This month west coast skies have been gray, except near the fires, where they are lit with the hot colors of fire. Yesterday morning I laid in bed thinking how close the fire up the road was and the many houses in it’s path before it would have reached us, fortunately it was contained before nightfall. I had flashbacks of a wildfire that took off from a smoldering brush pile in a clear-cut behind our property 30 years ago, surrounding our property on two sides with lapping flames. I could see the fire through the trees as I tried to organize my thoughts and belongings for possible evacuation. No one had notified me of the fire, I just happened to notice before going to bed lights from police cars at the end of the driveway. Walking down the driveway I saw road barriers closing me in the fire area.
It was a different world then, management was not handled well on that fire. In the dark I walked up the road to the fire staging area and got a ride up to the fire line by a local volunteer in his truck so I could see if any of the tall firs on our boundary were on fire. It was a long, scary night, and I was angry.
What do these fires, does fire in general, have to teach us? Perhaps that is a personal question for individuals to ask, depending upon how wildfires have affected them. In Ayurveda, the ancient science of life, fire is the primary element of the Pitta dosha. Too much Pitta in an individual can cause rashes, fever and inflammation, people with an imbalance of Pitta, either constitutionally or due to dis-ease, can be ‘hot headed’, quick to anger and may express anger with aggressive words or behavior. (The secondary element of Pitta is water, as in ‘letting off steam”!) When in balance, Pitta is the fire to “digest” food, thoughts and life experiences, it can be sharp, smart thinking, strong, have staying power and energy. When Pitta is strong people have endurance and can be “in their heads”. Like it’s element Fire, Pitta has both a negative, destructive side and a positive building side.
The other doshas, Kapha and Vata, are the elements water and earth (Kapha) and wind and ether (Vata). Kapha imbalance can be cold, immobile and needs fire to energize it, to give balance, drying up some of the sluggish dampness. For example hot spicy foods are good for Kapha, too much cool, heavy, oily Kapha foods can cause congestion and overweight, yet spicy foods can aggravate Pitta, giving it too much heat. Excess Vata, the wind dosha, can push Pitta, causing it to inflame, yet Vata is flexible and needed to balance too much Pitta or Kapha. Vata moves the fluids of our body as it moves the rivers and streams of the earth.
There are colors we associate with fire – red, orange, yellow, and these colors, while stimulating and balancing to Kapha, can be too intense for Vata and definitely raise the heat of Pitta. Pitta finds balance with cooling shades of blue and green. Vata, prone to fear and anxiety, finds balance with soft, warming shades of colors, such as soft golds. Vata needs nurturing, soothing and ‘grounding’ to calm its erratic, ‘windy’ nature.
Are we nurturing ourselves individually and in our communities during these challenging times? Or are we allowing ourselves to become too inflamed with heat and anger?
Summer is the hot Pitta time of year, now in late summer we are moving into autumn, the Vata time of year. There is heat, yet there is wind and transition. In the news we read of aggravation and anger in the behavior of people and often the events we read about bring up our own anger. Things seem to be moving quickly, for better or worse. There is fire, there is wind. There is imbalance. There doesn’t seem to be much groundedness. There is too much water in areas of North America and other places, not enough water in other areas. There are too many fires . The Earth, a living being, seems out of balance in so many ways. Does it start with how out of balance we humans living on the Earth are?
When there is serious illnesses, such as cancer, all the doshas are involved, they are all out of balance and a careful assessment of how to bring a person back into health and well being is needed.
Maybe one lesson of fire is our need to find our own balance – in ourselves, in our relationships, in our communities. Be patient and understanding, be kind, watch the temper. Try not to let the news ‘rile’ you up! If you are a Pitta inclined person, bring cooling calm into your life, surround yourself in cooling blues and greens, the colors of the earth and water. If you are Vata inclined, be especially nurturing, soothing and calming the winds of your anxieties and fears with meditation and walks in Nature. Maybe you are a Kapha person, grounded but immobile, lacking motivation and feeling there is nothing you can do. Taking positive action by helping others at this time could give you more energy. We can all bring calmness to our outer world by finding ways to balance our own nature. A world full of healthier, balanced, calm people will surely begin to heal this precious Earth-body. It is not easy to bring balance to such a large living being such as Earth, but starting with ourselves is a good place to start.
I’m going to imagine blue skies, blue water and coolness settling over the west coast, enveloping the fires til they smolder out, the balancing impact of Kapha on Pitta. And I will visualize everyone in the path of hurricane Lane being calm and safe as all that Vata energy moves through.
You can read more about Ayurveda and see a list of resources to learn about food and life style choices, etc. here: Mother of all Healing.