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The ever-changing times, the eternally changing seasons and the return to light that the Winter Solstice augurs afford a great time to reflect. I am especially moved to reflect upon a precious experience I had during my recent trip to Iran. Among my many adventures there, serendipity led me to find a modest temple off the beaten path with a surprising, invaluable treasure inside: a fire that has been kept alive for almost two thousand years.
It has never stopped.
What does it feel to be near an eternal flame, a continuously burning fire? Let me tell you what I felt: the whole field around it is fully impregnated with a deep, peaceful, powerful presence. The particles in the air have a different charge. When I wandered to this place following my Dreaming, I hadn’t even seen or known about the fire’s existence, yet the purity and crispness of the atmosphere spontaneously drew me into a meditative state. I lost track of time in prayer. I felt loved and fulfilled.
There was something quite stirring about this unassuming, quiet place. At first, I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. Yet it summoned a “Yes” within me. A herbad (a Zoroastrian priest) came and softly said to me, “We are the guardians of a perpetual fire” and he urged me to look through a glass door. Suddenly, there it was, an enormous golden chalice holding a fizzing, joyful fire. I was in awe. I still am, to be honest.
Picture this for a moment: for thousands of years there has been an unbroken chain – a lineage – of people, fire guardians, who have faithfully tended to this flame so that it keeps burning through times of peace and times of war, through richness and poverty, through oppression and independence, through bounty and famine… and through uncountable generations of human beings to sustain a fire that, like the truth, is always shining forth.
How does an eternal flame in a lost corner of the world relate to our current, myriad and pressing challenges? There seems to be a quickening all around us, a time of escalating darkness where the most pressing question in the hearts of people seems to be:
Will the light ever return to us?
As we approach the darkest point in the year – our inner “winter solstice” – I believe it is precisely the right moment to look deeper inside and find our own answer. I trust that by tending to our own undying fire, the fire of our love, the fire of our life, that we will get to infuse not only ourselves, but all our surroundings with a vibrant, unstoppable, bright force.
…. Just like that eternal flame in the old Persian temple that has never died, no matter what.
— Shara Morales, SOI Practitioner & Teacher