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​Spiritual Friday: Burning Bowl Ceremony

Last Friday the patients came to Unity for the Burning Bowl Ceremony, a ritual we hold every January. It is such a powerful and symbolic letting go, I thought it would be great for our patients!

Each patient received an envelope, a small piece of flash paper, lined paper, and a pen. In the first part of the ritual, each patient (after a brief centering meditation) was asked to write on their flash paper anything they needed to free themselves from in order to fully embrace their recovery and their new way of life: self defeating attitudes, loved ones, old relationships, shame, guilt, remorse over what could have been, resentments, anger, selfish self centered behavior, fears, hurts, mistakes, false opinions, and beliefs about themselves. When they finished writing, the patients lined up and one by one dropped their papers into a fire. Their papers “flashed” and disappeared. This was all done in silence (while meditative music played) as the patients were asked to really “hold” the sacredness and meaning of this for everyone in the room.

When they returned to their seats, the patients were asked to write a letter to their High Power/G-d/Higher Self expressing desires, intentions, needs, fears: What do you really want this new year? What do you want your new life to look like? After writing their letters, the patients put them in envelopes addressed to themselves. I collected the letters which will be continuously prayed over by our Prayer Ministry at the church and mailed back to them the week of Thanksgiving.

One patient played and sang some beautiful music for us and finished with Adele’s “Set Fire To The Rain”. It was perfectly beautiful and of course the patients loved this!

After the ceremony we broke up into smaller groups to “process”.

  • “I thought that I had let go of something until I wrote it down and realized I hadn’t totally surrendered; now I have.”
  • “I had some things I didn’t want to let go of, but when I surrendered to G-d, it felt like G-d did it for me. G-d in me let go.”
  • “I wrote to myself: ‘I feel hopeful, peace.’ I can’t believe I got that!”

One of the group leaders asked, “What do you hope to become?” Answers included: Happy, peaceful, successful, truthful, and content.

There was some really heartfelt and lovely energy in the church that afternoon. We all felt very blessed!

When we spoke of the idea of “clearing space” for Higher Power and asked, “What does that presence feel like?” One patient answered, “Like a ray of sunshine; something natural.”

Reverend Wendy shared a beautiful poem/prayer at our closing:

For a New Beginning

In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plentitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

-John O’Donohue

Reverend Laurie Durgan