All over the world fire resonates with the human psyche on a very deep level. Fire symbolizes passion, power, and creativity. It is a vibrant, active force.
One of fire’s subtler, less celebrated associations is sacrifice. The word sacrifice can be defined several ways. In this context, sacrifice is defined as the act of giving up something we want to keep in service to the highest good of others, and ultimately, ourselves.
When in service to our ego, sacrifice can be depleting and, ironically, at times even self-serving. When we make our sacrifice an offering, it can be healing and transformative. Although sacrifice may be inconvenient or uncomfortable, in order for it to be healthy it should not be forced if healing transformation is to occur.
High and low-side expressions of sacrifice.
Thus far, modern American society emphasizes the achievement of the individual at the expense of the greater good. The healthy expression of sacrifice is abused and exploited by those in power. While some have enjoyed many benefits of living in such a society, many have had to sacrifice far too much, personally and/or systemically. Even among some spiritual circles that put a high degree of focus on “manifestation” of our personal desires, sacrifice seems outdated, misguided, and to be avoided at all costs.
Yoga practice asks something of us. At times, our practice feels blissful and offers respite from a chaotic world. Other times yoga forces us into the very heart of that world and asks us to look at our part in creating it. Yogic living is not easy, but it is well worth all our efforts if we are willing to do the work.
Dancing in the fires of transformation.
Shiva is the destructive force of the universe. In his image as Shiva Nataraja he dons cobras around his neck and dances within a circle of flames. This portrayal indicates he has conquered the fear of death, or, complete absolution of identification with the temporal self, and has been fully liberated in the fires of transformation.
Fire rituals are the roots of our modern yoga practice. Long ago the Vedic priests burned offerings. After extinguishing the fire, they would cover themselves with the ashes. This reminded them not only of their sacrifice, but the transformation that occurred because of it.
Fire transforms us. It cleanses, purifies, and creates space for something new to emerge. This is an evolutionary process of burning away all that does not serve us. As we do, all that remains is our true essence.
It is said that when asked how he created The David, Michealangelo said he didn’t. God did. Michealangelo regarded his task as removing everything that was not The David.
Sacrifice is part of our sadhana -spiritual practice. We do practice as a way of experiencing our innate connection to Source, whatever that means for us. Like fire, our practice burns away all that would separate us from Source, and ultimately from ourselves and others. As we do, our sacrifice unburdens us of all that we thought we had to carry. We re-discover ourselves as who we always have been… whole, healed, complete.
Questions for reflection
What comes up for you when you hear the word sacrifice?
What sacrifices have you made in order to further your own growth and healing?
How has making a sacrifice empowered you and/or another person or people?
What beneficial transformation occurred because of your willingness to say yes to making a sacrifice?