Achieving inner peace is no easy feat, especially when the endless stream of consciousness interrupts an intended meditation session. Luckily, Seymour’s Center for Peace has a burning desire to help others find their inner peace. Thus, the Center for Peace will offer a fire ceremony to ignite a focused meditation by using fire as the focus.
According to Katy Koontz, the ceremony’s fire elder, the fire ceremony, which was envisioned by Joseph Rael, is the product of a vision that Rael experienced in a sweat lodge in 1984. Rael visioned himself traveling under the ocean to visit Oceanus, who Rael called the creator spirit of the ocean. Oceanus asked Rael to perform a fire ceremony on April 7 to heal the oceans and the creatures that live there, as well as the oceans of cosmic thought, so Rael did so. He invited others to participate in the fire ceremony on the seventh of every month, and the ceremony remains a tradition to this day.
Rael, who is a Native American of Tiwa and Ute heritage, is now retired and lives on the Ute reservation. Though Rael, whose spirit name is Beautiful Painted Arrow, is of Native American heritage, Rael’s elders did not teach the fire ceremony to him, thus, it is not a sacred ceremony passed down by generations and meant to be kept within the tribe, Koontz explained.
“It is [Rael’s] ceremony, so he is free to gift it others,” Koontz said. “This is not cultural appropriation– he’s asked others to do this, and so we do.”
Though Oceanus had asked Rael to perform the fire ceremony to heal the ocean and the creatures within it, the fire ceremony can also be used as a focused meditation by using fire as the focus.
“Like all meditation, it gives your mind a chance to get still so you can hear whatever bubbles up for you. For many people, meditation does not come easily, and having something to focus on helps,” Koontz said. “The ceremony can be much more than that, too, but that’s a good way to understand what happens on a very basic level. As far as the details of what actually happens, I create a sacred space, lay a relatively small fire, and light it exactly at 7 p.m. Everyone watches the fire in silent meditation, watching for whatever catches their attention—it could be the shape the flames make as they dance, the direction they reach out to, the way the sticks fall, the patterns they see in the burned wood, what other sounds they may hear around them and what thoughts suddenly pop into their minds. When the very last bit of flame goes out, people are invited to share anything they got from the fire, although sharing isn’t required. Those are the basics.”
The fire ceremony can even go beyond meditation, Koontz explained.
“Participants may also choose to give the fire things they want to transmute—things they no longer want to carry and are ready to give up, such as frustration, grief or anger. To do that, they can put their intention into an offering, such as a pinch of tobacco or even a stick or a leaf. Some people write things they want to release down on paper and bring that to the fire ceremony to offer to the fire, but you don’t have to do it physically. You can just send it energetically, as well. The important thing is the intention,” Koontz said. “The fire transmutes these things we see as negative– such as pain, frustration, worry, doubt, fear or anger– that we are ready to give up into energy that serves the people in a good way. I would even say that the fire celebrates those things we see as negative—because both carrying them and giving them up when you’re ready is all part of what brought you to where you are now, so it’s all part of your journey.”
Koontz asks that those interested in the fire ceremony will arrive by 6:45 so they can be settled in their places by the time the fire is lit– exactly at 7 p.m.– because no talking is allowed until the flame goes out.
The fire ceremony is free, but donations are appreciated. The fire ceremony takes place on the seventh of every month and begins promptly at 7 p.m.
The Center for Peace is located at 880 Graves Delozier Rd. in Seymour. Contact the Center for Peace at 428-3070 for more information.