The Primordial Alchemy of Fire

On our wilderness trips fire can be a powerful ally. The first time we ran our Yosemite backpacking trip, we only had one or two campfires, mainly because tending a fire after a full day of hiking is a lot of work.

This year though, we noticed that when we held group circle around fire, people opened up in surprising ways and collectively we seemed to tap into deeper layers of consciousness. We felt more connected and the conversations were noticeably more potent. As we caught on to this we began making fire a central component of our group circles (thank you to Ryan and Devin, our fire keepers on our trips this summer!)

I've been thinking about why this might be. Here are a few of my reflections on fire:

+ Fire is primordial. Our ancestors have been gathering around its warmth since time immemorial. Fire calls to something deep and ancient in our flesh and bones. Sitting around fire we share in an unbroken chain of experience that reaches back into the misty, shrouded beginnings of time.

+ Fire alters consciousness. Like a sequoia cone, the glowing heat invites us to open, activating our imagination and seeding new potentials. It transforms the night into fertile ground where nourishing stories and heartfelt conversations can take root.

+ Fire connects. We sit around a fire in a circle, all of us sharing its light and warmth in the center. This ritual is a powerful reminder of the ways we are all interconnected, deepening bonds.

+ Fire defends against darkness. It's a powerful symbol for consciousness, teaching us how we might tend to our own inner flame.

+ Fire strengthens. It is in the heat of the furnace where metals are forged and shaped. Fire has the power to burn away impurities and imbue its subject with a lasting resilience.

+ Fire transforms. Never to be the same again. Like the phoenix, fire's alchemy ushers in a death and rebirth.

We plan to continue working with the archetype of fire in our upcoming retreats.

Fire is an important element in the Mayan worldview, which we'll be exploring during our New Year's Guatemala retreat on Lake Atitlán (while surrounded by 4 volcanoes!)

Right after that we are hosting a Kambo retreat in a beautiful, secluded cabin in nature on the other side of Lake Atitlán. Have you heard of Kambo? In my experience as a Kambo practitioner, this medicine is a trial by fire if ever there was one...

And we have a new, challenging Yosemite wilderness trip in the works for experienced backpackers (going on our previous Yosemite trip counts!) next year over a mountain I have dubbed "Fire Mountain" (not it's actual name). At roughly 11,400 feet, it's the highest mountain pass in the park...

There is a tipi in the old growth forest I am living in here in Oregon this fall. I plan to sit in it several nights tending a fire to continue cultivating my relationship with fire.

What is your relationship with fire? How might you tend to it in the coming months?

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