Alignment with your inner fire

I’ve been teaching from a Rumi poem this week.


A story is like water
that you heat for your bath.

It takes messages between the fire
and your skin.  It lets them meet,
and it cleans you!

Very few can sit down
in the middle of the fire itself
like a salamander or Abraham.
We need intermediaries.

A feeling of fullness comes,
but usually it takes some bread
to bring it.

Beauty surrounds us,
but usually we need to be walking
in a garden to know it.

The body itself is a screen
to shield and partially reveal
the light that’s blazing
inside your presence.

Water, stories, the body,
all the things we do, are mediums
that hide and show what’s hidden.

Study them,
and enjoy this being washed,
with a secret we sometimes know,
and then not.

It has themes of water, story, and the body, all used as media to connect the inner fire with the skin!  The construct of the Kośas offers a form to envision the layers of the self which also includes the outermost layer (skin) and innermost layer (soul).  It has a total of 5 layers, which could be helpful for your practice.  The other layers are the breath or life-energy layer, the mind layer and the intuitive or subtle layer.  If you’re curious about the kośas, look on my website for a past practice letter.

One of my teachers has been teaching about alignment this week, and encouraging us to act in alignment with our inner self or integrity.  To remember our fire inside.  It is heartening to see examples of this happening in the news, with athletes making choices from their hearts, even though they may be criticised in the public forum.  Life can have so much more meaning when we feel empowered to honor our internal, moral compass.  It can take great courage and we may not find support from outside ourselves, but this alignment with one’s own heart can give a different sort of support, something truly sustaining, that we may not usually know.

As humans, we instinctively know that our best chance at survival is to keep in the good graces of our pack, our tribe, our species.  Sometimes we bump up against this when our hearts disagree with mainstream culture.  Our consumer society tells us that we don’t measure up, aren’t rich enough or thin/tall/cheerful/tough/smart/young/white/awake/educated/cool (continue to infinity on this) enough, so that we will keep buying stuff.  There is no end.  Once the belief is in place, it takes tremendous work to recover and believe that you are ever enough again.

During covid, I’ve found myself freer from the desire to buy things.  I don’t even miss going to restaurants or traveling right now.  I didn’t get to this point by myself, covid’s restrictions forced me here by restricting my freedom.  What I’m finding now, is that I am living more in alignment with my heart.  My true self knows that I don’t need to “fight aging” or try to have the body of a 20 year-old (photoshopped to look like something not even humanly attainable).  My authentic self is quite delighted, just to be here today, writing to you, in my garden.

I want to share one more teaching, from my teacher Lama Tsering Everest.  You can check her out on youtube if you’re curious.  She decided, long ago, to do a 3 year retreat, which is the tradition in which she was training.  Her 3 years started, she was all gung ho, until the Rinpoche told her, “No reading”.  What? No reading, none, nothing, not even the cereal box, not even the spines of the books.  No reading.  She lost it for a while, feeling she’d been duped.  Over time, she found her way “back” to presence in life.  She was clearer and more engaged in her practices.  She told the Rinpoche this, that she was fine without reading.  Then he told her, “You can read.”.  She then found books to be amazing, just the craftsmanship involved to make such a thing as a book.  She saw that the pages at once been blank and someone had added all these letters, all this punctuation, all this striving to do things well.  Amazing.  Once she began to read, she was “full” after one sentence, as if having eaten a sumptuous meal.  To eat or read more at that time seemed like too much.  She took her time and was truly awakened by this new way of reading.

Likewise, I am overwhelmed at times from a social distance visit with a friend.  I am tired, I feel full, I do not want anything more.  Zoom meetings are like an even more complex meal, with extra courses, and I only zoom socially on occasion.  Life has tempered me.  I see how beautiful my garden is, the sky, the clouds.  I hear the church bells ring on the hour.  Some days I pause to count the number of gongs because I don’t otherwise know the time of day!  This pace of life is allowing me to access more of my depths and to bring the light from that inner fire to the surface, to my ears and my eyes.  Not every day feels like this, but today did and I wanted to share this.  As Rumi offers,

Water, stories, the body,
all the things we do, are mediums
that hide and show what’s hidden.

Study them,
and enjoy this being washed
with a secret we sometimes know,
and then not.

Discover your fire – what is that like?  Can you find the ways to bring its influence to your skin, your hands, your mind, your words?  Simplicity has been my gateway, what is yours?  How will you behave in this world when you can feel the touch of “the light that’s blazing inside your presence.”?

Heart made of fire on black background