Monday, May 28, 2012

The Art of Holding Fire


Groggy and sniffling, I began setting up to meditate this morning. I lit a candle and placed it down on a table. As I lazily fumbled with the lighter my thumb came down and rested on top of the flame. I blinked for a moment and raised my hand up to my face.  I stared at my thumb, which had been in the middle of the fire.  No burns, no pain. Just a slight sensation of fading heat. The flame flickered and danced.


Perhaps I didn't feel any pain because I wasn't paying attention or was too drowsy to care. But that wouldn't explain why there was no burn or even mark. The Flesh's reaction isn't dependent upon how much I care. Perhaps I had imagined what just happened. But the hot sensation on my hand seemed to indicate otherwise.

Maybe I could do it again? 

On second approach the heat from the candle's fire made my hand recoil. I began wondering about the shift in perception. Why did the flame not burn my hand when I absentmindedly placed it on to of the fire the first time and then singe it when I placed my hand just near it the second time?

Perhaps this was just a small thumb-sized lesson in mind over matter. I had seen many magicians and wizards hold their hands above flames unaffected. People walk across hot coals all the time without getting burned. The quantum physics behind the trick is the same: what appears to be isn't. One of the most dramatic things to demonstrate on is the body. And what of its biggest threats is fire.  So combining fire 'against' a body always makes audiences sit up and pay attention.

If fire is an illusion then some times it burns and some times it doesn't. Once my mind had made a second attempt at touching the flame, my old mental image of the fire had kicked in and it was too hot. I couldn't even go near it. But before in a sleepy-dream-like state, my view of my hand and fire was very fluid and loose, like the firewalkers who stomps across burning embers or those who swallow flames. The greater the awareness of illusion the more it can be played it like in "The Matrix" or "Inception."

My incident this morning was small and accidental. It's not indicative of any special powers or achievements. It is just something that made me wake up a little bit. I went through my meditation and kept my mind on the flame that does not burn.


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