step into the fire – and don’t get burned

Yesterday, I learned that the neighbourhood stores Frank and I love to hang out in burned down spewing toxic smoke into the area.  No one was hurt but the devastation, emotionally and practically, is huge.  I am so grateful that the 120 elderly people in the senior’s residence behind the stores were evacuated safely, that the employees were unharmed, that the only material loss were the contents of the stores and a few historic paintings by the Group of Seven.

Then I learned that a 4.7 magnitude earthquake shook Eastern Ontario and caused some damage to buildings in Ottawa.

We are a long way off from home, from Japan, from Afghanistan, Iraq, China, Ecuador, Chile.  Not just a long way off physically but mentally too.  I’ve been finding the constant flow of tragic pictures and information bytes about tragedies, large and small, intense.  In a conversation today with a colleague, I felt challenged to figure out how we practise the bodhisattva ideal without falling forward into panic.

How is it now?  I will be ever grateful to Barry of Ox Herding for teaching me this simple and profound practice.  How is it now?

Nathan has a terrific post today on this that pushed me out of my stuckness.  You can read it here.  It’s a tough practice to say “It just is” without sounding flippant or taking the spiritual bypass.  The issue for me is not only that lives have begun, endured, and ended for millenia.  It is also that I am, more and more, being asked to bear witness to it in a way profoundly different from before.  Before what, you ask?  Before I realized that stepping into the fire is not about burning up in the drama.

Stepping into the fire is letting the heat cook me in the dharma.

Last night this moon shone overhead… and everywhere.

Thank you for practising,


4 thoughts on “step into the fire – and don’t get burned

  1. Thank you, Genju. The whole earth quakes but we rarely notice. It seems to take a sledgehammer to grab our attention.

    In the Korean tradition, there’s a wonderful kong-an called “Thorny Jungle” (case 299 in Whole World Is A Single Flower). It finishes with Zen Master Jun Kang telling the audience:

    “Thorny jungle everywhere”

    We so often fail to realize the pricks and punctures, even though the jungle always surrounds us. Zen Master Seung Sahn asked, “How do you get out of this thorny jungle?”

    Good (opposites-style) question.

  2. fire, earthquakes, tsunamis, the elements are visiting us in full force. I keep thinking of Joko Beck’s phrase about “being a bigger container” to hold it all.

    And yes a slim diet of media feasting at the trough of disaster is indeed good. I tend to mostly avoid it, as it puts me in a position where I feel disempowered and manipulated. In the case of “news” more is definitely not better (in my experience) or helpful.

    • The part of all this that I can’t handle is the fear and trauma to the animals. I had to block all the emails and FB posts about that. If I was there and helping then I could do it. But to be this far away and only get the visuals is too activating for my system.

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