Bringing Fire to the Earth
This has been a week of bringing fire to the earth.
As our daylight hours grow shorter at this time of year, spiritual life often involves fire. We light candles to mark our progress through the season. A fire in the fireplace keeps us warm and sparks our reflection and contemplation. Flames capture our attention as they dance.
Fire is one of my favorite metaphors for spiritual life. It purifies, melting and burning away what does not belong. Fire shines light into darkness. It warms us. Fire is powerful, beyond our ability to control it. It helps us feel safer and more secure. Fire grows stronger as we feed it fuel.
This week I live surrounded by fire.
The brush which grew after last winter’s rains is now dry and ready to feed fires. Fires spread quickly in the gusting winds. There are active fires burning and growing north and south and west of where I live. People I know have needed to leave their homes and protect their families.
Like earth and wind and water, fire is one of those elemental, essential parts of our lives. We might be able to forget its power for long periods of time. Then we are reminded of its importance when we see it face to face and look it in the eye.
We have gathered around fire to talk and listen, sharing our stories, longer than we can remember.
Fire turns matter into energy.
There is also the fire which burns within each of us. Our passion is sparked and ignites into a consuming blaze. While we might forget the reasons, we will always remember what sets our hearts on fire.
Fire and Spiritual Life
I have my own personal fascination with fire. Given half a chance, and a good rocking chair, I could sit watching it for hours.
Watching a fire in a fireplace, reflecting, is one of the great pleasures of this time of year. I even look forward to watching the burning yule log on television.
Watching fire can be a contemplative practice for me. The flames can be an excellent tool for setting aside distractions and other thoughts. It is almost as if the fire within our hearts reflects the fire in the fireplace.
I appreciate watching fire even more than I enjoy poking at it and adding wood to it.
There is something particularly comforting and rewarding about watching fire. The ongoing process of converting matter into energy continues at its own pace. From preparing to igniting, feeding and maintaining to cleaning up afterward.
The fire draws us toward it, demanding our unfocused attention. We can rest and relax, not being stressed about things which do not matter. Fire gives us warmth and light and something attractive to watch.
Spiritual life shares a lot in common with fire. We prepare ourselves, and spiritual life is sparked by something beyond us. Spiritual life in the world around us sparks spiritual life within us. We feed it and poke at it, and spiritual life gives us warmth and light.
Spiritual life draws us in to sit, rocking and reflecting.
It can feel like spiritual life is melting and burning away what we do not need or want in our lives. Spiritual life converts matter into energy, and then reflection into actions.
Beyond Our Control
The challenge for us is when fire refuses to stay where it is inviting, in the fireplace.
It is easy for us to forget and experience fire as a domesticated pet. We lull ourselves into a false sense of superiority and forget fire is beyond our control.
Bringing fire to the earth has many potential benefits as well as many potential risks.
We see the fires all around us and remember our fears. The fires may reach us, may make it impossible for us to escape. We watch as fire destroys plants and property, burning whatever it finds in its path.
Fire, turning matter into energy, changes everything.
Spiritual life works the same way.
We need to appreciate spiritual life is beyond our ability to control it. It is easy for us to think everything will by OK if we can just keep spiritual life under control. We perceive spiritual life as dangerous outside the safe places we have constructed for it.
It is important for us to remember spiritual life is not our domesticated pet.
Like the fire burning buildings and trees all around me, spiritual life leaves nothing untouched. There is nothing beyond its reach, no person it cannot change.
We are not able to compel spiritual life to do what we would like to see it do.
Fire All Around Us and Within Us
The brushfires burning around me are dangerous. They are causing millions of dollars of damage and disruption. Some people will lose their homes. Some people have died. We are spending a significant amount of money trying to control them.
The fires are a natural part of life in California. There were brushfires here before people lived here. Bringing fire to the earth creates opportunities for new life to begin.
The fire of spiritual life also helps us explore living in new ways. We may be afraid and we may lose things we hold dear. It may feel like we are giving up everything we hold dear. We may struggle as we try to bring the fire of spiritual life under our control.
Spiritual life sparks the fire in our hearts. It burns in our lives converting matter into energy, changing us from the inside out.
We are drawn to sit watching and rocking as spiritual life does its work within us. Sometimes we are afraid and want to exert our control over it.
The fire of spiritual life burns within us.
How are we bringing fire to the earth this week?
Where is the fire of spiritual life burning within you today?
[Image by soreen.d]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.