Exercise by David Spangler, Introduction by Susan Beal
In response to my blog post last week about the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, a blog reader inquired about the exercise from David Spangler I referred to. I first experienced the inner campfire exercise when David introduced it in the Path of the Chalice program I took several years ago. Later on, David talked about using the image of the inner campfire as a way to transmute difficult emotions into compassion, understanding, even blessings, kind of like an inner compost heap turns scraps into rich soil.
To use the exercise this way, I simply envision the same scene David describes:a clearing in the woods, a fire pit, and surrounding forest. I spend a moment visualizing the fire—its light, its warmth, the cheer and sense of safety or comfort it brings me. I see it shining into the forest around me and allow the sense of light and warmth to suffuse my body, so that it becomes a felt sense, something I experience with more than just my mind or thoughts.
Then I imagine whatever difficulty I am working with—whether it be a painful emotion, a confusing decision, a challenging situation, or whatever—as scraps of wood or coal, or even bits of trash that I can gather from the forest floor and toss into the flames. Sometimes I imagine something written on each scrap that represents what I want to transmute in the fire. Sometimes instead of picturing something to toss into the blaze, I tune into the sensation in my body of whatever emotion or thought I’m working with. Then I envision the fire as blazing up within my heart, expanding outward and dissolving any knots or bits of tension or resistance, until I’m in the center of a brilliant, cleansing flame.
When I’m ready, I follow the same steps outlined in the original version below, stepping out of the flame, bringing my awareness slowly back to my physical body and surroundings, and coming back into normal consciousness with gratitude for the experience. —Susan Beal
Imagine that you are camping in the woods. You are in a clearing at the center of which is a fire pit. In the forest around you, you see plenty of dry kindling and pieces of wood that you can use to build a fire and keep it going.
Imagine yourself gathering wood and putting it into the fire pit. Only each stick of wood represents something within you. It may be a quality of love, such as appreciation, honoring, recognition, respect, courtesy, affection, friendship, acknowledgment, and so on. Or it may be a memory of achievement, appreciation for yourself, good memories that make you feel OK about yourself, memories of times when you have felt your power, your wholeness, your competency, your skill, your integration. As you gather these qualities and memories in the form of sticks and logs and pieces of wood for the fire, take a moment as you place each piece into the fire pit to reflect on what it means to you. Have a felt sense of the quality or of the memory. Feel its power within you as you place it in the fire pit. When the fire pit is full to your satisfaction, stretch forth your hands. You are going to work Fire Magic!
Holding your hands over the wood in the fire pit, affirm that you are going to light a fire of love and appreciation. Let the power of this love flow out from you as a blaze of fire, setting the wood aflame.
As the fire grows in the fire pit, spend a moment just to enjoy this camp fire. Feel its warmth upon you. Feel the security it gives, the light it radiates.
Become aware that there are stirrings in the forest around you. Unseen beings have gathered, attracted by your fire. Invite them to join you at the campfire. Each being that comes forth (it may be human, animal, or something else) represents a part of yourself: parts that you appreciate and perhaps parts you don't; parts that make you proud, and perhaps parts of which you are ashamed; parts representing your soul, your personality, and your body. All the parts that you feel are within you and that comprise the wholeness that is you come forth from the dark invisibility of the forest and become seen and known as they respond to your invitation and gather around the campfire with its flames of love and appreciation. Some of these figures may be beautiful, some may be frightening, but they all respond to the call of the campfire you have built, and in the light it gives, you have no fear of any of them.
Take a moment just to sit all together in the clearing around the blazing fire pit. Feel the companionship, the comradeship, the partnership and collaboration with all these parts of you. Feel the warmth and light of the fire as it radiates to all this group.
When you are ready, stand up. The group stands up with you, forming a circle around the fire pit. See yourself and all the members of this group joining hands. Then all together, step into the fire pit. Step into the flames, which grow large enough and spacious enough to encompass and embrace you all. You feel no pain or discomfort, only a welcoming embrace of light, warmth and love. For a moment feel all of the parts of you joined with you in this fire. Then they melt in the heat of this love and flow into you, becoming one with you, each contributing and adding to your wholeness.
Pay attention to the felt sense of this. Stay in the fire as long as it feels right and comfortable to you.
When you are ready, form the intention to return to everyday awareness. As you do so, the fire pit and the campfire burning within it flow inward to a place in your body where you can still feel the flames creating wholeness within you through the power of its love. Give thanks to all the parts of you and to this flaming Light, and return to your everyday life and affairs, carrying this blazing campfire within you.
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