standing in the fire
Fire. We are taught at an early age not to get “too close” to the fire. That it’s hot. You’ll get burned. It’ll be painful and will scar you for life. It’s dangerous. Be afraid of it.
So we buy into the fear and avoid the fire. We shrink back when things get too heated. We douse those uncomfortable fires with water and try to put them out. In fact, we can spend years avoiding the fires in our life.
We don’t want to look too closely at what’s in the fire. Our past wounds. Our shortcomings. Our mistakes and regrets. The hurts we’ve caused others. The accusations we’ve inflicted upon ourselves. The parts of our personalities and character that we’d rather not admit to… that ‘dark side’ that comes out when we’re stressed, or angry, or hurt. The stories and scripts we tell ourselves are true.
There’s a poem an old friend sent me a few years back called, The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. It’s an amazing poem about integrity and being true to yourself and those you love. There is one stanza toward the end that I’m reminded of today:
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
Stand in the center of the fire. Stand alone. Stand with your loved ones. Stand with a stranger. Stand in the fire and feel the heat of the moment. The truth in the present. The strength of your self.
To stand in the fire seems like such a foreign concept to our western minds. But it’s a powerful experience to look ourselves in the mirror, accepting and acknowledging the pain. Admitting to ourselves that our pain, indeed, exists is hard. Why is this so difficult for us?
Are we embarrassed? Do we believe that to admit pain is to admit weakness? That to get too close to the unwanted feelings, they’ll hurt us even more? That we won’t recover? Do we believe the fire will alter our core? That we’ll change into an ‘evil’ person? Who tells us this is the truth? How did we come to believe in, and subscribe to these beliefs?
I believe that taking the action to consciously acknowledge and accept our pain as our own—saying it out loud, if only to ourselves, that our wounds exist—we become stronger and more integrated within ourselves. In accepting our whole selves, we diffuse the fears and this notion that we cannot have imperfections in our character to be whole. To the contrary, we actually come closer to the ever-elusive balance that we all seek.
Because here’s the thing (and this is not a new concept, but worth repeating): To ignore pain; to ignore the less-than-appealing parts of ourselves that we wish we could hide, is to do ourselves a true disservice. For to ignore that part of us, to push it aside, is to give it strength. And we give up a chance at integrating all of the facets of our selves and risk being one-dimensional. To truly integrate and create balance in our lives, is to accept and even (dare I suggest it) appreciate the fires that burn within us.
So I invite you all to go ahead and stand in the fire. Walk into it with your head held high and your eyes open and relish the heat. Embrace your fears and have compassion for them. Provide a safe place where they can exist as part of you. Nurture them with your humanity and feel the release.
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