joey taylor and i recently led the second annual Firekeepers Leadership Retreat for the Diocese of Southern Ohio, as part of the Becoming Beloved Community work. this offering felt so divinely timed, full of potential to play and practice and integrate.
fire is a transforming element of nature. it symbolizes spirit, passion, heart. Firekeepers are those who carefully tend the fire within so that we might also tend the fire of all creation. firekeeping is vital in these times, so that the fire of life might transform us, alchemizing the pain for new life.
eleven souls participated in this gathering, showing up to the invitation that mysteriously spoke their name. there was uncertainty and a willingness to surrender. open hearts and open minds resourced our time together, curiosity and wonder compelling us.
in our prep work, the inspired definition of creativity emerged: "creativity is the frequency of aliveness" and became the centering design principle. in this spirit, another mantra came forth: "channeling not conjuring", inviting an ease in letting go of any energies of trying, forcing, imposing. there was a sense of relaxed playfulness that flowed in. it was mostly unspoken, as joey and i fell into an easy partnership of trust and respect for what was emerging.
a few sparks of our firekeeping remain emboldened with me, wanting to be shared for the encouragement of our collective firekeeping:
our first guiding question asked, "How are we being created?" connecting our lived experiences with a larger force, a more expansive story of creation and supporting a shift from victimhood to agency. This stance invited a developing relationship with the forces of life that are meeting us, often in challenging (and refining!) ways. rather than holding an attitude, "life happens to me" we turn to one of "life happens for/through me."
in relationship to the question of "How are we being created?" we explored three elements of fire: refinement, release, and invocation. working with pinecones, we created ritual around each of these elements, offering personal reflection, dialogue, and creativity. how are we being refined? what old forms are asking to be released? and then finally, what are our hearts' longings? we offered all of this to the fire, in an overnight firekeeping ceremony in which each of us tooks turns keeping our communal fire in the wide open corn fields under the moon.
the firekeeping ceremony was central to this experience. it was a time of gathering around a communal fire, each of us taking responsibility and playing an essential role in the tending to the fire. there was a sense of reverence, a sense of community. we turned to one another asking for support, sitting with one another, bringing cookies out for nourishment and care. there was remembering--a calling back to earlier times in our lives when we sat by fires and participated in such things. there was life, death, rebirth as we offered our evolving pinecones as prayers.
riding the ceremonial wave, we ate breakfast in silence. holding the energy of this time in our hearts, allowing it to alchemize and integrate us...
...and lead us into our second guiding question, "What is being created for us, through us?" this question moved us from the individual to the collective, naming the reality of our interdependence, our interrelatedness. working with the seeds of the pinecones released by the fire, we created our new/true tree selves. beginning with our roots, we honored the lineages, ancestries, and traditions that carry us.
we then considered our selves--the trunks of our trees--through the lens of other; sitting in circle, we named for one another the beauty and uniqueness we had experienced in that person. our true self always and magically emanates out despite our egoic contriving. to see ourselves through others' lens helped to bring forth a sense of our true self so that we could represent this as our tree trunk.
lastly, we turned our attention to our branches, the fruit we bear. for this, we shared in council stories of the threads we have been following in our lives and how these threads are evolving in and through us, now. stories included those of suffering family members now present as supportive ancestors, changing beliefs that guide our behavior, movement in our relationships and sense of knowing. as we shared story, we passed around thread and by the end, held together a woven web which we laid atop our individual trees. our branches creating an interwoven canopy of life.
then, we further connected to the collective through attention to our dreams. we invited support and guidance from the spirit realm through dreaming. opening to our dreams that night, with curiosity of what might show up for us.
the last morning, we gathered once more to share the dreams from that night. the dreams spoke to one another, evidence of our togetherness. our individual dreams were for the collective, providing insight and a-has in our firekeeping path.
much of the learning was around nonattachment, kenosis, letting go/letting be. to be alive requires a continual release of expectation and condition. surrender was the call, the practice.
this wasn't always easy. and then, it was.
it turns out the conditioning of attachment and addiction easily falls away in the reverence of the burning bush. in steadfast devotion to the fire, all else burns off leaving us quavering in the present moment in which there is nothing to be afraid of, only reveled in.
it was here, in pure presence that we danced together as firekeepers. moved by the life force that breathes us into expression, and then breathes us out again.
a poem that inspired us by Parker Parker:
Everything Falls Away
There's a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn't change.
Sooner or later, everything falls away.
You, the work you've done, your successes,
large and small, your failures, too. Those
moments when you were light, along-
side the times you became one with the
night. The friends, the people you loved
who loved you, those who might have
wished you ill, none of this is forever. All
of it is soon to go, or going, or long gone.
Everything falls away, except the thread
you've followed, unknowing, all along.
The thread that strings together all you've
been and done, the thread you didn't know
you were tracking until, toward the end,
you see that the thread is what stays
as everything else falls away.
Follow that thread as far as you can and
you'll find that it does not end, but weaves
into the unimaginable vastness of life. Your
life never was the solo turn it seemed to be.
It was always part of the great weave of
nature and humanity, an immensity we
come to know only as we follow our own
small threads to the place where they
merge with the boundless whole.
Each of our threads runs its course, then
joins in life together. This magnificent tapestry-
this masterpiece in which we live forever.