New Year’s Eve camping at the firepit; a flame meditation.

I camped out in my west woods at the firepit last night.  I like to do very back-to-nature rituals during celebration times.  It keeps me connected to what is real.  “Real” for someone else may be drinking and partying and watching the ball drop.  That’s cool but not my idea of fun, either.  I like to reflect during these times on what is important to me and review my accomplishments to date.  When I do that, I get hints as to what future steps I might take next.

I didn’t want to set up my tent because I can get a little too comfortable in there.  I fashioned a lean-to from a tarp so I could be close to the natural surroundings.  Half the tarp was on the ground beneath me, since I do have critters and snakes and yard bugs out there.  The other half just barely over me, to block the dewfall.  I was at the edge of the canopy of the big oak, facing the firepit.

I love the ritual of going around the yard at sundown, choosing kindling for the evening’s fire.  My yard is pretty big and woodsy, so I always have plenty of kindling and firewood from the daily deadfall.   With each stick and branch I choose, I do it with intention since there is always an intention with my fire.   Tonight being new year’s eve, the intention would be to release anything within me that no longer serves me in my ever unfolding life.  To release any resentments I may hold, to forgive anyone I need to forgive, to forgive myself for past actions that may have harmed someone.  My intention was to release into the fire all illusions I have and to let them burn away with the flames.

I slowly made my fire, stacking each stick and branch just so, and sat watching it burn.  I had a fat butternut squash and ear of corn nestled into the back cooking area for a midnight feast.  I love to watch a fire, to sit at it all wrapped up in a blanket and put my boots up on the ledge to stay warm.  I was glad it was chilly.  I smudged with sage and Nag Champa incense.  Several friends were holding sweat lodges this night, so I meditated on them and sent them some love.

I’d spent some time earlier in the day writing down on strips of paper the things I wanted to release with the outgoing year.  One by one I fed them into the fire with a prayer for release.  It felt very cleansing and purging.  Every so often a cloud of smoke would wash over me and I took that as response to my requests.  It was synchronistic that at a particular request, which was rather difficult to release, it was suddenly midnight and all the fireworks and whooping and hollering was in the air.  I took that as a personal sign that that issue had finally been released.

I like to poke the fire as it burns down.  I like to watch as the thin layer of gray ash form on top, until it looks barely glowing underneath.  It can look like the fire is dying, that there is barely any life to it left.  But once I stir the ashes and breathe air into it, it bursts once again into flames.

I think how like the fire are we, we settle down and begin to take on that ashen hue and it looks as though we are just barely staying alive, just waiting for the final embers to burn us down.  Sure, every so often breath of fresh air comes along and a flame will dance up for a short while, but for the most part, we let a fine layer of ash begin to cover us until we don’t even remember there was ever a fire burning underneath it all.

But just like the ashes barely glowing at the bottom of the firepit, someone can come along and stir us up enough that we burst into flame.  Someone or something can inspire us.  The definition of “inspire” is “to breathe life into, to draw breath into.”  As I sat stirring last night’s fire, I was letting air into it, and where the air was introduced, the flames danced up for me.

If there is no one or nothing to stir us up, we can stir our own fire.  We can inspire ourselves.  We can do this through discipline and creative visualization.  We can schedule daily sessions to play the What If Game.

What if the best possible thing happened to me?
What would that be?
Where would I be?
Why would I be there?
What would I do there?
Who would be there with me?

Imagining and pretending is very powerful.  “Pre” from “before”, and “tend” from “intend”.  So when we are imagining, we are intending ahead of time what we would like to experience.  Creative visualization is a way to stir the flames within you, a method to attract thoughts which will then spark new ideas, which will then open new roads for you to choose from.

That’s the problem, when we are turning ashen and gray living in our own little rut, we can’t see any new paths that interest us enough to step onto them and explore what may lie further up ahead.  When we discipline ourselves to meditate and pre-pave via creative visualization, we are taking a step onto the path.  And it’s important to know that we will make relevant new discoveries down that path, even though stepping into that journey began as our own creation in our mind.

You don’t need to make a fire in a pit or in a chimenea, although for me that’s the most powerful.  You can also meditate on a candle flame.  You can create a small meditation altar in front of a comfortable seat, facing a wall.  A mirror at the wall would be nice, and you could place 1 or 2 or 3 candles there and gaze into them for a short while.  At first your mind will be filled with all the things you should be doing instead, but simply release each thought as it comes up and return your attention to the flame.

Watch the flame dance and move with the air and take a few deep breaths.  As you exhale, control the exhale so it is slow and strong and breathe it out toward the candle.  You don’t want to blow the candle out, you want to just gently move the candle flame with your breath, ever so slightly.

Do a deep inhale and a strong, slow exhale.  That’s one key to meditation: if you control the exhale, the inhale will take care of itself.  So take a deep inhale followed by strong, slow exhale.  Do that several times and your mind chatter will begin to slip away.  With each thought that comes to mind, offer it to the flame and release it to be consumed in the fire.  Any illusory thoughts about yourself, offer them to the flame and release them to be consumed.  Any resistant thoughts of anyone for any reason, offer them to the flame to be released.

I sat at the firepit long after the fire had died and ate my midnight supper of butternut squash and fresh corn, and thought about how good 2008 had been for me.  My cats sat stationed across from each other nearby, and we were visited by 3 raccoons.  The two younger ones were brave and reckless and if they came too close, I’d toss sticks at them.  I like to let wildlife stay wild.

Shortly after midnight I crawled into my little lean-to tent and fell asleep.  Sometime later I could hear the armadillos rooting around in the ground for all the grubs and worms that keep my soil so lush.  At one point, a fat armadillo walked up and nudged me awake.  Thankfully he ran into my bent knees; had he poked that snout in my face it would definitely have startled me.

So I had an awesome new year’s eve.  How about you?

Tell me about it.  I’d like to hear from you.

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