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I like the image of the fire banked under ashes a lot. I am not using it to promote pranayama (I would if we could get a presentation about pranayama), but I have many times gone to our campfire, and found the coals under the ashes, and fed them up into a lovely fire on which to make breakfast. I’ve also cooked in pots settled in coals under a banked fire banked with ash. It’s totally safe, but the contained heat is actively cooking breakfast while we sleep (ancient “crock pot”). When camping it’s also important to realize that there may be active coals under ashes that can be reignited if air can get to them.
This is a wonderful analogy for the inner fire of humans. We may seem to have our fire extinguished, buried under the ashes of disappointments, time, fear, pain, exhaustion, ignorance (desire as Geeta Lyengar teaches), but often that fire is just banked- waiting, “on hold”, like the potential in the branch that stores the suns energy, and which will become kinetic energy, giving heat and light when it burns. Because all you see or feel is ashes, don’t despair. There is often an ember under those ashes that can burst into flame when you least expect it. And it may, like in our banked camp fire, be doing something useful and wonderful inside you, where no one can see it.
There are many sorts of crafts that seem to generate something seemingly ugly or inert, but when the ashes and slag are cleaned off, is a thing of great beauty- which would never have been so if it hadn’t been through the fire, or spent time under the ashes. Some people don’t realize (I didn’t until the glass blower moved across from us at Pennsic) that a finished piece of blown glass must go into an annealing oven- a special holding place so it can cool gradually or it will shatter. Sometimes the symbolic fires we need to transform also require that we wait for a time in order for the change we are experiencing to be positive.
Too often ashes are seen as simply the remains of a fire, a sad reminder that the fire is gone, but it is not always gone, and the ashes have value in and of themselves.