May 10, 2016

Awakening to the Flame: The Potency of Micro-Meditation.


Joshua Earle/Unsplash

I am sitting alone in my backyard in front of the fire pit, watching the flames lick the logs and the smoke billow high into the cool dusk. I nestle my feet closer to the flames; the dichotomy of heat from the fire and chill of the night air plays on my skin, and I am immersed in the dance of sensation.

Totally enraptured by the fire, I watch darkness descend deeper. I feel no orange is brighter than that of the hot flames against a pure indigo sky. It is the eve of the full moon, but she is shaded by clouds so there is no light other than the glowing flames, and I can barely see the outline of branches against the night.  working really hard to like it.

Although my body and my energy appreciate the solitude, my mind has other ideas. It’s Friday night and even though I am tired, I feel melancholy and lonely. As difficult as it is for me to be by myself, I know this is a wise choice. Plunging into our difficulties can garner the greatest change, and I am ripe for change. I am at a crossroads in my life—stay or leave—but instead of making a change, I am hovering.

It’s funny, though—isn’t change about doing something, putting in effort, working hard? My efforts seem to be the opposite: in order to make the change, I must sit down and be quiet and in essence, listen. Can I make a change by doing less?

So I sit and watch, and the fire becomes the meditation: I feel the itch to get up, get out, do something, but then I melt into the heat of discomfort. The flames appear like liquid, yet when I look closer and dissolve into them, they seem like something I can mold and shape. (Like my perception?)

It all keeps changing: red and yellow licking flames, orange smoldering embers. The heat and the chill, the light and the dark, the death and the beginning again. The wind shifts and the embers catch flame, moving and turning underneath the logs and blowing smoke into my eyes. I squint and begin to tear; is that from the feeling inside or out?

I am a yoga teacher. I teach people to sit quietly with themselves and observe, and it’s one of the hardest things for so many of us to do. Between jobs and friends and personal responsibilities, we can keep ourselves busy from morning until night without a flicker of connection to consciousness. So it is with great humility that I admit (and here is the reveal of my dirty little secret): when I find myself solo on a random afternoon or evening, I do not know how to sit still and do nothing.

On my first trip to India, four years ago, a teacher said to me, “Don’t pressure yourself to meditate for 20 to 30 minutes at a time; meditate for short periods of time, and do it often.” That made sense to me, simplified meditation, so I found many brief and quiet moments to in which to reflect: before I put the key in the ignition; before I sent a text; before I spoke; when I woke up; as I prepared my food… these became my regular meditations, and they continue to be important moments of concise connection that I consider “micro-meditations.” They add up to a lot.

My dermatologist once said to me, as he was espousing the importance of sunscreen, “It’s not just those long days at the beach that really have an effect on your skin, it’s those little moments that you go from your house to the car and your car to the store and back again, repeated over and over, that can have just as much impact.” What he was saying, in essence, was the same as my meditation teacher said: every little bit counts.

So this has become my default meditation—the micro moments. And yes, while they do add up to a lot, I know that it is time for me to immerse myself more fully in the flame. How do I know this? Because I see how difficult it is for me to sit still, and I know that it is only when things are really difficult that the time for the greatest change is ripe.

So I turn off the computer, put the phone down, make a date with myself to be quiet and listen.

I sit alone in my backyard in front of the fire pit and watch the flames. It’s uncomfortable, I don’t like it, but I’m getting to know myself better, learning to forgive myself, burning away the outer voices, to hear the essence of my true Self.


Live for a few days in the meditation,

I am immersed in the flame –

The flame of time,

The flame of love,

The flame of life,

The universal fire flows through me.

Step into that fire wholeheartedly…

Attend to this continually,

And awaken into tranquility.

Your essence is renewed in the flame,

For it is flame and knows itself as flame

Since the first heartbeat of creation.

~ Sutra 29 from The Radiance Sutras, by Lorin Roche



Author: Elyce Neuhauser

Image: Joshua Earle/Unsplash

Editor: Emily Bartran

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