AGNI: Fire


The last few days have been very challenging for our Santa Barbara community and for our family. The Thomas Fire-currently the 5th largest wildfire in California’s history-has taken almost 250,000 acres and more than 1,000 structures. Displaced more than 100,000 people from about 20,000 homes. Left charred mountainsides, demolished neighborhoods, exhausted firefighters, broken hearts, scattered and scared wildlife, and a frightened community due to innumerable alerts day and night, intermittent electricity, atrocious air quality that is worse than two times hazardous during a time of year where love, celebrating, joy and renewal is usually paramount.

If you’ve spent anytime around this great practice of yoga, then you’ve heard of the 5 Great Elements or Pancha Maha Bhutas. Fire is one of these that I’ve spent time studying, practicing, living and trying to balance within and without. It’s even a large part of my own Ayurvedic constitution. I’ve lived through a few wildfires in my 9 years in California and 12 years in Vail, including our 5-day mandatory evacuation with the Jesusita Fire in Santa Barbara. And, yet this week, with the Thomas Fire, I’ve had some of the most potent lessons from Fire yet.

Fire is more powerful than we think. Downright scary and unpredictable when out of control. We sometimes forget that we are at the effect of nature. We spend time trying to forecast it, predict it, control it. And, yet, when it comes down to it, it will have it’s way with us. We can merely get out of its way as best we can, sit back and watch, wait, and bow humbly to it. A great reminder of what real power truly is. And, a great reminder that too much of anything is a bad thing. Just like the mountainside, if we have too much Fire-anger, our job, our ideas we can burn ourselves and those around us.

Fire feeds on dry wind. As we’ve seen with these dry Santa Ana winds, it’s not just that we haven’t had rain, it’s that these plants are primed for a spark. Like when we have imbalance-not enough sleep/rest, healthy food, balance-that our own sense of out of control fire can start. Imbalance is similar to a lack of humidity and high wind.

Fire has a way of leaving behind very little, and yet everything that matters most, if we are lucky. It clarifies everything in its path. Leaves what is pure. We can only hope it spares lives. So, it begs the question, what does matterd most? When we drop something into a fire, we can literally watch it transform right before our eyes. It leaves less gunk, less clutter, what is most essential. Clean air. Family. Very few, if any, possessions. We tend to spend our lives accruing, managing and maneuvering our stuff. And, then a fire comes through and reminds us that our stuff is not something we can really have or keep, as much as we might try. And, we get to see clearly that what matters is feeling safe. Having shelter. Healthy air, food, water for those you love, with those you love.

Today, all day, my kids have been walking around singing

Om Namh Lakshmi

Om Namo Lakshim

Om Namo Laskshmi

Prema Devi Mataji