Is there anything better than sitting around a fire on a dark, crisp winter night? Whether alone or in community, something about a campfire is universally familiar, comforting, and grounding.
Fire is innately connected to the human experience. Its characteristics infiltrate our language daily. When we are feeling inspired, we say we’ve had a metaphorical fire lit inside of us. There are burning desires; our enthusiasm is ignited; curiosity is sparked; we have flickers of interest; we are fuming with anger.
There is evidence that beginning at least 400,000 years ago human-controlled fires were taking place inside caves and other areas where natural fires don’t burn (1). Michael Pollan, in his book Cooked, reminds us that human traditions which manage to “stay” over time and across cultures, like cooking by and sitting around a fire, are still with us because they offer our species some distinct advantage. They either keep people happier, healthier, or both. And, according to Pollan, if we as a species choose to ignore the ones that have persisted, we are losing something of value, and possibly something that is critically important to our identity and continued survival. I believe sitting fireside is one of those enduring traditions worth keeping.
I often make fires by myself in our little backyard pit during fall and winter months as a mini meditation while my husband is inside helping my kids move through the first steps of our bedtime routine. I gather whatever small sticks and branches are around me as fuel. Ten minutes of staring into the warmth of the flames is often all it takes to feel realigned. I can deeply exhale, sometimes for the first time that day, and walk back inside as a restored individual, friend, partner and mother.
This week’s little ritual assignment:
Pick a night to build your own little fire. Sit with it until it burns low (so if you don’t have a lot of time, keep it twiggy). Make note of the way you feel physically and mentally both before and after your fireside pause.
I am convinced that ritual is one of the key ingredients to a life well-lived…or at the very least, a great way for a busy person to pause and actually notice when he or she is in the midst of a life well-lived.
And I am even more convinced that ritual is most likely to happen consistently when it is simple, easy, imperfect, and quick.
I’ll be sharing several little rituals I rely on this January and February. I encourage you to try one, and see if it’s something that adds meaning or space for reflection and integration of all the seemingly ordinary yet rich facets of your own every day life!