How hot does the Sacred Fire have to get?

As I was bobbing in the water this morning, no one around, glassy lines of small but steep surf coming in just often enough to allow for some serious reflection (surfing can provide a great refuge for reflection, by the way), my thoughts kept returning to fire.

In this case, the Sacred Fire.

Following the Tuesday Led First — and I’m off to another Led with Tim Miller late Wednesday afternoon — as I came to the front of the line of folks wishing Tim goodbye, he looked at me and said, “Some sweat.”

No doubt. Some sweat.

There’s little doubt that Agni is working overtime during my practice. I believe I turned this corner, went from someone who sweats during practice to someone who produces his own, internal heat, at my own Tim Miller teacher training in Tulum back in 2011. I was hot all week, and in many ways, I’ve been hot ever since.

(That’s meant in the internal fire way, not the ego way, I’m assuming it’s clear.)

But, as I nestling back onto my board after a barrely chest-high left, I thought: What’s all this fire getting me? And then I realized that wasn’t really the question.

The question is: Where’d all this stuff that needs to burn away come from?

There’s been some progress, no doubt. (And those who’ve been keeping along with this blog have read about it.) But, man, my iron does not want to be melted down, does not want to become malleable. And so all the pollutants and other crud that’s there, too, is still there.

It feels like my fire is pretty hot. But even this hot, it’s still not enough.

As I continued to catch waves, paddle back out, wait for the next set — pelicans flying by 15 or so feet from me at times — I wondered, if I’m going to keep this thinking in a Hindu or Vedic line, what exactly I did in my past lives to produce all this stuff but at the same time bring me to yoga.

I think that’s my own personal contradiction. I know three years of practicing Ashtanga still makes me a newbie, but for most — I know there are exceptions, a few of who commented on the “can you be too old to start Ashtanga” post — after three years, I bet Second Series is there, and First is pretty well under control. (I am talking heavily here about the most physical nature of asana, please keep in mind. I know there’s no such thing as mastery, only “mystery,” as Bobbie related Tim’s saying.) But as someone who doesn’t need much “reduction,” who has the strength to pick up and pull back and jump through, there’s still a ton of struggle in the grossest part of the practice.

And it is all, well almost all, in the stiffness. (I’m sure, physically, my breathing could become longer and more consistent.)

This is a very clear, narrow, focused physical problem. It’s what has brought me to the Rolfing, what has me trying to add different stretches during the day, what has me doing lots of everything.

So, again, the question: Where did this come from?

And the follow-up: What else do I need to do to get rid of it?

Until another good answer comes along, I guess I will continue to stoke the Sacred Fire, and hope that eventually it gets hot enough to break all this stuff down.

Speaking of stoke, and not to leave you on a downer, I think the past three days are the first time in a decade I’ve surfed three days in a row. (The last time, I believe, was on a surf trip to Rosarito Beach. Before that probably was the summer after I graduated college, which was another decade earlier.) When I go out tomorrow, and I will, it will be the first time in two decades — back to that same post-collegiate summer — I’ve gotten wet four days in a row. And I’ve got my eye on five.

Here’s a little taste of what I’m seeking during that part of my week’s retreat here (if you have a short attention span, jump ahead to 3:30):

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

7 thoughts on “How hot does the Sacred Fire have to get?”

  1. I’ve asked these questions before. In fact, I’ve asked a lot of people who are far, far more self-realized than myself. You know what they all said. “If you find yourself in a burning building, it’s kind of silly and futile to ask how the fire started. Better to focus all your attention on getting out.”

    I think that’s good advice.

  2. I know they say that if you take to yoga, you practiced it in a past life, but you have to start in in some life, right?
    How do you know this isn’t your first life practicing yoga? That would mean you are creating good karma unrelated to any bad karma from past lives. Could also explain why maybe you perceive yourself as not progressing (physically) that quickly…….because you’re learning it from scratch!

  3. Hello Steve,

    I am also a ‘stiff old white guy’
    I used to look up ways to stretch my hamstrings, open my hips on YouTube etc.
    Doing ‘extra stretches’

    Then instead of my stiffness, I FULLY turned my attention to smooth, even breath during my practice.
    My attention had moved inward to my subtle body. Breath & bandah.
    An interesting thing happened- I was able to effortlessly move deeper into the asanas than I had before. (this doesn’t come together every practice and I don’t get hung up about it)

    You become what you set your focus on.
    Focus on your stiffness and that will define your practice.

    I remember my teacher Nancy Gilgoff saying something along the lines of, “Yoga is being happy with where you are right now”
    Being happy with where you are in the asana right now. We Are All Already Here.

    best wishes, Tony

    1. Hi Tony.

      You’re certainly right, and the getting caught up too much on the physical of the asana is a danger (and an easy one to get lost in).

      I have some thoughts along these lines floating about (for when I go back floating in the ocean), but one thing is: As I loosen a bit, I’m starting to “see” what the poses offer, and so I do think there is some general benefit to getting deeper and more into the pose.

      Or, as Tim has said to me this week: “Not correct. No benefit.” And then he comes in hard!

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