Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Fire: Entering the Crucible of Awakening

In a recent discussion, the term of "the fire" came up in reference to the spiritual awakening process. It seems to be an unavoidable part of the process. Maybe it has to do with all the false stuff we've built up around ourselves in this culture. There are so many things we don't need to be happy, to be. So perhaps that's why when the awakening process starts for many of us, while we get some amazing moments of connection and awareness, we're also having our lives and our thought patterns thoroughly incinerated. It feels like we won't survive.

The Overgrown Wilderness
In the wild when an environment becomes too overgrown, eventually a fire sweeps through. It's searing flames can destroy huge amounts of plantlife. In the instance of areas with conifers, those fires often allow certain types of pine trees to release their seeds for germination. It's an apt metaphor for our lives. Think about all the excess stuff we carry. Ideas, old emotions, toxic relationships with our bodies and with others, and so much other stuff that we hold onto. All that stuff is in the way of true being and being in alignment with the universe. Until we burn it off, we can never reach into the kernel of being and allow it to grow.

At some point, a spark ignites. It's different for everyone, but there has to be some amount of spiritual awareness, aspiration, and knowledge. Otherwise, it's just a shitty series of events in someone's life. They won't learn and grow from it. The person will just hold on harder to old patterns, and eventually, the firestorm will subside, but nothing or very little will be gained. Really, there are a lot of points where things go south in our lives, and they are always opportunities to learn and to grow spiritually. However, that deeper awakening that hits and changes everything permanently is a whole other beast. That's the one I'm talking about. That's the one where everything burns to the ground, and you finally get a clear view of what is truly important.

Putting on the Asbestos Suit
Yeah, it's going to get hot in here, although my header suggests there's a way to protect yourself from it. That's really not the point. I'm just being silly because I'm like that. Or perhaps a good sense of humor is one aspect of the asbestos suit. Try not to take everything so seriously. It's all going to be intense. It's going to hurt like hell at times, and then it'll immediately switch to some kind of beautiful moment of presence. It's dizzying. You feel crazy. You're losing yourself--at least who you think you are. Relationships implode. You quit your job. Someone (maybe you) suddenly has a debilitating illness. You think it can't get worse. It does. You still think in terms of yourself, so you say, "Why is this happening to me?" Oh, I can go on and on. Which is why we laugh.

I wouldn't say I had an altogether easy childhood, nor would I say it was terrible. But my family definitely had a lot of financial struggles, and the way we got through a lot of difficulties was to laugh. You just have to laugh. Because life is crazy. You can't take it too seriously. It's the cosmic joke. "Really? Seriously? My laptop just got stolen. Okay. Fine. I didn't really need it to work or connect with people anyway. Joke's on me."

It's not black humor, per se. It's not Rodney Dangerfield "I don't get no respect" humor. It's more of an absurdist humor and a way of laughing at ourselves for being so self-involved. Life happens, and we have to change. Holding on brings pain and suffering. So a lot of this path in this culture seems to be about learning to let go of everything.

My Own Fire
Personally, I sat in the fire at varying temperatures for somewhere around five years (This number was updated, so it doesn't sync with the date on this post). It started in August of 2007. Jobs, friendships, an intimate relationship, living situations, and other stuff all changed, pushed me, challenged me to hold more space, to have more love, to endure and carry more than I'd ever carried in my life. I've felt more undependable to others that I'd ever wanted to be in my life as I've had to learn how to be uber-present to my own needs at all times and in all situations. At times, I felt like two wholly different people, and I've spent a lot of time re-merging different aspects of myself to come into a deeper union and presence within myself that I had not fully realized existed. Which would go along fine and then some other major change would wreak havoc through me. The hardest stuff would always be the stuff happening on the subtle plane with no outside reason for me to feel so terrified or so despairing.

But the fire has done it's work.

And of course, I'll say it's worth it if you truly want to be awake and if you truly desire deep connections to yourself and the world. It's not a happy-go-lucky path of workshops and famous spiritual gurus. It's a lot of work alone in the dark, but for some of us, there isn't a choice (or the alternative choice is so painful to go back that it certainly doesn't feel like anything I'd want to do).

So we walk forward into the crucible of the soul, and we burn it all away.
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