Carrying the Torch
Fire is one of the elements that conjures the most fear. It burns and kills. It destroys and can rage out of control. In so many ways its destructive qualities are so much greater than its positive properties of warmth and comfort. In the time of the sailing ships a fire on board was one of the greatest enemies to the sailor. Yet a fire of some sort always had to be carried either for cooking or firing artillery. As the source of heat for cooking it was treated with the greatest of respect and confined in specially built sand filled containers (1).
We don't have the same kind of complications today but the significance of fire as a dangerous but precious thing still exists. Fire can be a negative thing when we "carry a torch" for someone. So many Elizabethan madrigals complain of unrequited love by "burning" for a beautiful lady. But fire also has a cleansing and ritualistic significance.
In this post I look at how fire can be a very powerful transformational tool.
No Smoke without Fire
Controlled fires are used to clear areas of forestry and return valuable nutrients to the ground. If you're not used to seeing this it can be quite a shock at first. Wandering over Ireland's countryside at times when the forestry fires are burning conjures up images of a medieval landscape. I had to be assured by a local farmer that this was quite normal and, in fact, a good thing! The farmer only seemed mildly troubled when I lent him my binoculars and he was able to watch the figures running around the fire in an animated state.
In a painful reminder of the dangers of fire, the headlines confirmed the next day that the fire had indeed run out of control and threatened a few villages with annihilation. The imagery was very vivid and just reminded me that when something burns the process results in a transformation to rising smoke and charred remains. Even today it's a very real danger.
In the context of a controlled forest or farming fire, however, the smoke itself is symbolic of something unwanted being carried away. We can use that symbolism to release ourselves from unwanted feelings of resentment or emotions.
Home is where the Hearth Is
It's actually very positive to see a real fire burning in a hearth. The hearth used to represent the beating heart of a house and, just like the cooking fires on board ship, as long as it's kept under control it's unlikely to create any disasters! If you've ever sat in front of a burning fireplace and watched the flames then you'll know what a comforting experience it can be.
The symbolism of the fire can be taken further. It's important to tend the fire and keep it burning and it's also important to tend our inner fire. Whether it burns with passion or frustration, we need to pay attention and react to that energy. In the same way that we can stoke the fire with the poker and built it up with logs or coal we can change the type of fire that builds within us.
If that fire within is troubling us then it's time to move on. When we make that decision to move that means there's no going back. We simply have to eliminate any chance that the fire can reignite. NLP has lots of tricks to help us deal with negative inner emotions or hallucinations. When perform a real physical act the effect is even stronger.
This will work with any burden or troubling thought but take sadness after a failed relationship, for example. Those feelings of resentment and rejection can hang around for a very long time. What if it were possible to destroy them? Well it is.
By taking a piece of paper and writing down what it is that you feel there's a release simply by transferring it to the paper. Be as detailed as you can. Be as honest as you can. Nobody is ever going to read this! Keep writing until you feel the burden released from your shoulders.
If you want to add emphasis you can screw up that bit of paper or tear it into little bits. Finally, toss it into the fire with the contempt it deserves. If you haven't got a real fire then put it in a bowl and burn it with a match. Take the greatest pleasure in watching it curl up and disintegrate in front of your eyes. Feel the relief as it transforms to smoke and drifts away. Enjoy it!
Walking on Air
That burden is literally gone. It's been carried away in the smoke. All that remains is the ash. After seeing it transform to smoke we can continue on our path with a fresh outlook on life, as if we're able to walk on air. It'll work for anything: a negative thought or emotion; a feeling of panic or fear; feelings of resentment, anger or jealousy. You can even do the exercise entirely in your head. Fire is such a powerful and meaningful thing to us that the symbolism of burning whatever it is makes a permanent change. Life will never be the same again.