Updated: Nov 6
By Paul Fetler
Suddenly dirty-grey clouds of thick smoke were oozing out of our gas heating vent. “There’s a fire!” a neighbor yelled outside. Carefully, I picked up our elderly orange tabby Elmer. My spouse Willie and I briskly stepped onto the common walkway of the heating up apartment complex, and safely down cement steps to the street. Blazing orange and golden yellow flames in dancing shapes went sideways out of windows and pierced through the roof of the 1950’s apartment building that had been our residence for over two decades.
I could not help but feel the presence of Lord Shiva, the ancient god of destruction, in our lives. Gazing with neighbors at the scary spectacle, I also felt Him thunderously laughing. Who needed to celebrate this New Year’s Eve night with fireworks when He gave violent bursts of flames.
Shaken as I was, I knew Shiva’s removal of things - material and subtle - that we cling to is always about freeing us in the long run, if we are receptive to His lessons.
After the smoky building was hosed off, the intense siren red lights lessened, only our apartment unit, along with our adjacent neighbor across from us, were tagged livable enough to sleep in before the imminent “reconstruction.”
We eventually found a “temporary” new apartment. Six years later the semi-charred building sits unrepaired yet to be habitable.
Paramhansa Yogananda said, “Don’t let your possessions possess you.” It is not the things, the yoga master taught, rather our emotional attachments to them, including physical homes, that keep us suffering. Willie and I have always had periods of systematic decluttering. Prior to the fire, there was still the frustration of too many books unread, pictures and embroidered textiles that increasingly seemed to crowd the walls out.
Having moved twice now in six years, being progressively bolder in letting additional old physical slices of karma go, we are awestruck each time by how many more items are tucked away in the closets and storage than we realized! Embracing each new fresh moment in the “eternal now” helps in the inner tug-of-war of whether to “keep or not to keep.”
The Purifying Fire
As yogis and yoginis, we know that the deep cleansing, in order to release the outworn, is, of course, found in the temples of our own beings when we open to grace. “Who is this person, or these contradictory persons, I have been dragging around, like airport luggage, all these years?” I have often asked myself in meditation. Layers within layers buried; it’s like trying to let go of the tree of emotional attachments above ground and being barely aware how deeply its subliminal roots go underneath! Yogananda’s powerful vibration and purifying yogic techniques have been godsends to continue to burn away my holding patterns.
What an inner and outer journey it has been the past handful of years since that fire! Shiva, like a compassionate spiritual surgeon pulling out painful attachment tumors, has helped us know that by going through the experience of losing aspects of a former life, we have gained a deeper assurance that our true home is always found inside us.
Feeling lost in uncertainty can be an opportunity to find more closeness with the higher realm. Today, we intentionally have fewer things in our current abode; the emptier white walls around the furniture, appliances, and decorations make more room to breathe, be in the moment, and feel the calm presence of Spirit.