We Can’t Handle the Heat (& That’s a Good Thing).
We love to go to Harbin Hot Springs in Northern California. There’s a super hot bath there that could boil an egg.
When I first step into the molten water, I cringe. I’m only in up to my knees but already it seems impossible to go deeper. My whole nervous system’s shouting, “Get out of here!”
That’s what it’s like when you’re moving deeper into your life.
Everything heats up. Your mind, emotions, body, relationships…everything is on fire.
In the ancient language of Yoga, this fire is called tapas. It’s the fire that is always present in times of transformation when you’re moving to a deeper level of authenticity, aliveness and awareness in your life.
You don’t light this fire.
The fire of transformation or tapas arises not through effort, will power or goal setting, but from awareness. Effort, will power and goal setting come from the self and the self’s attempt to improve. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. It’s great stuff—it’s just not transformation.
Transformation takes less effort and more awareness.
Transformation is stoked by the naked, uncontrived awareness that sees, without blinking, that your old patterns of thought, speech and action are outmoded. Really, really seeing this feels like stepping into the hot water.
It’s a burning sensation.
And the tendency is to move away from the heat; to pull back from the intensity and to move into action; to fix, modify, or improve the patterns of the past. Again, all these responses can be useful. Sometimes fixing, modifying or improving are just right. But, at other times, these strategies are distractions.
Particularly, when you find yourself poised at the edge of the fire.
You see that the patterns of the past no longer serve you.
The patterns of the past have taken you this far, but can’t take you deeper. That’s the simple, burning message of the fire. It’s a message that comes from within you—from your soul.
Your soul is drawing you into your true life—and the tension between the well-honed, well-known patterns of the past and the fiery imperative of the soul turns up the heat. Resting in this burning awareness that the life you know is over feels too hot to handle. And it’s true:
- The old patterns of identity cannot handle the fire.
- Your old way of being has had its day.
- Now it’s time for the fire to do its work.
The fire is there to teach you, purify you and transform you.
This teaching, purification and transforming occurs as you stay steady. You don’t have to do the transforming. You can’t. The fire of awareness does all the work. Your role is to stay present. To allow that which is burning away to do so.
What’s burned up in the fire?
Your outmoded self-images; ways of imagining who and what you are. And as these self-images dissolve away, the fire reveals deeper teachings:
- You are not your self-images.
- You are not your personal or cultural history.
- You are not the ideas, projections, hopes or fears you have had about yourself.
As self-images fall away, you do not disappear. But, the you that remains is not an idea. Not a projection. It’s a living presence that has more in common with the fire of awareness than with any thought of self.
Discovering this fiery self (beyond words and ideas), you suddenly find that the water’s just fine. Not threatening at all. And you eagerly step in deeper. Deeper than you ever imagined.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Eric Klein
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Author’s Own