Read these stories from participants at Sacred Fire Lifeways programs and events.

I realized that I don’t have to do this alone

“The Peaceful Dying Project….was so helpful in connecting me with my feelings and fears regarding death and allowing me to share and express them…. I realized that I don’t have to do this alone – that by involving my loved ones, the process becomes easier for everyone. I discovered that the thread of community and heartfelt relationship extends into all corners of life experience, including death”

—Anonymous Participant

Finding Answers around the Fire

After a period in my life when I was heading in the wrong direction, I turned to exploring spirituality as a path to addiction recovery.  Through serendipity, I found myself talking to a woman who, through her intuition, sensed that I would benefit from a drum or fire circle.  As I started asking around, a friend of mine led me to the Sacred Fire community fires hosted by Tim and Karla Cole in Poplarville, MS.  Once I got there, I realized it was no coincidence that I had been led to this community specifically. I’ve overcome so much through the people I’ve met and the lessons I’ve learned around the hearth there. So many of the answers to my questions in life have come from listening to, or observing the growth in others, around the Fire.  For instance, one community member participated in the Sacred Fire Community Annual Gathering of Men.  I watched his journey toward claiming his more feminine/emotional side; it wasn’t easy for him at first, but ultimately the transformation was inspiring.

I’ve come to appreciate the importance of community, and how beneficial healthy communities are to society.  I’ve learned the importance of letting go of judgment.  And now I’ve found the courage to take a huge leap.  In March I will quit my well-paying job, and move to the Pacific Northwest where I hope to start a community-based healing center.  I take with me lessons about new beginnings and the wisdom I will need to carry with me, and of the courage it takes to leave things behind.

—Casey Russell
Poplarville, MS (USA)

Elder wisdom

One of the wonderful things that came out of our Life Cycle Living workshop here in New Freedom, PA (USA) is remembering the importance of the elders within our community. As part of their role in service to the younger generations, elders are asked to share the wisdom gained from their life experiences. As a result of our discussion, we hosted a Story Telling Fire, with participants ranging from age 5 to 75. We laughed, cried and learned as people shared stories from their own lives, as well as from different Native American traditions. We decided on the spot we will do this again!

—Linda Felch
New Freedom, Pennsylvania

Lessons about Life Direction and Purpose

The international Sacred Fire Community is hosting eight Life Cycle Living workshops on three continents in 2018. Here is what an adult community member in Asheville, NC (USA) had to say about her experience with this program, which engages participants in a conversation about the natural rhythms of a human life.

I’ve struggled with knowing myself and my place in the world since my late teens. I never felt I was taught how to decide which direction to take my life. Somehow, as a 16 year old, I was expected to know what to do with the rest of my life, without anything to base that decision on. As a college student I changed my major several times, unable to decide on anything that really moved me. As an adult, I find myself in the same place as my 18 year old self – like a teenager who’s never really been able to decide what I want to be when I grow up.

The Life Cycle Living workshop showed me that I had missed an essential phase in my life that would’ve allowed me to understand myself better, to move forward in my life with direction and clarity. It gave me context to that which I knew to be true, but couldn’t formulate into words. It’s not that this program gave any answers on how to change this, but I was able to feel like the stuckness in my life isn’t related to something I have failed to do, or to a personal failure. I now understand it’s because the society that we live in expects our children to jump from puberty to adulthood without any support to understand what that even means. This realization made me very angry and also very upset, because so many of us are missing pieces of ourselves that are necessary to be who we really are. And we all have so much to offer as our true, authentic selves.

Life Cycle Living has left me wanting to pursue how I can move through this missing stage. My local fire community seems hungry for more of this medicine as well. We were passionate about brainstorming how to bring a supportive way of aging to our community. We are excited to become involved in the next steps of what Life Cycle Living has to offer each of us. We want this not just so we can heal ourselves individually, but to be able to extend the gifts of Life Cycle Living to all of us, to grow stronger together. Like a community. Like a village.

—Life Cycle Living Participant
Asheville, North Carolina

Young Adult Initiation: The role of fathers

A father wonders how to support his 10 year old daughter toward eventual ritual initiation into adulthood. David Wiley, elder and ritual leader, gave this answer:

Traditionally, as a young woman is getting ready to emerge and move into the world and become more independent, the influence often moves from the mother to the father. So in some ways, the mother was there to produce the nest, hold the family, keep and teach about relationships. But when it comes to moving out into the world – “What is the world about? What am I going to encounter there?” – you often find that young women will exhibit separation energy through fights with their mothers. At this point it is common for them to look toward the father. Daughters want to hear from their father in a way that is confident, patient and reassuring. With my daughter, I could make my suggestions and let her be and she eventually picked up on the advice and could move with it.

—David Wiley
Sacred Fire Carrollton

Tuning in to Natural Cycles

As I ponder my experience of attending Life Cycle Living a month ago, I am surprised by a new quiet in me. I feel that I let go of some of the internal voice that wants to tell me “gotta get to the next stage in life.” I think there was a subtle yet profound transformation with this; the cultural linear thinking seems to have lightened somewhat. I have been living in a rural setting for five years now, having spent most of my life in the city. As a result, I experience the natural cycles much more now and I am in tears for how the Life Cycle Living exploration affirmed this knowing in me.

Several insights are worth sharing. I had trauma in my early life for which I have done much healing work, but during this community dialogue, I deepened my compassion for my younger self. Also, as I look at my young adult sons, I now feel more empowered to let go of concern for them and to allow them to be in the “work” of that stage of life. Further, as an early childhood educator with many degrees and years of experience, I feel validated for my work, which is to preserve the innocence of infants and young children, allowing them to fully be in their respective stages of life. That is the greatest contribution I can make for them.

Finally, as an older adult I now ask myself: Am I fully living into this current stage of my life? So I am pondering what is it to be an elder, and that is a wonderful thing to do in community also. My thanks go to the facilitators, Larry Messerman and Jessica De la O. I felt that they were dwelling in the questions of the workshop for themselves. They brought this insight as well as a deep listening.

—Judy Mann
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Fire Story: Core Basis of Prayer interview excerpt

from Gathering Blessings: Experiencing Divine, an interview with Sherry Morgan

Prayer helps us to know ourselves more deeply, to know our own true nature, not the perception of self that has been shaped by the good/bad, right/wrong, should/shouldn’t conditioning of the culture in which we were brought up. Cedar trees don’t wonder if they ought to shed their leaves in winter. The fox doesn’t wonder if it should be a beaver. The clouds don’t wonder whether they should let the wind carry them. But we humans question everything! We are often lost, stressed, and confused about who we really are and what our gifts are. We might even believe we don’t have any gifts, which can lead to despair. We all have gifts! Prayer can help a lot in discovering that we’re not alone and that there is much help for us to access our authentic expression and the unique gifts we came here to learn about and to offer.

—Sherry Morgan
Victoria, B.C.

Touching a deep place within

“Ukalai touched something very deep in me, a place that I didn’t even know needed exploring. Long-held assumptions were shattered, opening new channels of self-awareness and compassion.”

—Sharon Brown
Olympia, WA (USA)

Who am I?

“Who am I?” I have meditated on this question for decades.  I fell in love with a book by Ramana Maharshi in my early 20’s. What followed wasn’t a mental exercise, rather an opening to an experience of something greater, strangely mysterious and yet not.

Now in my later life, I have discovered that there is something exquisite, fulfilling and satisfying in opening to the related question, “Who am I as a woman?” that has me falling in love with the beauty of this life.  Furthermore, there is something essential in gathering with other women to deeply experience this great Divine Feminine that enlivens us and moves through us, aligning us with ourselves and the Mystery of the world around us.

More than ever, I believe our world needs us to embody this deep essence and bring it forth in our lives.  We need to gather with other women to sink into and align with each other and to cherish who we are.  Come join us.  It is important.  Our world needs us to bring this forth.  It’s time, and immensely relevant to the times we are living.

—Annie King
Florence, SC (USA)

The kindness act that I could do for myself

“This was the kindness act that I could do for myself! Our conversation about death and dying was all about life (and) since the workshop I have been more available to live this life!!!”

—Anonymous Participant

The Gift of Winter among Men

I arrive at the healing lands of the Blue Deer, nestled in a valley of the Catskill Mountains, next to the sacred waters of the River that sings her song to all who stop and listen. I am grateful to have beaten the snows that are on their way. I am happy to be here and anxiously waiting to meet the rest of the men. My spirits have lifted, but my heart is still heavy from challenges I am facing at home, in my relationship.

Although it is my third time attending Ukilái: An Annual Gathering of Men, I am taken aback by the power and connection of gathering and doing the work of men at the time of Winter. There is some special alchemy of learning and bonding that my soul craves as a man and as an individual that is nourished by our time together. I appreciate what we have received through the guidance of our leader and elder, David Wiley.

On the final day, I drive eastward to my home, drinking in the beauty of the lands and a wonderful sunset. I walk through the door at home just after dark, finally able to reach across to my partner and express myself in a way that has been missing for very a long time!

—Shawn Bennett
Norwich, Connecticut (USA)

Meeting situations without aggression

“Situations can be met directly and openly, without a strategy and without aggression. This feels both powerful and gentle at the same time; an expanding of awareness of what it is to be ‘male’.”

—Tom Edwards
Moab, Utah

A place for healing to occur on many levels

“Prema Sheerin is a woman of wisdom. Her program is beautifully balanced with humor, wide scholarship, profound meditations, joyful movement, and deep heart. She brings a capacity for listening deeply, even between the words spoken, and responds from a place of carefully tended intuition. In her program she holds a place for healing to occur at many levels. This workshop is an invaluable exploration of life’s transitions and I recommend it most highly.”

—Sherry Boatright
Carrollton, GA

A Circle Within a Circle: Human Life and Community

Some reflections on the Life Cycle Living weekend in Santa Monica, CA (USA)

During my recent experience of Sacred Fire’s Life Cycle Living program, ably facilitated by Prema Sheerin and Lisa Lichtig, I was introduced to the natural flow of human life through eight important stages. It was compelling to see how each stage organically feeds into the next, and how each has its particular work, gifts, and associated emotions. It felt good to begin to understand these stages and to see with fresh eyes how I may have moved or failed to move naturally through each of them. I saw the possibility of revisiting each stage, fully grieving opportunities that had been missed, honoring the lessons that had been learned, and claiming healing forward movement. In particular, I saw the beauty of looking at life as a circle rather than as a line, recognizing how elders are meant to contribute their earned wisdom to the youngest members of a community.

All of us present expressed our ideas and feelings and there was room for it all: excitement, grief and hope. Most of all, we came away with a knowing that we cannot do this alone. It is the connecting warmth of the fire, the community of people and the divine natural world that will gracefully carry us through these beautiful cycles of life.

—Angela Ocone
Sacred Fire Ojai, California

A Mysteriously Moving Experience

Reflections on the Ukilái Annual Gathering of Men in Southern Utah (USA) 2018

Ukilái was a mysteriously moving experience for me, with deeply felt warmth and embodied wisdom difficult to explain in words because these are already “in” us.

Don David Wiley is a brilliant leader and a kind guide in this mysterious realm. I’m telling my friends about Ukilái because they can benefit from it.

—Tom Edwards
Moab, Utah

Longing for Something Lost

Reflections on the Life Cycle Living weekend in Brookfield, Massachusetts (USA) 2018

I found the Life Cycle Living workshop to be as informative as it was deeply emotional. As I listened to one of the stories, I felt a strong resonance and yearning for ‘village life’—for a deeply supportive community.  This story also produced strong emotions in some of the women present, which sparked a lively discussion about gender roles.

In listening to and learning about how each stage of life contains a particular gift for community as well as a job of personal growth, I felt some pain and sadness at how I had moved in my own life, as a father and young man, without proper guidance to navigate that part of my life. This discovery awakened a need to grieve and let go of old sadness and shame, and to claim a deeper sense of purpose in my work and a stronger connection with my children, who are now young adults.

—Shawn Bennett
Norwich, Connecticut

The Gift of Simplicity in Life

The international Sacred Fire Community is hosting eight Life Cycle Living workshops on three continents in 2018. Here is what Adam Laufer, a community member in Asheville NC (USA), who builds tree houses for a living, had to say about his experience with this event that engages participants in a conversation about the natural rhythms of a human life.

When I go about my day, I’m mostly dealing with concerns about my work: how to plan my work and schedule and whether or not I will be able to take care of this or that detail.

When I go through normal western life choices and then step into something like Life Cycle Living, it is so obvious that my mind and my concerns pull me far away from the simplicity of life, that kind of aware and present life that, at some point or another, our ancestors lived. Life Cycle Living made it very clear how simple and satisfying life can be. Not that any of my questions were answered specifically; however, sometimes knowing the right question to ask is more important than having the answer.

—Adam Laufer
Asheville, North Carolina

The Importance of Leadership

Ukilái events are held in breathtaking locations around the world, like Loch Rannoch in Scotland, where Andy attended. Andy Jukes, a participant in Ukilái, a Men's Retreat sponsored through the Sacred Fire Community, had this to say about respected teacher and guide, David Wiley.

I was very aware that it takes an awful lot of skill to lead a course like Ukilái. To have the presence to hold the group, judge what they need next, keep feeding them the right thing at the right moment, keep up the intensity yet–at the same time–keep it light. We were fortunate to be in the care of a master. He held us all. Made us feel safe. Safe enough so that he could consistently challenge us. Push our boundaries. Expand our expectations.

Thank you, David.

—Andy Jukes
Shropshire, England

A Stew of Fine Men

Reflections on the Ukilái Annual Gathering of Men in Scotland (2018)

In view of Schiehallion, a grand mountain in central Scotland that was referred to a couple of times as the “center of everything” for the area, I gathered as part of a group of ten seeking to calibrate our positions as men in our families and communities at Ukilái. With guidance from head chef David Wiley, a stew was prepared from cuts of fine men and spiced with stories, laughter, pain and sweat, then cooked by Fire.

Transformed, we returned a little more tender, palatable, more able to feed the world with our gifts.  For me, this time, it wasn’t so much about being a man, but about being more human.

—Brian Collins
Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, USA

Maturing Gracefully and with Meaning

Each month, Sacred Fire Asheville hosts a women’s fire. A recent  women’s fire was a memorable one for me.

While there’s an intimacy and privacy contained within our women’s work, sometimes it’s time to share the insights that occur. The main theme of the fire was something I might call “how to grow old in a good way.” We listened to each other talk about our parents as they are aging. Some of us brought up our own fears about getting older, about who we would become as we age, about who would want to take care of us.

One woman mentioned wanting to become an older person who has value to the community, someone her loved ones will want to support as she ages.

I left feeling, not so much a sense of resolution of the issues of how to relate with seniors in my life and to my own aging, but instead a strong sense of camaraderie that many of my sisters (perhaps all of us) have similar experiences and concerns to mine. That means a lot to me.

As I witness my own mother aging, my heart longs for something that our modern culture doesn’t seem to offer: a clear way to mature gracefully, mature with meaning, and come of age in different stages of life with support of community.

That discussion left me wondering a few things:

  • Who will take care of me when I’m a senior (and will they like it)?
  • What is my role in this stage of my life in relation to the old and the young around me (and to my family and community, in general)?
  • What qualities of eldership have been traditionally valued by community, and how can I become someone who cultivates those qualities as I age?

My friends Cassandra and Abigail passed through a rite of passage into adulthood a few months ago. In considering them (and my other friends who have received the gift of entering adulthood in this way), my questions go backward in time to youth, as well:

  • How does our community (and how do I) support people who have been given a ceremony to honor and reinforce the important stage of life where we make this profound transition?
  • What did I miss by not going through a formal rite of passage into adulthood, and is there some way to reclaim that or integrate that now?

These questions about the stages of life are the focus of Life Cycle Living, a weekend exploration sponsored by the Sacred Fire Community. These 1½-day programs are being held in Sacred Fire Community hamlets (local communities who meet around the fire) and are led by presenters trained to lead a very special exploration in how we relate to the stages of life. The exploration of the gifts and purpose of each stage is designed to catalyze further community conversations after the weekend on how to embrace a fuller appreciation of life’s phases and weave a deeper understanding of them into our lives and communities.

Ultimately, deepening our understanding of life’s cycles will help us build a foundation of support to hold each member of our communities through their life cycles, as our ancestors have done for generations in the past.

More information on Life Cycle Living can be found here:

Life Cycle Living

 

—Erin Everett
Sacred Fire Asheville

What a gift. What a mystery!

“What a great thing it was so to do this workshop! I remember saying to a fiend at the end how I didn’t really know if anything had happened even though I totally loved being there. I think it was only a week later that my father died. My friend said to me then: ‘do you still think nothing happened at the transitions workshop?’ I want to thank you for the magical and powerful nature of your work. It totally prepared me for what was to come – I was able to really throw myself into the process and the practices. What a gift. What a mystery!”

—Jacqueline Murphy

A very safe space for delving into both fear and grief

“Prema….guides people with ease, clarity, confidence and gentleness into territory that our culture seldom explores. She creates a very safe space for delving into both fear and grief and experiencing the beauty of feeling these emotions, for they bring us more deeply into life.”

—Anonymous Participant

The Gift: Supporting Young Women’s Initiation

A staff member at Sacred Emergence, Sacred Fire’s Initiation for Young Women, describes her experience:

There we were, a staff of ten women, ages 31–76, snuggled in to a gorgeous wilderness. Four generous and capable men assisted and protected us. Three experienced wise women had worked for months to take the young ones through this Sacred Emergence, perhaps the most meaningful event of their transitioning lives. The set up was perfect…and, for me, there was a feeling that the spirits came for the most important part, enlivening the place, the ceremonies, the people, the animals and the rivers, along with the trees and flowers that sang each day to us of their love and assistance.

Hard emotional and physical work were the order of the day, and each of us appeared in the morning, willing, generously giving of all our gifts. No matter if it was doing dishes, hauling wood and water, or opening our hearts in trusting ways, each of us was present. We intended to make the entire time one of fierce graciousness so the blessings would flow to the girls who had made themselves available to become women, in the most magnificent sense. And they did! All manner of surprise surfaced each day, in casual exchange as well as in deep ceremony, to bring these young women to places from which they cannot return…nor would they want to.

We cannot fully know what has been wrought, yet we have faith that the transformation will continue for these women, as they grow in grace and truth.

—Jane Jackson
Denver, Colorado (USA)

In service to the feminine

It is a great honor to serve as the Guardian Team Leader for Sacred Emergence: Initiation into Adulthood for Young Women. To serve as a guardian of women while they do their work involves physical labor and being a protector of the ritual space.

I’ve had the privilege to support at least seven such initiation experiences and always come away amazed by the strength, inner beauty, power and creativity initiated women express at their Fiesta, which is when we, the guardians and community, meet them for the first time. Perhaps more than any other role I’m called to in my community, serving on the Sacred Emergence staff provides me the satisfaction of experiencing the masculine in service to the feminine. I can’t think of any other situation where this is played out so clearly, and I’m sure this is a major part of what keeps bringing me and others back to offer our time and resources. Those experiences stay with me.

—Gary Weidner
Mesa, CO (USA)

How I became a better father

Chris Griffin is a Sacred Fire Firekeeper candidate, offering community fires in Wilton, NH (USA). He looks forward to another opportunity for inspiration and recalibration in the company of men at Ukilái January 2019.

While the world needs the expression of the deeper feminine ways of being, as men we need to remember and embody a balanced manifestation of masculinity, and experience how these two different human expressions mutually support each other. I attended Sacred Fire’s Ukilái Gathering of Men in 2014 and found it to be a wonderful and pivotal experience which helped me to recognize and reconnect with the masculine. It helped me to show up as the kind of man I want to be, both in my partnership and as father to my daughters.

—Chris Griffin
Wilton, NH (USA)

And so goes another night at Ritaka

“The fire crackles and burns brighter as one of us places another piece of wood into the center. The flame in our hearts does the same as we express ourselves, placing our fears and joys into the circle and igniting a flame of a different kind. The young men and women sitting around the fire laugh as another “so bad it’s good” joke is shared. As we talk, the words move with a joyful ease, like a conversation between old friends, flowing between stillness and movement as we all take our turns listening and sharing. The topics ebb and flow and the emotions move with it.

“Blissful tears are shed, as a young woman with her guitar serenades us. Her voice, already beautiful, is sweetened by the courage she displays in sharing it. Powerful words of anger arise, as one of us gives voice to pain, the wound inflicted by another sitting around the fire. The expression becomes at once more essential and more difficult and listening to it is almost as hard. But after those tense moments of conflict die down, we still sit with each other, somehow feeling closer than we were before. And the river of conversation flows again. There is no destination we aim for, nothing we are looking to attain, simply content with enjoying the companionship and love that the circle exudes. We put more wood on the fire.

“And so goes another night at Ritaka.”

—Colin Lenhart
Seattle, WA

A really beneficial time for men to be together

This Lifeways program has evolved into a really beneficial time for men to be together. I appreciate time we had together to be in a community group albeit for a short time. There was time to experience support, a rather deep sharing, and a very unusual learning from the teachings of Grandfather Fire through the perspective and experience of Don David Wiley.

I was in the Scotland event and i found i really liked Scotland—it was a bonus that it was a beautiful place and i felt welcomed and much at home there.

Our group was from merry old England, the country of Wales, the Emerald Isle, and of course the USA where i am from. This international flavor was eclipsed by the commonality of of what it is to be human. It was refreshing to experience the willingness of men to work together.

—Tim Simon
Brookfield, Massachusetts

The Role of Parent

I got a lot from participating in the Life Cycle Living workshop. By reflecting upon my current stage in life and my role as a parent, I realized that I needed to go back and do some inner work to deal with earlier stages in life, stages during which my natural development as a human being had been blocked. For instance, while growing up in Brazil and when I was just 11 years old, I had to take over a parenting role for my younger brother, and so I lost out on fully embracing my childhood at that time. Paradoxically, even though I took this ‘mature’ role as a child, I realized that in some way I had retained a degree of immaturity.

I have since worked on this, including taking an Emotional Wisdom workshop facilitated by Prema Sheerin, one of the Sacred Fire Community Lifeways providers. This is allowing me to be more fully present as a father for my children and as a man for my community. I am also hoping that we will get enough interest to start regular Men’s Fires around our hearth, just as the women are gathering around the Fire every month.

—Eduardo da Silva
Greensboro, North Carolina

Prioritizing values, like family

“I had an amazing time at the men’s retreat. It inspired me to live my life differently, prioritizing values, like my family, which are very dear to me.”

—John Huang
Long Beach, California

A little window into the life of a new mother

This little boy was born on August 31, 2018 to parents Cleis and Fassika. All is well. Let us welcome him!

“My baby boy, 4 days old today! I had an amazing delivery, with support from my partner, mom and aunt and an amazing midwife! No complications (prolonged rupture of membranes only) and feeling great, strong and supported. I labored at home, meditating, doing yoga, walking, spending time at my altar for about 24 hours and I got to the hospital 10 cm dilated and gave birth within 2 hours. I am so grateful, happy and in love. It was a magical experience like an adventure to another world. Thank you for helping me trust myself, my body and the unknown through the process of initiation into womanhood. —Much love, Cleis”

Mother and physician, Cleis Nordfjell was initiated into adulthood in 2013 through Sacred Fire’s Lifeways offering, Sacred Emergence.

—Cleis Nordfjell
Sweden