feels like stepping into the hot water. It’s a burning sensation. And the tendency is to move into action. To do something to fix, modify, or improve the patterns of the past. Again, this can be very useful. If what you want is to improve. But, it’s not transformation.

To transform, you don’t have to know what you want.

You don’t need clear goals. Or steps. Or programs. Or even a vision. You only need to rest in the fiery awareness that emerges as you see that the patterns of the past no longer serve you. It’s the same awareness that grabbed the poet Rainer Maria Rilke as he gazed at the headless sculpture of the god Apollo and he heard the injunction – “You must change your life.”

The patterns of the past have taken you this far but can’t take you deeper.

That’s the simple—burning—message of the fire. It’s a message that comes from within you, from your soul. Your soul is drawing you into your true life and the tension between the well-­-‐honed, well-­-‐known patterns of the past and the fiery imperative of the soul turns up the heat.

What happens then?

Your whole system reacts.

The tires of your mind start spinning and kicking up dust, pebbles, thoughts, and emotions. Your body gets restless. All these reactions are designed to move you out of the fire. Because just resting in the burning awareness that the life you have know is over—feels too hot to handle.

And it’s true. It is too hot to handle in the sense that your old patterns of identity cannot handle the fire. Your old way of being has had its day. And now it’s time for the fire to do its work.

The fire is there to teach you, purify you, and transform you.

This teaching, purification, and transforming occurs, as you stay steady. You don’t have to do the transforming. You can’t. The fire of awareness does all the work. Your role is to stay present. To allow that which is falling away to do so.

What’s burned up in the fire?

Your outmoded self-­‐images; ways of imagining who and what you are. And as these self-­‐-images dissolve away, the fire reveals deeper teachings—that you are not:

>> Your self-­images

>> Your personal history

>> Your cultural history

You are not the ideas, projections, hopes, or fears you have had about yourself.

As self‐images fall away, you do not disappear.

But, the you that remains is not an idea. Not a projection. It’s a living presence that has more in common with the fire of awareness than with any thought of self.

Discovering this fiery self (beyond words and ideas), you suddenly find that the water’s just fine—-not threatening at all. So you eagerly step in deeper. Deeper than you ever imagined.

Where is the fire of transformation burning in your life? Share below.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Author’s Own, Maf04/Flickr

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