Tend To Your Internal Flame
Fire is mysterious. Fire is dangerous. Fire out of control can take down entire environments. Fire can also heal and nourish. Fire holds an important history in our mythology – as we learned to bring the element under our control, we found that it held the same potential for damage, but now we could wield it at our will. From that point forward, humans exerted great control over the natural environment, for better and for worse. We utilize the element of fire to cook our food, to keep away the dangers of night, to light our spaces long after the fire of the sun travels out of view. At this time of year, the darkest time as we approach the Winter Solstice, fire keep us warm at night and brings us light.
In many cultures, fire is sacred, and offerings are made to the fire for cultivation of intentions and for release. How can we harness the power of fire to tend to our internal flames of dedication and evolution? How can we lead a life of light and energy? Fire offers us many lessons.
How to tend to your flames and connect to the fire element
When my children were small, we read many books on Waldorf philosophy, and even used Waldorf-inspired homeschooling for a time. Waldorf stressed the importance of letting children have access to the four main elements every day. Children needed time to play with the earth – dirt, sand, mud; time to connect with water – rivers, brooks, or just in the bath tub; time to connect with air – fans, bubbles, and kites; and time to connect with fire – bonfires, campfires, fireplaces, candles. I think this applies to adults too. With so much screen time (ether element) we can feel like we are out of sorts and experiencing a loss of grounding.
You can tend to your internal fires by taking time to light candles, especially during this Winter Solstice season. I have enjoyed using this handmade oil lamp at our dinner time as a family reminder of fire. I also enjoy lighting incense and placing it at my altars. If you have wood stoves and fire places, take time to mindfully and ritually start your fire. Don’t look at it as simply another ‘chore’, but see your ancestors starting fires at their hearth places for centuries. Keep a sacred attitude toward the nourishing warmth the fire will provide you. Cooking can also connect us to fire, especially if you have a propane stove, but electric can also work. Making a simple pot of tea can connect you to the fire element.
In addition to spending time connecting externally to flame and fire, we should cultivate the fire within. What does nourishing our internal fires look like in our own lives? It looks like commiting to rhythm and routine around our daily activities. It also ooks like a passion for life, and a joy in the simple pleasures of daily living. If we wish to create positive change in our lives, our best approach is to pick a few small areas to change, and be committed and consistent with that change, otherwise our passion for change will start out as a huge flame and then die out when we have no more fuel. It is absolutely essential to start small. If you put too much wood on a fire too soon, you are going to put it out and have cold wood. Pick just a few things to change, just as you would pick a few small pieces of kindling. Once those small pieces are going strong, you can throw on a larger log.
Tend to these simple routines first:
- Regular waking and bed times
- Regular meals of whole foods, as close as possible to their natural state, and in season
- Gratitude practice: Before bed, or anytime you can recall – reflect on three things from your day that you are grateful for. Gratitude Grows Grace.
Once those three items are fully in place, then focus on your larger kindling. These should be tended to daily, but only within 5-8 minutes to start. Remember, start small and let the fire grow form there:
- Daily Natural Movement – not just repetitive exercises, but activities that move you through your natural full range of motion.. Walking, hiking, dancing, yoga, and tai chi are a few examples of natural movement. You should find one that you enjoy. You only need eight – ten minutes a day.
- Daily Stillness – find time each day to sit quietly and be with your breath. Eight – ten minutes a day is all you need to glean the benefits.
- Nourishing intake: This means carefully choosing your media intake: tv, internet, social media, phone use, news, reading, etc… Anything you take in through your senses you are essentially ‘eating’ with your mind. Choose carefully to avoid mental indigestion.
Consider these actions steps as kindling to keep a consistent fire burning. Once they are fully in place, then you can consider larger logs to set your internal fire ablaze.