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SWAHA Tending the Flame


Janet Stone ORIGIN COLUMNIST


I


n the sixteen years that I have been practicing yoga, fire has burned strong and played a vital role at every stage of my journey.


I was introduced to yoga in India in 1996, while gathered around a ceremonial fire, yajna. Amidst a myriad of questions and doubts, I had left the film industry, looking for an escape from the mess and bustle of an unwieldy internal and external life. Instead of escaping, after staring into the wild flames that burned and transformed everything offered to them, I ended up on a path that asked me to look at all these messy bits, study them, and then embrace them and bring them into the fire of my own being. In the process, much would be burned away, but even more would be transformed into the steady flame of a life that has been devoted to practice ever since.


The word for fire in Sanskrit, Agni, also means “the transforming force”—a force that can manifest in all aspects of our life. By my mid-twenties I had witnessed the death of many of my closest relatives, including my father, who was 45 at the time of his death. Sitting nearby and tending him through the last days of his life, I was offered the ultimate teacher, guru in impermanence—the constantly


Photo: Meghan McCrea


changing nature of circumstances called, in Sanskrit, parinamavada. All that my mind wants to assume is permanent is simply a flicker, and the more I tighten my grip, the more I suffer. When I surrender to the inevitability of change, each breath that comes and goes can transform me in my own internal Agni. This fire can nourish and fuel a life lived without grasping, even in the face of sickness, even in the face of death. Don’t get me wrong: I know about grasping. And this is why I practice.


Yoga is a ritual in which we offer our body, life and mind into the flame of awareness that is our true Self. When we step onto the path of yoga, we step into the fire, igniting the tapasya, the “essential energy” that transforms us from small self into the true Self. This inner fire takes us across the dark night of ignorance to the vibrant day of wakefulness. When we forget to tend this flame, we get caught up in the tiny


dramas in the wild terrain of our mind or life circumstances. We can’t see clearly, mistaking this miniscule bramble for a forest that looks impassable. Yet when we cleanse and wash our being with the fire of tapasya, we move toward clarity, as if we can see without the delusion that clouds our lenses.


This divine fire is the origin of life, light and love—the powers of the soul that motivate us to wake up. The soul itself is our inner fire, the spiritual longing deep within. It is the inextinguishable flame, the witness behind all our states of consciousness. We are manifestations of this divine fire, and when we want to remember this flame that lives within us, we practice and then we practice some more.


Through this journey of yoga, we relight the flame every day and in every breath. No longer resisting change, we meet the fire of transformation and offer our longings and aversions to be burned away. Releasing our grasping again, and again, we give voice to the ancient mantra invoked at every fire ritual—including the one that set me on this path sixteen years ago: Swaha, “Please receive this offering.”


I had left the film industry, looking for an escape from the mess and bustle of an unwieldy internal and external life.


Photo: Mario Covic 50 | OriginMagazine.com


www.JanetStoneYoga.com


Janet’s personal yoga journey began in 1996 when she traveled to India, the birthplace of her grandfather, where she met an inspired yogi and became dedicated to a conscious evolution through yoga. She currently teaches in San Francisco, and at teacher trainings, workshops and retreats around the world.


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