As I dove into the idea of renewal in this issue of CO YOGA + Life, I began thinking about the victims of the devastating and destructive Marshall fire and the people who have lost every single item they’ve ever owned to a natural disaster. How does one renew or rebuild after sheer devastation and elimination of functional and sentimental items? In tandem with the concept of renewal and rebirth is the concept of non-attachment. In yoga, this discipline is referred to as aparigraha. It’s a practice that is much easier said than done. However, when every item or object you’ve known is torched, the practice of non-attachment is your only option.
We often accept and become excited about a fresh start when it’s on our own ac-cord, but when thinking of renewal and new chapters of our lives, we rarely consider what it feels like when your hand is forced to move forward. I spoke with two people who lost their homes to fires in 2021. One was the result of a wildfire and the other was the outcome of an electrical fire. Differ-ent circumstances, same aftermath: devas-tation and disruption. I asked both women about their experiences and their take on the idea of renewal and non-attachment. In speaking with them, we can learn that each situation is different, and the attachment we by Kelsey FosterRising from the AshesSeeking Renewal Amidst Deep Lossbuild and the ease with which we let go is often informed by time.
Charla Harvey, a victim of the Marshall fires that ravaged the east Boulder areas in late 2021, shared with me her experience of non-attachment and reconstructing her life with each passing day. She had accumulat-ed sentimental items ranging from gifts and instruments to letters and books to jewelry and camera gear.
“The day before the fire, I spent seven hours cleaning my room. I actually went through everything. I took all the clothes out of my dresser drawers, refolded what I wanted to keep, and made piles of clothes to donate. I put up new posters and let-ters, threw out what I didn’t feel I needed anymore. I was just about to start my new semester, and I decided to do some winter cleaning, so I could start fresh and let go of what was just cluttering up my space and mind. To me, that was rebirth, choos-ing what to bring forward into the life I’ve been creating. This has been a really tough lesson in letting go,” she shares.
Earlier in 2021, my mother Carrie lost her home and all her belongings in an electri-cal fire. When asked about the practice of non-attachment, she replied, “I personally feel a whole lot lighter after my house burnt down. I was sick of my wardrobe anyway! I had only occupied the premises for about 12 days, so I had no emotional attachment at all. The shock of seeing my house on fire was both physical and mental. I would imagine a home with a family, kids, pets, life, land, businesses; it would be a truly catastrophic, life impacting, mind-numbingly overwhelming situation. I consider myself to be non-materialistic — a traveler, nomad, butterfly, wanderlust — call it what you will. Therefore I haven’t grieved loss of ‘things’ or ‘stuff’ too much.” Despite occupying her home for less than a month, she still lost decades worth of journals, photos and other treasures.
Mother Nature’s cycles and seasons are a beautiful representation of birth, death and the practice of letting go. As beautiful as the gold and yellow mountain sides are in autumn, we know that each leaf will die and fall to the ground. The trees that shed them remain steady and still until they bud and bloom again in the spring. Applying these same concepts to our own lives can aid in the practice of aparigraha and non-attachment.
Renewing from nothing is an opportunity to carefully consider the value we place on objects we collect. Watching someone pick up the remains of the life they once knew was like watching the phoenix rise from the ashes. As cliché as it reads, seeing how much strength and grace my mom came out of these fires with was incredible. Harvey and the families rebuilding their lives are faced with the biggest challenge they may ever know, but the lives they’ll rebuild on the other side are abundant with opportunity for growth, renewal and change.
Originally published in Summer + Fall 2022 Issue.