Carelessness Causes Fire


For weeks, a safety tag (from a new office chair) has lain in front of my meditation mat.

Before I sit in the morning, I take a moment to steady my posture. I aim to be a comfortable place for me to come home to. There’s a moment of wriggling and settling in: resting my hands, establishing myself on the cushion for this moment of my life.

And as I gently close my eyes, the last thing I see is: ‘Carelessness causes fire.’

How true.

Worry can feel like small flickering flames, steadily encircling you. Your anger might burn steadily in you, until it flares up into rage.

Often, we only notice the heat of strong emotion when its flames have become wild. By that stage, the fire feels out of control, as though it encompasses our whole selves. The intensity of the blaze overwhelms us.

So how can we become good fire wardens?

We’re triggered many times each day. We encounter lots of subtle and not so subtle ways that our needs are unmet, resulting in a moment of worry, frustration, irritation. If we don’t take care of the feeling, we feed the flames. We might conclude that we’re just in a bad mood, or that everyone else is spectacularly incompetent. We keep fanning the flames. And the towering inferno awaits.

Practicing with fiery emotions when they are still small opens a path to stability and freedom for us. How can we do it?

The antidote to carelessness… is care. Here are some fire safety tips to reduce flammability:


1) Self-compassion

Paying attention and becoming aware of how intolerant or frantic we are is not so pleasant. Recognise the discomfort and offer unconditional care to yourself.

This is hard. This is a moment of suffering. May I be kind to myself.

Repeat over and over, so that this message of care becomes a trusted refuge for you.

2) Patience

You’re working with strong, deep-rooted behavioural habits. Give yourself time. You might only notice your anger when you’re already shouting. That’s okay. Over time, you’ll become more attuned: aware when you’re angry; when you are cross; when you’re irked. Smaller and smaller flames. You become a wiser and more skilled guardian of yourself.

3) Never leave a fire unattended

Rather than ignoring an uncomfortable feeling, we turn towards it.

This is irritation. Worry is arising in me. I sense anger in me.

We acknowledge that this feeling is a part of us. Moreover, we give it permission to belong. Can you accept that feeling deeply and unconditionally?

This belongs too. It’s okay.

Over time, we learn to care for these feelings. We come to recognise the fire hazards in our life. We may even notice the presence of dry kindling — times where we’re simply more vulnerable — and take steps to offer extra protection to ourselves.

Because the safest way to deal with a fire is to prevent it.

Thank you for reading, and take good care of your precious self.

Download guided meditations to reduce flammability.