When I was a young child, the home my family and I lived in was
heated with a big, cast iron, coal furnace in the basement. There
were 4 rooms in the house, each connected with a duct from the
furnace. We lived in central Alberta, so the winters were very cold.
Each early, dark morning in the winter my Dad would go down stairs
and “shake the furnace”. As a young child I just accepted this at
face value although the idea now is quite hilarious! In reality, it was
shaking the grates that held the coal so that the ashes from the
night’s fire would fall down to the bin below and leave behind any
chunks of coal that weren’t yet burned. The sound of this
reverberated up the ducts and chased away any thoughts of more
sleep! My dad would then take a long poker and pile the remaining
hot bits of coal into a heap – or Stoke the Fire. Then, he would
add a big shovel full of the amazingly shiny, deep black coal. Soon
after, the fire would be roaring, and soon after that our little house
was toasty warm.
Stoking our own personal flame of endeavor is very similar. First, we
need to recognize what it is we want to accomplish. We need to
“shake the furnace”. In the Yoga Sutras this is Svadhyaya, or selfstudy.
What do we want? What is our heart desire? Is it to be
happy? To make a contribution to others in some way? To become
more content? To live in more harmony with our loved ones? To
feel more satisfaction in the way that we live?
What is it that stands in our path between where we are and where
we want to be? Is it life style patterns such as: relationships;
habits (helpful or unhelpful); employment or unemployment;
addictions; others? Do we need a specific education? Or perhaps we
lack the resources (child care, money). Maybe it’s more than one
Now comes the hard part. We stack the coals into a pile – we
Stoke the Fire. We gather together our resources – those things we
DO have. Everything counts here, even the stuff we think of as
everyday or minor. Sometimes when we look closely, we see that
something we thought was standing in our way is an illusion – like a
mirage disappearing upon close inspection. Fear can also feed us a lot
of stories that simply are not true. Sometimes, seeing clearly is
very painful. Kindness and compassion for Our Self is imperative.
Both actions of “shaking the furnace” and “stoking the fire” require
a great deal of energy. Self-nurturing is crucial to restore us so we
are able to see clearly, and so our creative self can be unleashed to
create unique solutions!
And now a step of courage – add a shovel of coal. In the Sutras,
this is Tapas – building the heat of transformation. Begin to plant
your feet down the path you wish to go. Our first step might
simply be words of affirmation each morning at breakfast, for
example, “I live in abundance”.
Once we take this first step, another step will unfold before us –
sometimes this takes a lot of hard work to see. This is the faith
and trust piece – we do the work necessary and let go of any
expectations of results. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. Take
another step. In the Sutras, this is Isvara-Pranidhana – trusting
that the Divine has our back.
Each step we take is a victory. One day we may arrive at the place
we set out for – maybe we won’t. Maybe as we evolve along the
way our heart desires change and we alter our direction. Every now
and then we’ll find we need to stop everything, shake the furnace,
and start all over again. Only we’re not starting at the very
beginning anymore – we have already evolved. No effort in Yoga is
ever wasted – thank heavens! The effort we have already put in has
helped us on our way and cannot be taken back.