May 25 – Through the Wall of Flame – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

As a frightened man in a burning boat has only one way to the rest of his life, we must move with courage through the wall of flame, into the greater sea. 

Living long enough, we each find ourselves surrounded by an old way of being, thinking, or loving that is going up in flames. In that unexpected moment, we usually find ourselves full of fear, feeling trapped by an old way of life coming in on us. But this is the passage of rebirth that we must move through if our lives are to unfold. It is the momentary and painful crossing from what is old into what is new.

It is understandable to stall at the wall of flame, not waning to face all that is burning around us. Yet old ways can burn forever, and waiting for the flames to go out seldom works. We can waste years in the waiting.

Like the frightened man in the burning boat, we must trust the the greater sea we are jumping into will douse whatever catches fire as we move through. This is what faith is all about.

Without trying to be brave and wth great fear, I have stumbled and jumped through many walls of flame. The first time, I think, was in leaving home – needing to go, burning at the edge, afraid I wouldn’t survive beyond the flame of anger in which I was raised. Not much later, I had to move through the flames of first-love rejection. Here the broken part of me was almost willing to be burned alive. I felt certain there was nowhere to go and nothing that could soothe me. I more fell through this wall than jumped and, of course, once in the sea of life beyond myself, the world continued and I healed.

Perhaps the greatest wall of flame I had to jump through was the pain of cancer and the prospect of dying. It seemed the entire sea was on fire. Even once overboard, drifting farther an father from the flames, I though tI might drown. How could I know the greatest sea was the womb of a deeper life? I’m sure this is the same for anyone struggling to break out of any form of addiction, illness or abusive relationship.

But the subtlest ring of fire, it seems, is that self-centred way of thinking that starts to suffocate us with its smoke. For we carry the smouldering of being self-centred everywhere we go. It lives off us and eats up who we are. So, how to jump from the burning boat that is us? Well, it somehow requires jumping from the boat of the ego into the sea of our spirit. This somehow involves the courage to surrender our stubbornness and dreams of control. It means letting the ribs of their ego burn. And jumping through. We will more than survive – we will be carried to an unimagined shore.

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