This month, one of my dearest friends invited me to participate in a full-moon fire ceremony. I said yes, not only because I love both her and fire ceremonies to pieces, but because I had been struggling with something for a long time, and I had just decided (literally the day before) that what I really needed to do was let go of it. So when my friend called out of the blue to suggest a fire ceremony, I took it as a sign.
I’ve held fire ceremonies myself before. My boys and I hold a ceremony every New Year’s Eve to release our inner shit and embrace the clean-slatedness of a brand new year, and last summer I held a fire ceremony to break free of my past by burning my old journals. My fire ceremonies (which, until this month, were the only ones I’d ever attended) are always loose, unstructured affairs, heavy on good intentions, light on ritual.
The full-moon fire ceremony at my friend’s house was a whole other beautiful thing.
There were six of us there, three couples. Out of the six, three had been trained as healers and had learned a very specific ritual for fire ceremonies… which we didn’t do, because it’s more elaborate and serious than any of us are, but we did take time at the beginning and end to connect consciously – aloud – with the four directions, and with the earth and the sky and each other. It was very moving, and when the time came for me to approach the fire, I felt that the ritual had imbued the moment with a certain sort of weight. The consequent release, when I dropped my handwritten note into the flames, was a whole-body experience. I shed some tears. I felt lighter.
But all of that, as deeply affecting as it was to me, is not what this post is about. This post is about something that one of the healers said when he was explaining the purpose of a fire ceremony. He said:
The goal is to get to the place inside you
that isn’t clever or ashamed.
I love that. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since he said it. For me, it’s a hard place to get to, an unself-conscious, completely authentic, vulnerable, brave place where I’m neither worried what others think, nor acutely aware of my own flaws and weaknesses. I get there sometimes – when I’m fully present with someone I love, or when I’m fully engaged in the creative process, but it’s a fleeting thing. My inner neurotic performer-critic never stays down for long.
I was in that place as I approached the fire though, note in my hand. I’d found that place inside me that isn’t clever or ashamed, and what I felt in that moment was grounded, open, reverent, and sure.
I want to feel that way much, much more often. So it’s my mantra now. I whisper it every morning before I start my day. “Whatever happens,” I tell myself softly, “the goal is to get to the place inside you that isn’t clever or ashamed.”
I haven’t mastered it yet (not even close), but like all the best things in life, it’s a practice.
(This is how I picture the place inside me. Feel free to share how you picture yours.)