Yesterday, the forest service started a controlled burn somewhere in the Okanogan Forest that surrounds the western end of Twisp River Road where I live. It was a high moody sky already yesterday afternoon, a little muggy with the smell of rain in the air. By the time I finished having coffee with a friend at Blue Star, cool winds were tousling the pewter clouds, and the smoke from the burn was a concentration of grays tinged with black up over the hills. It did rain a little, and the temperatures fell back down into the 50s by night fall. This morning, the air smells like Gouda cheese or a wet camp fire, or a little of both. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s different from the sweet clear spring fragrance of lilacs and greenery that usually greets me.
Controlled burns are essential to forest management. They take out what would be fuel once the dryer weather and fire hazards of the summer season start. This morning, this feels like a good metaphor for spiritual work. I’ve been reading the Yoga Spandakarika: The Sacred Texts at the Origins of Tantra with commentary by Daniel Odier. The Spandakarika, which translates to “The Song of the Sacred Tremor,” says in verses 4 and 5: “All the relative notions tied to the ego rediscover their peaceful source deeply buried under all the different states. In the absolute sense, pleasure and suffering, subject and object, are nothing other than the space of profound consciousness.”
In his commentary, Odier says “For a Tantrika, an emotion–for example, sadness–is a prelude to joy. The idea that the world was created and that one day it will be destroyed is unfathomable because we see the creation/destruction process as a perpetual cycle.”
Over coffee yesterday with my friend, we were talking about relating with difficult people, and she said “it’s all just patterns.” And my whole Being nodded vigorously with this. What’s so beautiful about the Spandakarika is its focus on the spherical nature of things, what Odier describes as “the manifestation of any emotion and its withdrawal.” The way the world is always being created and destroyed over and over in the vast imperceptible ages or yugas described in the Vedas. Or the geological and biological history of the earth. Or look at the film from the Hubble telescope trained in on a piece of “blank space” the size of a grain of sand. You’ll see a mind-blowing illustration of “the space of profound consciousness.” Focus your own inner Hubble on the vastness of your consciousness, and see what worlds it contains.
When we commit ourselves to a deep and ongoing investigation of our nature, we’re bound to discover the need for the occasional controlled burn. The old patterns that are still with us, lurking under the upswept branches of our highest selves, are fuel to both fire change and inflame our emotions. While we’re still in this relatively moist spring, before the dry heat and volatility of summer, turn the magnifying class of investigation on the twigs of your unresolved issues, and let the burn clear some space for new growth.