Flames: Hell, Passion or Purification?

This is the second in a series of articles about my experience of Vipassana meditation.

After spending three full days focused solely on the sensations on the area between my top lip and nostrils, I felt great relief when instruction was given to move my attention to the rest of the body. But my relief was short-lived when told to focus on my back. I felt an intense inner resistance to this command, verging on nausea, as if being forced to face something horrifying that I didn’t want to face. Somehow I pushed through the resistance and as I did it felt as though someone placed a blanket of fire on my back. It was intensely painful but my body seemed to be locked in place and I could do nothing but endure the pain.

What was this? And why had I not noticed this pain before? How could I sit with my attention on my nose for three days and never notice the searing pain on my back?

But then again, isn’t that exactly like me? How often have I disregarded the essentials in favor of the non-essentials? How frequently have I ignored the big pains and over-reacted to the small ones - "majoring on the minors" as my husband likes to say.

As painful as this fiery experience was, I also had the sense that it was healing me. I was being healed physically, emotionally and spiritually, purged of anger, shame and guilt over things in my past, all those things I thought I had put behind me but which
obviously remained stored in my body.

“Now with the light and heat of the divine fire, it sees and feels those weaknesses and miseries that previously resided within it, hidden and unfelt, just as the dampness of the log of wood was unknown until the fire applied to it made it sweat and smoke and sputter. And this is what the flame does to the imperfect soul.” –St. John of the Cross

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