Thursday, January 17, 2013


I am sitting down near my Swedish wood stove and thinking about this word Upanishad.  The word means “To sit down near”.   The Upanishads are a collection of wisdom from the yoga tradition, in the form of stories and poems originally transmitted orally.  To sit down near something, you must make an effort to get close.  When you go into a college lecture hall, often as students come in they will sit at the back of the auditorium.  How close you decide to get to your teacher and the teaching is an indicator of how much you want to hear, and how much you want to engage.

But I digress.  Back to my wood stove.  It is burning well now, at about 400 degrees.  It is turning mass into energy, unlocking the potential heat and light within each piece of wood.  Some of the wood is very dry and ignites easily.  The transmission of heat from the coals to a newly introduced piece of wood is immediate, and even a big piece of wood will ignite when laid upon a hot bed of coals.

To get the fire started in the morning I use very dry kindling and a match.  The match simply needs to be struck to ignite the phosphorous in it, and this “striking” is really an introduction of friction.  The phosphorous is responding to this “itch”.  It is its nature to ignite easily and burn quickly.  I light the kindling using a piece of paper (a form of wood) and if the platform of kindling I made in the stove has space for air, the fire starts easily.

I bring in wood as I need it from outside, and some of it is damp.  The damp wood will not ignite easily, so I place the wet wood close to the stove.  The heat of the stove will dry the wood so that it too will ignite when in the stove, changing state from density to light and heat.  The closer to the stove’s heat the wet wood is, the more heat it absorbs, the quicker it dries.  It is not an intellectual process, it is a physical process.  The wet wood is not ready to ignite, and cannot yet be moved into the center of ignition which is inside the stove. When it is ready, it will be.  This is Upanishad.

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