Blessed By Fire

Written by on October 22, 2019 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living, Inspirational with 0 Comments

Have you ever been in a tricky situation in life and wondered what you should do, where you should go or where the truth lies? Consider that you're maybe experiencing the heat of holy transformation. 

The Heat of Transformation

One good way of discerning truth in situations like this is to walk through the fire. Walking through the fire means simply going through something. Something intense. Something happens when you really go through a grand experience, when you are subject to something big and the heat and refinement of leave our numbingly familiar life for a while. It could be a journey, a ceremony, a yoga class, or even something you don’t choose, like an illness, death, or divorce but during and most certainly after this refining experience, after the heat of it, all the bullshit seems to be summarily burned away and what is left is something you can call Truth. In yoga philosophy the Sanskrit word Tapas means the heat necessary for transformation.

 

Learning to Sweat

A few years ago, my good friend Wendy who practices Native American spirituality, invited me to attend a sweat lodge ceremony that she was hosting in the lodge she’d built in her back yard. I showed up, having attended and even conducting several sweat lodge ceremonies in the past, assuming I knew more or less what I was about to experience. Little did I realize the degree to which I was going to experience Tapas.


If you’ve never attended a sweat lodge ceremony, the lodge is a round tent-like structure that represents the womb of the earth, or mother earth, the great turtle. The ceremony began by building a fire and blessing large stones with our prayers that we place in the fire and heat for hours until they glow red. The hot rocks represent the bones of the earth and facilitate the heat required for transformation. The ceremony is an opportunity to go back to source, to get right with things that are and find personal direction and clarity in by being relationship to that which is so clear, direct, and real. It’s the chance to sweat away all impurities. And just like in yoga, this refinement happens on the physical, energetic, and conscious level all at the same time.

The participants enter the structure by kneeling and saying the word, Omatakwayasay, meaning “to all my relations” past, present, and future, ancestors and progeny, and all spiritual beings who are involved in my being here in this moment. You invite the full spiritual parliament to assemble, to witness and participate in your transformation, you call on their spiritual power and wisdom. I couldn’t help but think of my grandpa who died on his 95th birthday and who was one of the sharpest and most gracious, and loving people I’ve been blessed to have in my life. If I have a guardian angel following me around, it’s probably him.

Once inside the lodge, the red-hot rocks are brought one at a time into the lodge and placed in a fire pit depression in the middle of the lodge. Once the rocks are in and everyone is present, the opening is closed and it becomes pitch black. Dark and hot. Dressed in only shorts, my skin opens to the heat, and within only a moment a thin line of sweat runs down my back. So it begins, I think to myself. The heat begins its refining process.

The Burning Begins

The ceremony starts with prayers and talk where each participant sits in the heat has a turn speak or pray out loud. At first the conversation is cautious as we sense the proximity of others, most of whom we do not know. But as time goes on, the darkness and the heat sets in and the walls of inhibition begin to melt. It’s not long into the ceremony and I’m crying into the darkness with desperate prayers, pouring out sorrow, desires, and hopes. Looking for truth. Seeking wisdom. Needing help.

The heat becomes increasingly oppressive as the officiator, a Native American holy man named Leonard, intermittently ladles water on the rocks causing hot steam to fill the small, cramped structure. The heat asks me to look within find my own deeper wisdom. After a while I’m starting to get worried. I’ve run marathons and this is by far the most physically challenging experience in my life. After an hour in this heat, I note to myself that rather than spend even another 15 more minutes exposed to the heat of these rocks and steam and the heat and weight of my souls doubts and fears, I would rather pop out into the night air and run a bare-foot marathon in nothing but these shorts. The ceremony continues and I am comforted knowing that I can choose to leave if it gets to be too much. Somewhere, my Grandpa is nearby. I’m called by something inside to stay and begin the biblical wrestling between the angel and demon, the call to stay and the desire to leave. After a while the heat is so hot that I curl up in a ball and press my face into the moist dirt, the only place even remotely cool. The air is breathable down low and I get a little respite.

The Blessing of Fire

After three hours of wrestling with this heat, I’ve decided that enough was enough, that I’m not strong enough to continue, that I’ve done my best, I’ve done enough and that I am going to leave. As I make motions to do so, my head is spinning the only thing I can think of is to get the hell out of that door. I was drunk a lust to breath fresh air, to lay my bare skin on the cool grass and look up at the stars. I scramble on hands and knees to the door. I’m half way out of the door when the Native American holy man conducting the ceremony puts his hand on my back. In my weakened state, the simple weight of his hand causes me to collapse onto my belly, face-down in the dirt, halfway in and half way out of the lodge, panting, my head spinning in the cool night air. “Brother,” the holy man says as he begins to offer a blessing to me. And for several minutes I lie in the dirt as he blessed me with wisdom and strength and a special gift to see into the future and into the past. He blessed me with the ability to see into different realms, the cosmic and the earthly, to stand at the crossroads and to translate and direct others. He blessed me in the sacred ceremony of my relationships and blessed me to listen to my heart. After 10 or 15 minutes of this I felt renewed. I felt brave and strong. I felt courageous and able to get back up and sit back in my place in that lodge.

I crawled back in and took my seat as they shut the door to the cool night air but not before bringing in a giant bowl of cold raspberries. Something you ought to know about me is that I’m not all that partial to raspberries. It was the night, the heat and weight of the experience, the holy man's blessing, the brief respite and new courage to try it again. It was all of this and more and I’m here to tell you, that when I placed three cold raspberries into my tongue I saw the face of god! Never has anything tasted so beautiful, so sweet, so refreshing and so satisfying as those few raspberries. I suppose I will never taste anything as divine as those three raspberries as long as I live. And so with all of this, the ceremony continued and I worked through another hour of heat.


A Fiery Resolve

The moment came when the prayers had been said, blessings offered, expiation accomplished and the ceremony was over. My clarity came as I crawled out of that lodge, sprayed myself with the hose and finally laid myself on the grass and looked up at the stars, my whole body steaming and pulsing. All the bullshit—the pretense, the doubt, the insecurity—was burned away and what was perfectly clear to me were very specific things I needed to do for myself and for my relationships. I knew what direction I needed to go in the decisions in my life. While still steaming (literally) from the ceremony I found my phone and made phone calls to begin those important conversations all of which started with either I love you or I'm sorry. That clarity of that night has clearly shaped where I am now.

Living in The Heat

Maybe it’s not a sweat lodge. If fact, maybe it’s not even something that you chose but something that life has chosen for you, an illness, a change in your relationship status, a death or illness of someone close to you. This is all the same heat and sacred ceremony in some ways that causes us to see through the superfluous into what really matters. From that heat comes the clear vision we can use to make those invaluable course changes in life.

Yoga is a controlled way of administering the heat. Whether the Tapas is the literal heat you feel in your muscles in a pose or the heat of a new stage of life, it’s all the same in how it transforms us bit by bit into the sacred and divine beings that I believe are inherent in our nature as unique expressions of the Divine.

I bless you to see the heat of whatever is transforming you in your life right now as holy.

 

Photo by Alex Adams

Scott Moore is a senior teacher of yoga and mindfulness in the US (New York, Salt Lake City, LA) and abroad and currently lives in Southern France. When he's not teaching or conducting retreats, or traveling to teach, he writes for Conscious Life News, Elephant Journal, Mantra Magazine, Medium, and his own blog at scottmooreyoga.com. Scott also loves to run, play the saxophone, and travel with his wife and son. Check out his yoga retreats and trainings in places like Tuscany, France, and Hong Kong , his online Yoga Nidra Course and his Yoga Teacher Mentor Program

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