“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. My witness is the empty sky.”
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain. Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”-Jack Kerouac
When I was younger, I had a teacher caution me about selecting what I “sacrificed into the flame of yoga. ” It really stuck with me. As we increase our practice regularity and intensity, it has a way of permeating into every aspect of our life. The asceticism that can often arise out of practice is very real, very potent, and not always in the interest of our own well being (like when you miss a date with a good friend in from out of town, because your practice is a non-negotiable). This stuff can make us really unhappy.
We can see this in our own sense of self worth, too. Yoga teaches us that we can do so much more than we ever thought possible! We can do hard things, brave inconvenience, and push beyond our limits. But what happens when kids, parents, insult, and injury enter the picture and things get all messed up? What of the shame that can appear, from not pushing hard enough. And what of the lost relationships? This is a recipe for burn out!
It is essential that as we learn to direct our own mind and breath, we gain control over this flame, using it to illuminate rather than consume. It becomes essential that we develop discernment. What do we want to burn off? How much heat is too much heat? What happens when we’re done?
The Paradox of Seeking Higher Flames
What does it mean when we continually seek higher, more intense asana? Does it suggest that there is still much within us that needs burning, or is it an indication that we are perhaps too focused on the process of burning itself? The proverbial self-immolation in the pursuit of transcendence can be seen as a powerful, yet potentially endless cycle.
The Shift to Less Burning
As we progress, a shift often occurs. We become calmer, more grounded, more attuned to the reality of our existence and our place within it. The need for intense burning diminishes. This isn’t to say that the fire goes out – rather, it becomes a gentle, steady glow. The intense flames give way to a warmth that sustains rather than consumes. Plus, you’ve hopefully got a mind-body-organism that has been substantially unleveled.
Balancing the Fire
In this phase of our journey, it’s crucial to reevaluate our relationship with the transformative fire. Do we need to keep fueling it to the same degree? Or is it time to allow the fire to burn at a level that supports, nurtures, and maintains our newfound state of balance? This is not about extinguishing our drive or stopping our practices, but rather about finding a sustainable way to continue our growth.
Harmonizing with Our True Nature
As the fire burns lower, we might find that what we’re really seeking isn’t the fire itself, but what remains after the burning – a state of peace, clarity, and profound connection with our true nature. This realization can be both liberating and grounding, as it shifts our focus from constant transformation to a deeper appreciation of our current state of being.
In our pursuit of transcendence through yoga, meditation, and pranayama, it’s important to recognize the phases of our journey. There comes a time when the high flames of transformation give way to a gentler, more sustainable fire. This doesn’t mean our journey ends, but rather that it evolves into a more balanced and harmonious phase, where we live in greater alignment with our true nature and the reality of our existence.
Applying this to Practice
Regular practice, akin to managing a flame, can prevent future suffering. By learning to modulate the intensity of our practice – the metaphorical heat of our transformation – we avoid the pitfalls of excess and imbalance. This controlled burning steadies us, making us more resilient and capable of facing challenges with equanimity.
Filling the Seeking Cup with Sustainable Warmth
Our daily practice fills our ‘seeking cup’, but as we evolve, the nature of what we seek changes. Initially, we may seek intense experiences and transformations, but over time, this seeking becomes more about maintaining a steady warmth – a sustainable, nurturing practice that supports continuous growth and learning.
Learning About Oneself Through the Flames of Practice
As we engage with our practice, we come to understand ourselves more deeply. This understanding is not just about burning away what we are not, but also about revealing and nurturing who we truly are. It’s about finding the right balance between the fire of transformation and the light of self-awareness.
The Path to Potential: A Gentle Glow Rather Than a Raging Fire
The journey to our potential, the mystical, transcendence, and bliss doesn’t always require a raging fire. Sometimes, it’s the gentle, steady glow of a well-tended flame that leads us to these states. As we mature in our practice, the need for intense burning lessens, and we find joy and contentment in the subtler aspects of our practice.
Yoga as a Practice and State Beyond the Fire
Yoga, in its essence, is more than just the fire of transformation; it’s a practice and a state of being. It’s about finding harmony between doing and being, between transforming and residing peacefully in one’s true nature. I dare say it’s about balancing paradox and creating heat. For sure, it’s recognizing that only when our own flame is burning steadily and healthily can we extend its warmth and light to others.
Your practice is like a flame– ya get that yet? Initially, it may burn fiercely, consuming what needs to go. But as you progress, the flame becomes a source of warmth and light, guiding you gently towards a state of deeper understanding, balance, and peace. It can’t burn as brightly, because there isn’t as much to burn. Instead, this balanced flame not only illuminates the path for you but also allows you to be a beacon for others on their journeys.