Suddenly dirty-grey clouds of thick smoke were oozing out of our gas heating vent. “There’s a fire!” a neighbor yelled outside. Carefully, I picked up our elderly orange tabby Elmer. My spouse Willie and I briskly stepped onto the common walkway of the heating up apartment complex, and safely down cement steps to the street. Blazing orange and golden yellow flames in dancing shapes went sideways out of windows and pierced through the roof of the 1950’s apartment building that had been our residence for over two decades.

I could not help but feel the presence of Lord Shiva, the ancient god of destruction, in our lives. Gazing with neighbors at the scary spectacle, I also felt Him thunderously laughing! Who needed to celebrate this New Year’s Eve night with fireworks when He gave violent bursts of flames!


Shaken as I was, I knew Shiva’s removal of things – material and subtle – that we cling to is always about freeing us in the long run, if we are receptive to His lessons.

After the smokey building was hosed off, the intense siren red lights lessened, only our apartment unit, along with our adjacent neighbor across from us, were tagged livable enough to sleep in before the imminent “reconstruction.”

We eventually found a “temporary” new apartment. Six years later the semi-charred building sits unrepaired yet to be habitable.



The Tug-of-War

Paramhansa Yogananda said, “Don’t let your possessions possess you!” It is not the things, the yoga master taught, rather our emotional attachments to them, including physical homes, that keep us suffering. Willie and I have always had periods of systematic decluttering. Prior to the fire, there was still the frustration of too many books unread, pictures and embroidered textiles that increasingly seemed to crowd the walls out.

Having moved twice now in six years, being progressively bolder in letting additional old physical slices of karma go, we are awestruck each time by how many more items are tucked away in the closets and storage than we realized! Embracing each new fresh moment in the “eternal now” helps in the inner tug-of-war of whether to “keep or not to keep.”


The Purifying Fire

As yogis and yoginis, we know that the deep cleansing, in order to release the outworn, is, of course, found in the temples of our own beings when we open to grace. “Who is this person, or these contradictory persons, I have been dragging around, like airport luggage, all these years?” I have often asked myself in meditation. Layers within layers buried; it’s like trying to let go of the tree of emotional attachments above ground and being barely aware how deeply its subliminal roots go underneath! Yogananda’s powerful vibration and purifying yogic techniques have been godsends to continue to burn away my holding patterns.

What an inner and outer journey it has been the past handful of years since that fire! Shiva, like a compassionate spiritual surgeon pulling out painful attachment tumors, has helped us know that by going through the experience of losing aspects of a former life, we have gained a deeper assurance that our true home is always found inside us. 

Feeling lost in uncertainty can be an opportunity to find more closeness with the higher realm. Today, we intentionally have fewer things in our current abode; the emptier white walls around the furniture, appliances, and decorations make more room to breathe, be in the moment, and feel the calm presence of Spirit.


  1. I’ve had many moves but this last one was challenging. My housemate was in the process of putting up her house for sale and as such gave me notice to leave. Last weekend I moved but wondered how I was going to do it. I have a frozen shoulder and I am dealing with pain and fatigue of aggressive stage 4 cancer. Thankfully, I got someone to help and it took only one trip in his truck. This move would have been so much difficult had I kept more stuff. My rule of thumb has been when I acquire a new thing, I look for something else to give away. I love the simple life.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences Janis. Also, I will definitely keep you in my prayers with the cancer. Yes, intentional simplicity I have found to be very healing and one of the benefits of having moved a couple times this past handful of years. Much love and light to you dear!

  2. Thank you for this reflection Paul. I appreciated how you shifted from attachments to the things in our Iives, to our inner attachments to what we think we are. Those are the hard attachments for me to let go of because, like many of us, I formed so many of them in reaction to pain. Thomas Merton writes about this when he considers the movement, in the journey of meditation, from our false self (selves) to our true self, the one that is loved from before time, the self we were before the world of emotional bumps and bruises got to us. That inner child is the beautiful one who can grow up into maturity as we come to know God’s love in meditation, and in relationship to a true guru. Your writing just keeps getting better, Paul. I look forward to your next reflection.

    1. Dear Nayaswami Karuna Mata,

      Thanks for sharing those beautiful insights about the child of Spirit in who can grow up in maturity into the spiritual path with a true guru!
      So glad that you found that enjoyed the blog too!

    1. Hi Terry,
      Really glad to hear it was timely and helpful dear soul!

  3. Really enjoyed all the metaphors Paul. Thanks for writing this.
    Blessings and Love,

    1. So glad that you enjoyed the examples Maria and hope you are doing well!

  4. Paul, this is a beautiful and inspiring approach to attachments, fire, and rising up by letting go.

    1. So glad that you enjoyed it Satyana. Love and light to you!

  5. Dear Paul, Wonderful again, as always. Thank you.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it Nayaswami Anandi and many blessings!

  6. Namaste Paul! Poignantly and insightfully expressed in words the essence of what Shiva signifies in our lives! The only destruction is of our egos and ignorance! i am so glad you both survived and continued to progress spiritually to such wonderful discoveries. Godspeed!

    1. Dear Shaila Bharat Mulji,

      So glad you found the writing helpful and thanks for the kind words. We did learn a lot from the fire and it brought us closer to what really matters!

  7. What a deeply reflective opportunity to ask these very important questions and ponder the thoughts of purification, attachment and material goods! Glad you survived and now thrived through this experience Paul. Beautiful art through writing!!

    1. I am so glad you that it was helpful to read Jacque – and yes, there is so much to be grateful for from the life lessons!

  8. Very good article. Good thoughts, well expressed. Thanks for writing.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it Asha Nayaswami and many blessings!

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