Last month I gave my Advanced Teacher Trainees an assignment called the Edge Project. This project is designed for them to stretch beyond their comfortable limits, to face their fears, and to step into a bigger space as a teacher. It is no surprise to me that in the last month, I too have been called to stretch further than I have in the past and to stand strong in the unknown and uncomfortable. Opportunity after opportunity presented itself to me. During the last month I have been presented with challenging social situations, having to say no when it was much easier to people please and say yes, speaking up when it was necessary and felt crippling to do so, coming into a more integral relationship with my finances, recognizing where I have been hiding and taking the action necessary to step out in the light, and having the bravery to confront and heal old wounds. Each time I found myself standing on my personal edge, I recognized the sensations in my belly, the subtle shaking of my hands, the sweat beading in my armpits, and the strong desire to have the Earth open up and swallow me whole so I wouldn't have to experience the pain my mind perceived I would endure if I allowed myself to be present.
I have been in the fire countless times throughout my forty years and one thing I've learned is that although it is uncomfortable, it can't kill you. Sometimes we get lucky and we can walk through the fire with steady, determined steps finding our way on the other side a little bit toasted, but stronger and more sure of ourselves. Other times we are asked to stand inside the fire for a certain amount of time feeling the slow burn and the occasional searing hot flame licking at our very core. Sometimes our experiences make us feel as if we will be consumed by the flames and it is in those moments that we must remind ourselves that unless we let the fire burn down to ashes, the phoenix may never rise.
Indigenous people have know this since the dawn of time. This is why there are sweat lodges and rites of passage ceremonies and why yogis perform kriyas until their arms feel as if they may fall off or their thighs may explode. This is why we practice. We practice to teach our nervous system how to withstand the burning away of our illusions and our limiting beliefs. We practice to teach our minds that there is another way and that the fire is our friend. Perhaps not the friend that comes up behind you to soothingly rub your shoulders, but the friend that nudges you towards your full potential. So, next time you find yourself growing warmer with hot coals beneath your feet remember the phoenix. Remember that you are stronger than you believe and it is the fire's job to show you who you really are; a being capable of more than you can imagine.