What I Learned by Poking through the Ashes
Imagine traveling through time, back to the days before fire. Envision one night, a prehistoric man seeing a dead tree burst into flame when struck by lightning. I see him wondering; what was this lively bright warm entity that manifested in the tree. Consider the prehuman, curious, after the fire burnt out. Where did the life of the fire go? Did they seek what I learned by poking through the ashes?
I carry the thought with me that they looked to wood to find the fire within it. It became an obsession ’til they discovered the secret of making fire. And from there how to keep it going
In the temperate regions of this earth, we’re blessed to be able to watch the passing of the seasons. As winter draws her cloak around us, we find ourselves seeking the comfort of a fire. We purchase wood. Stack it. Chop it. Cut kindling or go out and find pine cones. Save up newspaper or junk mail to create the ignition. Once lit we feed it to warm ourselves and the house.
Poking through the Ashes
We share the tending of the fire. And often when I meditate in front of it I have time to ponder the deeper symbolism of the fire. It feels like the entirety of a lifetime is a fire lit by a spark. The spark of spirit we carry in our souls.
We travel through life and many things happen to us that become mundane and routine. Not everything we experience illuminates a piece of memory. It burns up and becomes ash in the hustle and bustle of our lives. And yet the ashes become the keeper of the fire.
Every so often I have to clean out the firebox. Remove all the ash that has built up over days. As I reflect on this I see that not only do we have this fire that we carry through a lifetime, we also have fires that we build and feed and that sometimes burn out as well.
We have relationship fires, career fires, things that fire our interests and become hobbies. We can take each day as a fire that we set alight when we awake. When these fires die and we poke through the ashes we often find embers that we can use to start a new fire.
I’ve noticed that as the ashes build in the firebox there is definitely a point when embers will be sustained by the ash. But as they continue to build it becomes more difficult to maintain the strength of the fire. Also, when the firebox is newly cleaned, it seems that the fire, if left unattended will go out more easily.
This seems to indicate when a fire is being lit in my life I must persist with it, attend to it, feed it with fuel until that point when it becomes self-sustaining, and then when I see the interest waning to find those embers that I’ll carry with me to the next point.
What are the embers? Glowing coals left when the fire begins to die. By stirring the ashes, we find embers. Perfect for getting the fire going again. In the home we use old newspapers some kindling and voila! The fire reboots. In the outdoors finding some dry tinder and some twigs and you have the makings of another fire.
Stirring the ashes is a great analogy for reflective practice. Poking through the ashes brings glowing coals to the surface. In reflective practice, we’re looking at the remains of our fire whatever that might be.
A lesson, a therapy session, a relationship, an investment, our working day, the day overall, a match, an interview. Sure, in each of these events there will be ash, and there will also be embers, bright points we can carry through to our next experiences.
By seeking the aspects of these experiences for which we can be grateful, that we can appreciate, these are the glowing coals, the embers we find by poking through the ashes. Even if they have been a challenge we can turn them to our benefit. We take these and use them to start our next fire. This could be the next day, the next interview, session, lesson. Nothing is wasted, all is useful.
Starting the fire
The fire we call our life could be thought of as a case of spontaneous combustion. We were born carrying the spark of spirit. Along the path, we’ve had to find fuel to maintain the fire. Mostly that is a naturally occurring process where life throws up hints as to what ignites our passion, our enthusiasm.
When we’re having to create some fire – finding a new job, entering a new relationship, starting a project, expanding our hobby, creating momentum from being parked we have to go out in search of fuel.
When starting your fire, it is best to collect most of the wood you require before you start.
The picture isn’t a really good representation. It is best to sort your wood into different sizes to help make the fire-making process easier. Find some tinder; wood shavings, pine needles, thin dry bark, small twigs. This will create the initial punch for the fire, setting the kindling alight. Then you’ll need three more sizes of wood graduated to allow the fire to progress to a peak.
There are times when we’re entering into a new life phase or a project phase that it can be tempting to go all-in. Even in going all-in, we need to be careful how we place the wood on the fire. We need to ensure that we’ve built our fire to a point that it can sustain this.
It’s no good going all-in before the fire can take it. The fire will be overwhelmed and extinguished. You’ll have to start from scratch. it is very frustrating when this happens. But perhaps by poking through the ashes you’ll be lucky enough to find some embers to kick off the process again with more care.
So what are these aspects that are fuel for the fire? Sourcing equipment and product to expand the hobby. Information, training, forming a team. Developing a firm foundation for the team, the relationship. By allowing this to happen organically we can reach a point where it is safe to go all-in, where the fire we’ve started has become self-sustaining.
Carrying your fire
For nomadic peoples, it became easier to carry an ember with them than try to start a fire from scratch when they got there. Starting a fire would have required a large input of energy using a bow-drill, or spinning a stick between the hands to create a spark to ignite some tinder. An ember carried in dry moss and tended throughout the journey was a more efficient use of the tribal energy.
Carrying our embers with us is a good use of our energy too. What are those things that we keep, to light us up? And where do we keep them?
They are our passions, our enthusiasms, the people, and things we appreciate and care for. The things that create smiles and warm hearts.
It’s no mistake that they bring warmth to the heart. The heart is the container for these precious embers. It is where we tend them, wrapping them in soft dry moss.
Good things happen when we tend our embers, focusing on what is good about our lives. Studies by the HeartMath Institute, show that with positive heart focus we can raise levels of vitality hormones and decrease levels of stress hormones with consistent practice.
Catch on fire and people will come from miles away to see you burn.
If you’re confronting any challenges in your life, seek wisdom by poking through the ashes for the embers you carry in your heart. Connecting with the feelings they evoke can bring comfort, create enthusiasm and confidence going forward. Bring them out. Ignite some tinder, and add kindling. Build a business, bring passion to a relationship, a hobby. Let these catch alight, keep adding fuel, create a bonfire and you’ll bring a throng to warm themselves next to it.
Perhaps your fire will create embers for them to take away and start their own fires.
Thanks & Blessings