Recently I wrote about the Fire Element, which governs the summer season, and how as a culture we tend to glorify fire qualities (such as passion, activity, consumption, and drive) while overlooking water qualities (like receptivity, humility, reflection, and stillness). I explained that the natural order is a balance between these two. In parallel with this cultural imbalance, much of the planet is heating up, exhausted of resources, and drying out. Inviting water – and, more broadly, yin – in equal measure to fire is essential for our evolution and survival.
To follow up on this theme I want to clarify that fire isn’t intrinsically pathological. It’s all about how we embody it. In fact, if we tap into our innate fire in a way that’s governed by clarity, balance, and love (rather than fear and short-term pleasure-seeking), it blesses us with its virtues.
Let’s look at some of these virtues. I invite you to imagine each of these qualities in the form of physical fire and then feel into how you embody it as a human virtue.
Expansiveness: Fire’s nature is to expand. Not only does it expand in size as it finds more fuel to consume, but also its light expands into the darkness and its warmth expands into the cold. As the element that rules our heart, it prompts us to expand through acceptance, joy, and love.
Warmth: Warmth is more than a physical property, it’s an expression of our inner fire that engenders comfort, good humor, and connection. Warmth almost always goes along with openness. The ability to kindle genuine warmth in a difficult situation is a gift.
Lightness: With fire, lightness means two things – the quality of being luminous and the quality of being weightless. And it’s so natural that the word has been paired with the heart – lighthearted. (You don’t hear anyone being called light-stomached, do you?) The fact that this virtue can be evoked at any time, no matter how hard life gets, is something we should all remember.
Inclusivity: As the epitome of fire in our world – the Sun – denies its warmth and light to no one, another of fire’s virtues is inclusivity. Open hearts are inclusive hearts. There’s no part of our shadow that fire isn’t willing to illuminate.
Joy: Joy is more than an emotion. It’s an embodiment of truth – that what we are is essentially joyful, and that the Divine Play of life is an act of joyous exploration. The ego can easily shroud this truth; thus, living in joy is a purposeful act of service to ourselves and the world. When we choose joy we are remembering.
Unification: All manner of fuel can be fed into a fire and it’s rendered into one indivisible ash. Likewise, all of the above virtues support fire’s virtue of unification. Expansiveness reminds us that we’re one with everything. Warmth is the magic ingredient in cooking and interpersonal connection that brings different flavors together. Lightness shows us the insignificance of our differences and the undeniability of our kinship. Inclusivity is the invitation to discover our alchemy together and to integrate the fragmented parts of ourselves. And joy is the conductor of this grand reunion.
This week let’s all choose one of these virtues to cultivate. Sit with a fire and seek to understand what this virtue has to do with fire. Invite the fire in front of you to activate the fire inside you. Ask to be an effective channel for this virtue, and intend to embody it with an attitude of play and service. Then share with us in the comments section about how it went.