(inspired by the crucible of this time, heated by fire and stoked by wind)
Burn how you will burn.
Take what you will take.
Blow how you will blow.
Teach how you will teach.
And we will learn as you burn.
And we will grow as you blow.
One of my sisters on the priestess path reminded me the other day: “As priestesses we talk about alchemy and transformation and fire, and yet, the reality of it is…so real.” She was, of course, referring to the raging fires here in northern California.
This time, now, and this place, here, is an opportunity to move from the cerebral to the real work of alchemy. The fires have ignited and change is inevitable. Fire is the primary element of transformation - extreme and dangerous, unpredictable in its power as it brings forth creation out of utter destruction.
Fire is an essential element in alchemy, heating the crucible of transformation. A crucible is a container able to withstand extremely high temperatures. It is also a severely trying circumstance that potentially gives rise to the creation of something new, novel, never seen or experienced before.
Fire does its work of destruction/creation in relationship with all the other elements of Nature - air, water, earth and the fifth. Nature is truly a great teacher if we open our eyes to see and ears to hear. Saint Bernard writes: “You will find something more in woods than books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.”
As Within, So Without.
So, look around you; look within you. Do you notice that sometimes the Fire within you burns out of control? Are you aware of the destruction? Can you come into relationship with Fire, imagining yourself on the frontline, stepping up and into a deep intimacy with this element as you track its movements and tendencies? Can you then create from the ashes?
I wonder if the firemen and firewomen develop an innate sense of Fire as a living entity…I wonder if we can see into the many layers of what is happening in this part of the world that has been set on fire, and actively shift our thoughts, actions and relationships with each other and the land…I wonder if enough of us do this work, we can affect the trajectory of this planet…
Along the Earth Wisdom path, we have exercises that bring us into direct relationship with each of the elements - air, fire, water, earth and the fifth. We are empowered to do something personally, locally, communally, effectively.
An Alchemical Practice For You:
First, pause. Go outside (and if you are in poor air quality, please where a mask). Breathe in the Air. Drink in the Sun. Feel the moistness of Water in your body, in the air, under your feet. Sense the Earth beneath you, as well as the earth of your body.
Then, take a seat and softly close your eyes or veil your eyes with your lashes, so light still flows in and out. Practice this pranayama to actively work with fire and wind, heat and cold: bastrika followed by sitali. For bastrika - the breath of fire - rapidly breathe in and out through your nose. Feel the heat building. Take a few deep breaths, then move onto sitali - the cooling breath. For sitali curl the sides of your tongue towards the midline, making a tube, and slightly project your tongue through your lips. Slowly breathe in through your mouth, then relax your tongue and gently breathe out through your nose. Continue for a few minutes. Take a few deep breaths, thencontinue alternating through bastrika and sitali until you feel complete with the pramayama.
When you are complete, sit quietly and create the following mudra for balancing energy. Turn your hands upright on your knees. Touch your thumbs (fire element) to your index fingers (air element), then thumbs to middle fingers (ether/fifth element), thumbs to ring fingers (earth element), thumbs to pinky fingers (water element). Hold each touch for about 5 seconds and continue as your breath slows, deepens and calms.
* If you are pregnant, or feel overly heated (emotionally/physically), practice ujjayi rather than bastrika.
* If you cannot curl your tongue (it’s a genetic thing), then replace sitali with sitkari. In this practice, you will lightly bring your upper and lower teeth together and separate your lips. Breathe in through your teeth, then gently close your lips and breathe out through your nose.
In this pranayama practice, we stoke the central hearth fire and cool the periphery, so that our actions come from a warm heart, while our reactions become cool, calm and collected responses. The Guided Meditation for Patrons of Beauty, Love & Magic will take you through this practice in greater detail.
Remember each day to tend the elements of your Whole Self - air, fire, water, earth, and the fifth - mind, spirit, heart, body and soul. Not too much, not too little, and just the right amount to be available for the work at hand. Be gentle with yourself and each other.
* The Guided Meditation for patrons of Beauty, Love & Magic will take you through the pranayama practices of bastrika and sitali, and into a space where your core is strong and warm, while your periphery is clear and receptive. We will complete with the balancing mudras.