Just over a week ago I woke to learn that massive fires were burning just 20 miles north of my California home.

(I was so grateful that the fires HADN’T been here 2 weeks earlier, when 24 beautiful women were in town for our Divine Feminine Yoga Retreat! Here’s a photo of these sweet souls whose radiance warms my heart to its core.)

It took a few days for the full import of the nearby fires to sink in…

… that a dear friend had lost her home and all her belongings on the first night of the fire… that a retreat center where I had led Yoga retreats had burned to the ground… that the fire was still 0 percent contained 3 days later… that so many friends, animals, firefighters and relief workers were suffering with exhaustion, displacement, smoke inhalation, and loss.

As the air filled with smoke and as schools and libraries closed and athletic events were cancelled, we could not escape the proximity of these fires.

But really, we are always living in the midst of fire. Whether internal or external, near or far, something is always burning, being destroyed, or transformed. And it is the internal shakti of each of us, that divine flame within, that makes being around our beloveds so powerful!

Take a moment to consider: What fire are you experiencing in this moment? What in your life is being burned, destroyed, or transformed?

In the Vedic tradition, fire is represented by the god Agni, and is a central part of rituals such as marriage or cremation, where we literally leave our old self behind and transition to a new form. There is also the dhuni, a feminine cleft in the ground that holds a sacred flame, where prayers for healing, protection, and renewal are offered.

For the past few years, my own personal fire has been the fire of menopause. As I am in the midst of this transition, it can be hard to make sense of what’s happening.

Some days I feel stripped clean, living in unknown territory, with all the familiar sense of who I am burned to the ground. Other days I feel that I have found my bearings, and I breathe a sigh of relief, only to have those bearings torn away again without warning.

Fire is a purifying force. Whether it burns gently, as a soft candle on our altar, violently, as a global-warming-magnified forest or city fire, surprisingly, as the unexpected tumult of many women’s menopause, or in the form of any other sudden loss or transition, fire reminds us that at our core, we are not who we have thought ourselves to be.

We are not our possessions. We are not our routines, roles, or monthly bleeding. We are not this body or even this mind. We are pure spirit, burning brightly, the flame that dances and peeks through all of existence.

Menopause is forcing me to go deeper into self-care, self-love, beauty, radiance, and peace. Ultimately, this is the gift of fire, the gift of the gentleness of the Divine Mother that comes with all loss.

How is the fire in your life teaching you to be more gentle with yourself? How is it showing you who you really are?

As I write, today is the day of Diwali, the Indian celebration of the vanquishing of the demon Ravana and the return and protection of light. (Diwali falls on the New Moon of the month Kartika, in mid-to-late fall.)

I invite you to join with our sisters and brothers all across the globe who celebrate this day of light and upliftment. Please light a candle in honor of Diwali. Then offer a blessing of gratitude to the fires that burn in your life, a blessing of compassion for those who have lost so much in the recent devastating fires, and sincere prayers for all those who are suffering worldwide.

May peace and oneness come to all hearts.