The thornbush is the old obstacle in the road. It must catch fire if you want to go further.
– FRANZ KAFKA –
Last year I visited Dharamsala, India, to experience the culture and the roots of yoga as passed down from my teachers. I had many expectations and assumptions for my travels. None of them manifested. Bless India for hosting with humour, contradiction, and irony. Midway through retreat, I attended a Fire Puja Ceremony where I was layered in gold flowers and dabbed with a spot of turmeric paste at my third eye between my brows. I sat with a small group in a circle overlooking the Himalayas. Eagles soared overhead. Monkeys danced on the rooftop. Drowsy from the heat of the fire and sun, and pulsing with a desire dark and alive, I was elated with trepidation. For hours we sat with the medicine of the fire, feeding the spitting flames a concoction of rice and flowers. With each palmful tossed we were asked to feed our inner flame with the same dedication and fervor, burning away any obstacles and impurities that obstructed our path.
In the presence of fire we may experience an alchemical transformation in our ability to shift our perspective, provoke change, and blaze forward into the unknown. Fire may present us with a healing balm, an inner alchemy, as we dedicate ourselves to the mystery and magic of our will to power. The Fire Puja presented me with an experience to metaphorically feed my inner flame and refine my focus to manifest my desires.
An Expression for Healing and Transformation
We are the alchemists of our own experience.
– Clara Roberts-Oss
Fire Puja is a traditional ritual of healing and purification to cleanse the environment and grant blessings. The significance of a Fire Puja serves to remove obstacles, clear negativity, and repair broken promises. Many cultures honour fire ceremonies as rituals to bring light to the darkness. To honor fire is to revel in the light and heat of its flame, a flame we each have within us that asks us to stand in its intensity and move forward with more clarity.
The body is a microcosm of the cosmos. As individuals, we contain and reflect the five elements in the atmosphere known as earth, air, fire, water, and ether. We use qualities of the elements to gain an understanding of the ways we interact with the world and ourselves. Fire is sharp, acidic, and mercurial. Expressed as unpredictable, mutable, emotional, and wild. To step into the element of fire is to open ourselves to the possibility of healing through confrontation and manifestation of our desire. To move with the intensity of fire, we examine our inner longing, our deepest desires, and how we want to create and will our thoughts into action. Once anything touches fire, it is never the same. It changes physically and chemically. Once we enter the fire, we are also changed, physically, mentally and emotionally.
The flames of fire consume, destroy and create space for growth within the devastation. This may be likened to our ability to receive lessons from the past, let go of all that doesn’t serve, and use our experience to build a better foundation for the future. The flames of fire consume, destroy and create space for growth within the devastation. The flames will wither and die if we don’t move forward with new ideas and action; cycling through repetitive patterns that may or may not serve us in creating a better future.
Sankulpa: Cultivate an Inner Will to Power
Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.
To create patterns that build toward a specific goal or purpose we act consciously and observe our thoughts. When we act unconsciously, we may run the risk of creating habits that don’t serve and contribute to negative samskaras. Samskaras are based on our past impressions and represent deeply rooted, unconscious patterns that affect our way of thinking. All actions and thoughts create memories that are conscious and/or unconscious and contribute to shaping our present habits, behaviors, and tendencies. Whenever a thought or action is repeated overtime, it creates a groove in the neural pathways in the brain that get harder and harder to overcome. This is how habits form. When we consciously establish a habit that serves, such as exercising daily or eating healthy, this builds towards a positive samskara. When we act unconsciously, like scrolling Instagram while eating peanut butter off of a spoon, over time this shapes a negative samskara that we may not be aware of.
When we continue to do the same things in the same way or fail to question the rules or ideas of the world we live in- and are creating together- we limit ourselves in our capacity to grow and develop emotionally and spiritually. If we don’t question our actions and thoughts, we may never develop the self awareness necessary to break our cycles and shape our destiny as an individual or a collective. To have the courage and confidence to question your habits and confront the ways you do things is to tug at the thread of fate and reveal your own will to power.
Develop strength and discover your inner flame in this Power Centre Vinyasa Yoga class with Clara!
To transcend the limitation of samskara, one may use heat, passion, and discipline to metabolize the experience. It takes patience and practice to break away from the past and build new habits that lead us down the path of self discovery to a destiny we consciously create and will into the world. This takes discipline and a high commitment to stick to what you believe and what you hope to achieve.
A Sankulpa is the inner resolve to join the mind, heart, and body to align with your deepest core truth or value. Sankulpa comes from the ancient Indian Sanskrit. The root san means (connection to the divine) and kulpa (a vow, heartfelt intention). Sankulpa usually translates as resolution or resolve. It’s a short positive phrase or affirmation to inspire us to create or pursue a particular goal. One who commits to their sankulpa may turn the wheel of fate in their favor or overcome hardship. It takes commitment and confidence to establish a strong sankalpa, to stay in the present and overcome the grooves embedded from your samsaras that threaten to keep you stuck in old habits.
To break free of the unconscious chains that keep you tethered and stuck, you must move with will and determination into the fire of transformation. It is in the heat, the tension and combustion that we discover our inner resolve and freedom. Once we step into the fire and commit ourselves to the sankulpa, we are on the way to transforming our destiny. It takes inner resolve, a willingness to let go and forgive, and the strength to endure the intensity of the heat, to honour your sankulpa and will your desire into the world.
Sadhana: Tend the Inner Flame of Desire
Act in accordance to your desire without attachment to a preferred outcome.
– Bhagavad Gita
Living a life of passion and feeding your flame is to honour your sankulpa. The ritual and worship that comes in tending to your passion and living fully with an awareness for presence. When our hearts are full, we are more capable of love and compassion. When we live a life that brings us joy, we are better able to meet the world with kindness. When we act in according to our inner wisdom, we build the confidence to create a life we want for ourselves. This style of living is open to the mysteries of life. It requires a deep appreciation toward all the things that feed your flame, and an inquisitiveness toward those things that diminish it.
The Tantrikas, worshipers of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra (an ancient text for Tantra and yoga) viewed desire as the way to attain enlightenment and used the realm of the senses to access a higher Consciousness. Desire, for the Tantrikas, was an expression of the Goddess (Shakti) that exists in all things. It is the movement and pull of the universe. To be cut off from desire is to cut ourselves off from the nature of the world and our existence. The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra conveys a practice for non dualism, the idea that the divine exists within you and therefore everything that you do is a manifestation of the divine. Therefore, the senses and our desires are not something to run away from, suppress, or overcome. Desire and the richness of our sense experience should be welcome and expressed to access the diving within.
Desire exists in you as in everything. Realize that it also resides in objects and in all that the mind can grasp. Then, in discovering the universality of desire, enter it’s radiant space.
– Vijnanabhairava Tantra, Stanza 105
There are two types of desire: one being the spontaneous expression of embodied consciousness (an expression of Shakti and/or the divine) and the other as desire arising from past impressions and conditioning. We may experience the spontaneous expression of the divine when we move with the body’s senses and allow ourselves to feel fully and receive each unique experience. The Tantrikas saw the body as a vessel to receive the world’s incandescence, in contact with the whole of reality through touch, taste, sound, sight, and smell. Navigating the world through our sense experience may give birth to freedom through expressing our desires in movement. When we go and experience things for ourselves, we gain greater awareness of our inner landscape and the world around us.
Move with the spaciousness and compassion of your heart in this 5-minute Durga Meditation with Clara.
An expression of desire through our past impressions and conditioning is limiting and based on the experience of others, not direct contact for ourselves. An obstacle in experiencing spontaneous expression of desire may also be pursuing desire as an object external from ourselves. The Tantrikas saw desire as an ongoing expression, every action was an outlet for desire. Desire was pure love, an expression of Shakti meeting Shiva to give birth to pure consciousness.
A sadhana is a spiritual exercise to accomplish one’s goal with the ultimate aim of enhancing the expression of reality. Sadhana literally translates to “an effort exercised towards achievement of a purpose”. One who undertakes a practice of sadhana would cultivate a practice to honour their desires and overcome the limitations of the ego to pursue the divine state of consciousness. Sadhana in yoga may look like meditation, mantra, and asana practice where you would take the discipline of completing your sadhana for a specific interval or period.
Sādhanā is a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal. Abhyāsa is repeated practice performed with observation and reflection. Kriyā, or action, also implies perfect execution with study and investigation. Therefore, sādhanā, abhyāsa, and kriyā all mean one and the same thing. A sādhaka, or practitioner, is one who skillfully applies…mind and intelligence in practice towards a spiritual goal.
– B.K.S. Iyengar
Fire: An Acceptance of the Divine
When we acknowledge our desires or make the decision to focus on a specific goal or sadhana, we accept the trials that come with fully committing ourselves. No practice is easy, it takes a lot of discipline to keep showing up for what you want and reap the rewards of your choices. This is where fire, through its passion and purpose, may serve in developing the compassion and courage needed to stick to your resolve. Fire power may show us where we need to shed a bit more light on our uncertainties and grow through the intensity. The power of fire is its alchemy to burn and transform. We may use fire as an acknowledgement of the divine power we each have within us; an inherent ability to resolve, refine, and revitalize our living experience. May our inner flame feed our desire, a passion in-tune with the spontaneous flow of the universe.