"The function of ritual, as I understand it, is to give form to human life, not in the way of a mere surface arrangement, but in depth." - Joseph Campbell.
As December loops into January we find a perfect spot to take stock of our existence. At Trigg we are HUGE advocates of undertaking an annual review to reflect on a year passed and ruminate on how our behaviour has affected our lives.
However it is not always as easy as that. Emotions will hang around. Our ego can bolster negative worries or anxieties for longer than we’d like. Opinions or statements from friends, family or colleagues can haunt us badly. Worrying about the coming year can magnify existing concerns. Not all our thoughts and emotions can tally up as neatly as we like to arrange them in a book or journal.
This is where ceremonies and ritualised methods of purging thoughts can play a quick and effective role in calming our thoughts and finding more focus. Today we’d like to share how creating our own personal fire ceremony helped acknowledge then separate from a wave of negative and anxious thoughts.
It is a straight-forward structure of purging. Compile your reflections and intentions then apply a ceremony or ritual around sending them into a different plane of the universe. Concentrate then obliterate. Focus then surrender.
The process is simple: create a narrative around change and transformation by literally burning or burying a batch of your regrets and triumphs alongside your dreams and hopes for what is about to come. You’ll be amazed how good it feels.
The first time I undertook this activity it was out of desperation. It was the end of 2017. My wife and I were on a delayed honeymoon by the ocean. I’d had a really bruising year at work and knew I was returning into a huge project that was bound to be equally as stressful as what had gone before.
I had not processed enough of the workplace trauma that had happened over the last 6 months. And I knew deep down that I needed to make peace with some facts and structures that were inevitably about to happen to me again.
So I made up my own ceremony to help quickly purge a lot of pent up thoughts, fears and emotions. When I aired my plan to torch all my hopes and fears then my wife Harps laughed at me for slightly too long. But when she realised that I was going to burn half a note book on the beach at midnight on New Years Eve then she just joined in and started writing down her own atonements to jettison into the night sky.
Our slightly made up / slightly drunk on Guatemalan rum process went something like this:
Reflection: We tore up a little notebook we had with us. Then we wrote down 10 moments, thoughts, people, situations or emotions we wanted to either bid farewell to or celebrate through greater focus. These were both positive and negative. Some were based on gratitude. Others were kernels of stress and self doubt that needed to leave our brains. We gave them each a headline. We felt that by giving these abstract thoughts as much form as possible they’d burn brighter and fly higher. We folded them into little notes but didn’t show them to each other yet.
Intentions: Then we wrote down 10 dreams, resolutions or hopes for the next phase. We also gave these a headline in order to give them extra wings for flight into the metaphysical world. Some of these were practical and very profane goals. Some were more abstract principles we wanted to encourage more of in our lives. Once again we dwelled on them individually and didn’t share them ahead of the ceremony.
Location: We were drawn to the ocean as it was close by and the beach felt like a safe yet inspirational place to build a fire. You equally should find find a beautiful or poignant site for your ceremony that is clear of danger. This could be your garden, or anywhere in fact that you feel enhances the sense of occasion in order to make the process pack more punch.
If you intend to set fire to things then significantly take this into account. Please don’t torch anything that will set fire to bigger things that shouldn’t be aflame. If you are doing the ceremony in part of your home or garden then I’d suggest making the space more inspirational and ritualistic to add emphasis and intention into your actions. Light candles. Use scent. Create as much mood as you can.
Vessel: We had a beach fire which seemed perfect for our purpose. (Although we were not meant to have fires on the beach so we had to make a secret fire, in the darkness. Not very secret in the end). This year back in the freezing UK we might use a lovely metal bowl that seems to have been sitting on the shelf all year waiting for this exact moment. Again, there are no rules so use anything you want that feels emotional and safe.
Ceremony: This was very simple. We took turns to speak and share the story behind each note. I would pick out a reflection from my pile. I’d briefly speak about why I chose this topic and its significance above other observations of the past year. Then we shouted its headline as I threw it into the fire and watched it burn.
As our reflections transformed into ash, then fused with the night sky, we took a moment to consider its impact on our year just gone and how it enriched or evolved us. Then my wife would pick one of hers. This format allowed us to align similar notes which in a very low level way created a greater sense of synchronicity and meaning. We would then both pick out an intention each and repeat except as the hopes transcended into the air we considered what that hopes meant to our lives.
This process, though slightly daft and very home-made, created a profound sense of acceptance and surrender. I instantly felt lighter and far more in touch with the worries that had catalysed this process.
Part of the journey involved confession: admitting to certain anxieties that I hadn’t aired to my wife before. I realised that despite lots of conversations I had not fully shared various deeper anxieties.
Part of the ritual also taps into a very literal practice of transcendence: witnessing a failure sizzle and vanish had a positive effect on my very stressed consciousness.
Your ceremony could take many different forms.
If fire isn’t your bag then consider creating your own rite to accept then transition away from your triumphs and tribulations. Many practices can become a metaphor for transition. You can take life’s lessons and prospects and do the following:
- Bury them. Dig them into the earth like seeds.
- Paper Aeroplanes: Transform them into winged missives and fly them out of your life
- Song: Transform them into lyrics and sing them into the heavens
- Chanting: Evolve them into mantras and repeatedly utter them until they leave you empty
- Screaming: Go crazy, shout them until you are spent
- Dancing: Invoke them into movement and shake them out of your body
Do not be constrained. There are no rules, only ingredients. By fusing the profane with the sacred and imbuing it with a process of transformation you should be able to discover new thoughts and emotions.