Om Namah Shivaya

Holidays equals fire decimation and debris flow?

This is starting to feel like a thing. Fires tore through our foothills and burned thousands of acres again two nights ago. Again. A few blocks from the evacuation line, we packed our bags and were ready to go on a moments notice. Again. Others were evacuated immediately, and thankfully, to my knowledge no humans were hurt here this time. At least so far.

Last night the fear of debris flow hit. Again. The roots of trees, bushes and plants no longer on the hillside and massive amounts of rain headed our way for the first time in 9 months. So, just in case we didn’t get the message before (and so many other times), now, there’s another strong one headed our way. Mother Nature is speaking to us. Are we listening? So. Many. Lessons. To learn.

If the fire came down the hill toward us, two nights ago I stood trying to decide what to take with me, I took in the potency of the moment....again. Nothing really matters except the beings I want to take with me. Even though I had spent - and often find myself spending - much of time, in tending to and moving a bunch of inanimate objects around. My family members. Joel, Owen, Henry, Sadie were what it boiled down to for me in that moment. I even looked at the fish and said I was sorry they couldn’t come along.

Agni, or Fire, is the power of clarity. Discernment. What actually matters here. What doesn’t. Also, the power of transformation and alchemy. Anything that drops into the Fire- in this case the actual fire, and also the possible fire of raging waters. And since we are talking about it, the figurative fire as well- which transforms us, purifying by removing what doesn't belong, and in some cases even decimation.

Ayurveda - yogas science and medicine - speaks the same way and tells us that our bodies will speak to us first in a low whisper. Are we listening? If not, it will raise its voice. Another opportunity to make change. If not, it will eventually yell at us.

And, maybe you’ve been through the fire before, or maybe you’ve lived a life that has tracked along without much singeing at all. Of course, if we live long enough, it’s likely that sooner or later we will be touched by the burning of what we were certain was permanent. All the seemingly solid things in life will become ash, in a sense.

So many of the practices of yoga have us honoring agni – fire. To notice how we hold a fixed idea of what we are, have, own, get, on this life journey. Our suffering ( dukkha) is caused by our tendency to cling onto.

The more we attempt to hold to a fixed idea, an actual thing, a relationship, a job, our body, money, the more we experience the truth that this whole thing is a fiery, shifting, pulsing, changing, breathing being, and our desire to hold onto things, including the thing we call “I, me, my,” is not only futile—it’s the very thing that makes us suffer.

Pause, look around, imagine you don’t have what you have, that all the things you think of as “yours” shift. That the only truth is that all of this will change. Impermanence.

For me, I return to what my teachers have taught me. Attempting to practice equanimity in the midst of the fire of destruction. How can we find equanimity and aparigraha (non gripping) even in the midst of the comings snd goings, raging fires, torrential hurricanes, howling blizzards. Finding an inner, still point within and watching the monkey mind lunge and grasp, how we can nourish the body with movement, and witness the breath in its eternal coming and going, and entrain ourselves to one simple reality: things change.

Mother Nature is reminding us of impermanence as she rugs on certainties and we stand here vulnerable, naked, raw.

And, can we step forward into the moment with more awe and wonder? Can we celebrate impermanence as a way of staying attentive to the moment? And can we see clearly that there are no guarantees that what we have today will be ours tomorrow?

Tejas. We step onto our mats or cushion and “burn” our stories and certainties. We loosen our grip on all that we imagine is ours; and we sit there, revealed in our dynamic, impermanent body and simply feel, feel the absolute glory of one breath cycle, and melt into the absolute gift of this wild life. Each moment more sacred, potent, alive knowing that it’s all passing, shifting, burning, washing away.

Om Namah Shivaya. To be present to the moment. To the vulnerability and gratitude right at the surface of this breath. Pranams to the endless transformation.