One of my favorite country western songs is by Johnny Cash, written by June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore: “Ring of Fire.”
The song is about human love and romance. But life itself can seem like that. The fiery nature of life can warm us—it is nourishing and loving. It is a power, and it moves us. And fire is combustion. By its very nature, it transforms.
This is the refrain:
I fell into a burnin’ ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher,
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire
The ring of fire.
Just by being born, we fell into a ring of fire. The song pictures the experience as being burnt. But that isn’t the experience at the center of the ring of fire. After all, it is the ring that is burning.
My home, Sunrise Ranch, is a conference and retreat center in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Sunrise Ranch is staffed by a spiritual community that has been here since 1945.
Sunrise Ranch is a burning ring of fire. We, who live here, invite people to step within this burning ring with us. There is a transforming quality to this place. It changes you.
If a person is holding on to dysfunctional factors in themselves, stepping into the ring of fire can seem frightening. But if a person is willing to do so, they find that is the safest place to be—in the middle of that ring of fire in their life.
So, whatever is happening in your life, whatever is transforming, changing, burning, here is what I recommend: Step into the center of that fire. Be at the center of it.
Another way to describe this phenomenon is as a whirlwind—a hurricane or cyclone. At the eye of the hurricane, there is stillness. Outside the eye, winds are whipping all around. But not in the center of the storm.
I was living in Queens, New York, when Hurricane Gloria hit. We battened down the hatches, and I got the idea to write a piece of choral music. It was about the elemental forces in human experience. It began like this: “Listen! To the sound of many waters.”
The winds were gusting all around us. Then there was a great calm—the eye of the storm was passing through. With leaves and branches spread all about and water everywhere, the wind stopped. It was eerie.
That is symbolic of where we are supposed to live our lives. We are not supposed to be out in the 120-mile-an-hour winds that are buffeting the world. We were made to live at the center of that whirlwind. That is where the Wonderful One within dwells. Live at the center of the storm, in the middle of the ring of fire.
The following poem is from my book of poetry and prose, Becoming a Sun. It speaks of what it is like to live at the center of the storm.
From the star-lit inner realms of being,
I speak of unfolding beauty,
And the opportunity which arrives new born with the morning sun.
I evoke remembrance
Of your deepest calling,
Your truest reality,
And your cosmic place
Here and now,
Holding this cycle of creation.
From out of the whirlwind,
At the center of creation,
I am the peaceful center of being.
I am stillness in the midst of the turning world,
At rest and assured,
In the middle of the human drama.
I am your strength because I am constant and unmoving in my love.
I am your wisdom because I am the reality you seek.
I am your blessing, to be received by you and given to your world.
I am calling to you even now
From the Unseen.
Closer to you than the breath you take.
In dreams and thoughts I come,
In your restless urge
That will never settle for the trinkets
Of the world.
Hear me now as I say this one thing to you.
Take your place.
Take your place.
Be where you belong
In answering the calling of your life,
The calling of the Reality you are,
And which you serve.
Join me, dear one,
At the center of the storm,
Inside the clamor and the noise,
Cloaked in my love,
Bathed in my peace,
Overflowing with my joy.
You belong here.
And from here
You may bring
The transforming, uplifting power
Of the whirlwind
Into the phenomenal world.
Your place in this home among the stars,
You were not put here by accident
On this blue-green orb,
The third planet from the sun.
You and your friends made her,
And are restoring her now,
Beginning with her crowning creation,
Man and woman
Made in the image and likeness of who you truly are.
The morning stars shout for joy!