Giving Up What No Longer Works - Mark Nepo

Burning your way to center
is the loneliest fire of all.
You’ll know you have arrived
when nothing else will burn.

At first this sounds rather somber but, from Moses to Buddha to Jesus, the deepest among us have all shown that living is a process of constantly paring down until we carry only what is essential.

It is the same in the human journey as in the natural world. As the center grows stronger, what once was protective turns into a covering, like tree bark or snake skin, that is now in the way and, sooner or later, we, as spirits growing in bodies, are faced with burning old skins, like rags on sticks, to light our way as we move deeper and deeper into the inner world, where the forces of God make us one.

When faced with the need to keep going inward, we are confronted with a very difficult kind of life choice: like carving up your grandmother’s table for firewood to keep your loved ones warm, or leaving a job that has been safe and fulfilling in order to feel vital again, or burning an old familiar sense of self because it’s gotten so thick you can’t feel the rain.

In truth, always needing to stay immediate by removing what is no longer real is the working, inner definition of sacrifice — giving up with reverence and compassion what no longer works in order to stay close to what is sacred.