What would I wish for the wildfire to burn away?

Natural disasters like devastating firestorms shake our sense of safety and stability and cause real damage in our lives. And at the same time, they might be a blessing in disguise.

While protecting everything that needs saving in your life is the natural thing to do, this is an invitation for an ‘Aha moment’. If a ferocious firestorm was blazing towards your neighborhood and your house, what would you wish it to burn away physically, relationally, emotionally spiritually?

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See below for submissions

Knowing that you can keep what's important, what would you like to take the opportunity and eliminate from your life?

Which physical items, emotions, beliefs, behaviors, habits, relationships, or desires would you like the fire to consume so they no longer weigh on you, and most importantly, why you would like to rid yourself of these? If your submission feels too personal, feel free to submit it anonymously or with only your initials (real or made up).

— Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

Let it get Wet

This poem came at a moment of transition in my life; the end of a marriage I had been hanging onto. My personal landscape was scoured, and this represents a turning point from tragedy to acceptance of a new world.

A soft rain is falling
falling around me
my clothes are soaked
I don’t care
the dampness on my face
feels good
feels good
come down rain
come down
touch my soul
run down my nose
down my chin
envelop me so that
I feel nothing but wetness
nothing but wetness
cold and warm and wet and
be my companion
my pores are thirsty
to breathe the mist
my body is water
my soul is water
my mind is at sea
obscured by sheets
of rain of rain
a fire burns in my
chest evaporating
the water cold
my skin is cold
my heart beating fast
like the hearth fire
fanned by a blast
from the open door
the door is open
and rain blows in
my house
threatening the fire
pooling on the floor
wrecking the carpet
I don’t care
let it all get wet
open all the windows
let the rain in
let the rain in
let it soak the bed
let it get on the books
let it ruin the lounge
let the wind blow over
everything so neatly arranged
so neatly arranged
let it make a mess
and the fire sputters
and complains
but it won’t go out
it just rages more valiantly
fanned by the wind
throwing itself around
in the hearth
no danger to the rain
and when the morning comes
and the mist is lifting
and its clear
the fire only a few coals
the house damp
then I walk outside
filled with the sweet morning air
then I walk outside
my heart wide open

— Steve Vinay Gunther  


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Elimination of shame

I would like the fire to eliminate the shame I feel at being inadequate in all aspects of my life. When my daughter was diagnosed with autism, some loved ones had said hurtful things, and others simply stopped being there.

I would like the fire to burn the wishes I had for my life to be replaced and rooted in realistic expectations. I would like the fire to take away my need to be perfect; and the worry I feel at helping my daughter navigate life.

I would like fire to stir in me the ability to help others and to find ways to ameliorate suffering. I hope the fire stirs within me activism to help people, and a way to make this world a better place.

— Anonymous  

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What Would I Burn Away?

I would be set free from an old memory,
a place, a home, land, finally rising with ash
turning into clouds, atmosphere, and then, fall as rain.

Witnessing the ashen, burned landscape
flattened by fire, I wasn’t sure how I would react.
Would tears flow, a resignation, falling into…nothing?
What would I feel after years of this land not being mine?

It changed hands to someone new when the relationship
had also turned to ash, allowing the phoenix to rise in both of us.
The great letting go to begin again,
assembling all the pieces of a new life.

That place had held a piece of my body, hostage.
The building of the house had kept a piece of my body
attached, holding on, to a possibility of returning.

and how that piece in the body,
had held back a flow through to another way,
as water flows and builds and builds until a passage appears,
breaks free and follows a new path, river or stream.

Now, looking at the ash, I let go and feel nothing,
nothing left attached, a deep breath lets it all go.
I feel relieved, a burden lifted. A raven somewhere,
has lifted its wings, seen new territory and flies.

Without asking, this was burned away.
This letting go opened a gate to remembering
what I really want, to explore a larger landscape
a new way, a new day to find my place again.

Pic-in-Peru-Green-Shirt-close-up-150×150-copy-e1604257236216 copy

— Brian R. Martens  


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In these awe-filled days of fire and flood
We watch and wait and wonder
When that fierce hand
Might reach at last for us.

Those of us not yet touched by calamity
Quake, knowing in our bones
That though we may be spared
This time, time will level us all.

No magic amulets, no prayers,
Good deeds or good looks
Can promise protection
From our terminal condition.

And those who have watched a child
Swept forever from our arms
Or fled the flames that swallowed
Our hopes and our memories

Or hid from the bombs
Or the predator’s gaze
Know that nothing now will ever be the same -
As if anything ever were.

For all of us are falling
Like ashes, like rain,
Like petals or leaves;
But we all are falling together.

And if we knew, in truth,
There was nowhere to land,
Tell me: could we know the difference
Between falling and flying?

Reduced Larry copy

— Larry Robinson  

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Burning Away Emotional Pain

If fire can burn away emotional pain that was unleashed upon me as a child, that's what I would choose. I was in counseling in various forms (individual, groups, self-help) for a great deal of my adult life, starting at the tender age of just-turned-17, and I managed to rid myself of about three-quarters of it. I grew to an admirable level of emotional maturity, and felt in charge of my life. I worked with kids and I had plenty of compassion.

However, sometimes that is not enough. What was I doing with the other 25%? It was under tight wraps, as this pain - some called it trapped emotions - was still "on" 24/7. Okay - I am very strong, but if I could find a way to annihilate the rest of this bone-crushing pain inflicted by a narcissistic mother who was jealous of her middle child because her father seemed to like her, I would do it. (Both my parents were drinkers and my mother was kept in steady supply of prescription uppers and downers through the end of her life [age 55] by her less-than-ethical family physicians. These doctors knew my mother was drinking.)

I recently discovered an energetic approach to freeing myself of these trapped emotions (Emotion Code, by Dr. Bradley Nelson), and have been slowly but surely peeling off the final layers of pain, perhaps the worst of it, for the last few months. I can tell you it is working for me.

Lesson to be learned: Never give up on yourself - you're definitely worth it.

To Life Unhindered!


— Dr. Donna Poppendieck  


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Climate Change Legacy
Clark's Canyon
Eastern Sierra
What used to be a beautiful, shady evergreen forest.

A favorite rock climbing crag in the Eastern Sierra was hit two years in a row by wildfire. Global warming has made our mountain community vulnerable to hotter, dryer, and devastating wildfires.

— Christina Caro, Ph.D.  


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Avoidance, Denial, Rationalization, and Bad Decisions
It is always easier to run away than to face reality.
If you pretend it is not happening, you might escape the discomfort that goes with it.
You can put in blinders or you binoculars, but the result is the same.
Don't we all wish we could just once reverse the past?

Avoidance, denial, rationalization, and there we have bad decisions, or at least those, that over time, we will wish we could take back, or at least stop regretting them.

— Claire Nana MA  

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The Fear of Confrontation

What do I wish most for the fire to burn away? I suppose it would be the fear and dread of confrontation. I am a peacekeeper by nature. And confrontation/angry words/heated emotions make me uncomfortable. I actually physically feel sick. I have unfortunately experienced emotional bullies, who when their point is not accepted as the only possible correct answer, turn to personal attacks instead.

So now I see confrontation as a potential attack. An uncontrolled explosion of emotion. A land mine waiting for me to take the wrong step and explode underneath me. Or the opposite. A moment where if I say the wrong words, I could hurt someone I care about. So I often stay silent.

Instead I want to see it as an opportunity. For growth, for deeper understanding of others and myself. For resolution instead of resentment. For a chance to express my thoughts and feelings without fear of how the other person responds. An opportunity to be free of the misguided self-created burden of someone else's happiness or approval.

— Anonymous  

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From The Ashes

Six years ago, I was rushed into a bus in a great hurry, and in the frenzy that happened as we raced away, I turned to see what we were running from.

There, through the tiny back window, past the small faces of my friends and the worried expressions of my teachers, I saw my house. The only home I had ever known, and there, just behind it, nestled in the once green and shining hills, was a wildfire.

I can’t recall what my ten year old self wished for in that moment, but now, with an older and more troubled mind, I’d wish for all the stress, insecurities, and self-deprecating thoughts to drown in a monstrous blaze.

As more and more life-changing decisions present themselves to me, I question myself every step of the way. In these times, I find myself wondering what would happen if everything that holds me back just went away.

I believe that if I burned away all of the negativity, I would emerge from the ashes as a more confident and strong-minded individual, for my biggest obstacle, and my most valuable asset, is myself.

— Ellis Gelt (16 yo)  

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Fire of Transformation

If a raging wildfire was headed towards me, I would hope it would burn away anything that no longer serves me.

Burn anything that stands in the way of me loving those I care for in the way they deserve.

Destroy whatever fuels my past traumas so that I may be more emotionally available for my friends and family.

Set ablaze anything I am not recognizing that feeds the inflammation in my body and makes my autoimmune diseases worse.

Chronic pain burns me on the inside due to my autoimmune diseases, so please take this pain away so I can have a better quality of life and allow my inner athlete and youthful spirit to return regardless of my age. I have so much to continue giving to the world.

My hope is that all the destruction would continue to support my constant journey of transformation and light another fire within my soul to continue helping myself and others even more.

— Cheryl Mlcoch, M.S.  

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Cleansing Fire

A story?
This is a list.
It is not a shopping list.
Nor a to-do list.
It is a sacred sacrificial ceremony list.

What I would like the fire to burn away.
All imagined lack.

The above are excess.
With them gone, there is room left for the essentials.
For the truth...
of plenty;
of joy;
of contentment;
and of gratitude.

With the chaff burnt and drifted away, all is love and oneness.

— Mr D  

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Gift of the Annihilation

Rumi once said "Past and future veil God from our sight; burn up both of them with fire."

I have been given the great gift of the annihilation of my career, the separation of Me from all that I thought was me. I got to be ripped from my family and friends and the luxury of comfort and safety. Its as if I experienced a practice run of death.

Invisible fires ravaged the coal that was me leaving the diamond that is the Me that is One with all things including the Source of all things. The sparkly shiny fun and funny joy of the Divine is what remains when you die before you're dead.

And while I am still in this earth suit, the peace is fleeting. While I am still human, the mind has a way of stubbornly rising out of the ashes. There is only one remedy: Every thought of the future and the past I calmly observe as I light another match.


— Jacqueline Herron, MA  

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Blazing fire approaching

If a raging wildfire was headed my way and I could designate what would be burned in its path, I would wish to burn up prisons, police stations, and detention centers.

I would, of course, make sure the people got out ahead of the blaze, but the structures would be completely destroyed -- and destroyed so completely that we, as a society, would have to rethink what it is we are trying to accomplish by having these types of people cages.

While we are burning the structures we could use a little internal burning of prejudice and hatred

— Jane Dorotik  

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Evacuation Wonders: How the Fire Can Set Me Free
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Evacuation orders were inching in. The cellphone text alerts gradually progressed from “Evacuation Advisory” to “Evacuation Mandatory.” In between, there was enough time to contemplate the evacuation ‘wonders’. While it was clear for me what I want to protect by all means and take with us (our dog, cats, cell-phone, laptop, etc.) and what physical possessions I was willing to let go of, it took me a minute to contemplate what I would actually like the fire burn away.

What came up for me was the wish to toss into the fire my impatience, my attachment to being someone who changes the world, and my ego identification with my accomplishments. Then, also my huge collection of hard copy academic articles and books, so that my study could be transformed to a sacred meditation space.

Then, I also wondered what would I like for the fires to give energy to or fuel growth in? Many things! I would like the fires to add energy to my desire to continue to learn and grow, to ‘do good,’ and to serve social justice. I’d like them to fuel my fighting of the dangerous growing trends of ‘risk management’ practices in medicine and my mission to challenge unexamined beliefs and myths. I’d like them to energize my empathetic caring for family members, friends, colleagues and strangers in need; my capacity to focus on what gives me meaning and joy; and my ability to contemplate and meditate.

— Ofer Zur, Ph.D.  


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Feeling The Burn

What I would wish that purifying, transformative fire to burn away is my ego (as defined in spiritual terms, not psychological terms). More specifically and troublesome for me is my ego's self-protectiveness. My ego sees that fire a-coming (any perceived dangers to its self-image) and it heads for the hills, and what it likes to use to try self-protect/run away/avoid is judgment: of self and others, and comparing itself to what it perceives in others (which is often woefully inaccurate). Sometimes that comparison makes it feel artificially superior and self-righteous; sometimes that comparison makes it feel inferior, envious, self-critical, and/or even self-pitying.

This Project Insights question and the heartfelt shares I've read so far on the topic help me see is that the fire is in fact not dangerous, but a healing opportunity, if only I can find the courage to sit tight and “feel the burn.” When I do, the fire burns off all that make-believe, illusory “me vs. you” BS and helps me burn down to the essence of Oneness. There really is no better-than/less-than, as Wavy Gravy was famous for saying, “We're all just bozos on the bus, so might as well sit back and enjoy the ride,” or at the risk of mixing metaphors, sit back and enjoy the burn. Then the freedom and release that I experience as that all goes up in smoke is beyond description.

— Laura L  

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Burning Away Righteousness

It's easier to sow doubt than do the hard work of finding the truth. After 9/11, (which traumatized a close family member of mine living in lower Manhattan), our country found itself at war with real and imagined enemies. I found myself at war with friends of mine who found it easier to believe a fantastic made up story about what happened than the actual facts. The sad truth is, I burned some bridges in those friendships in the process and traded being right for being a friend.

I would like the fire to burn away the part of me that goes to war too easily over the truth, that would choose being right over having empathy and being separate over being connected. That fire would leave a love that can embrace all stories, all people and all things.

— Russell Sutter  

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Just heat at first, then sparks and spread. It feeds a ravenous appetite which grows and grows as it consumes more and more, sometimes leaping in its hot dance high into the wind that carries and plants it on everything someone holds dear.

If it should land on me I would ask it to burn away the fear and fatigue that burdens me as I search for the woman I was before the fire of an incurable, degenerative neurological disorder began to burn my brain cells, just heat at first, then sparks and spreads. My spirit quietly watching and waiting...feeling the heat.


— Anonymous  

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Ignite my Heart

What I would ask a fire to burn would be what it produces: Fear. I am ready for the serotinous fears in my heart to release the seeds of courage, inspiration, and creative will.


— Lee Ann Haney  

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Too Much Of A Blessing

Natural disasters are, thankfully, rather uncommon. They do deserve a place in our lives, because without them, we would not be forced to cope with the harsh reality – life is not meant to be free from suffering. It is also their uncommon occurrence that keeps our response to them poignant. But what if natural disasters become common in our lives? What if instead of coping with them infrequently, we get too good at coping with them? What if we learn to keep nothing that can be burned, hold nothing of much value, and keep ourselves from getting too attached to anything? We live with the sentiment: always be ready to evacuate. Evacuate from our emotions, our attachments, and our lives. We can simply begin again, and again, and again, reinventing reality endlessly.

What would I want a fire to burn away? That part of me that thinks there will always be a need to be ready for a fire. That part of me that derives no value in enduring sentiments, memorabilia, or unshakeable conceptions of what should be. That part of me that seeks revolving and continuous change so that nothing can mean too much. I cannot be overcome by a fire that burns away everything if I never have anything of value to burn, and I am never at the mercy of losing anything because I was never too attached to it anyway. This line of thinking, while it may keep me constantly prepared for a fire, also keeps me in constant avoidance of the reality that life is not meant to be running away from fires.

— Claire Nana, M.A.  

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