By Christine E. Staub, Sacred Fire Greensboro

What does it mean to move authentically with our emotions, and how does it transform our experience of life? How have we humans been domesticated to stuff our feelings or meet them with fear, and can we heal from this? We often hold so tightly to our own views as the correct ones that we become inflexible, opposed to and judgmental of others.  What might it be like to open to a different perspective, to truly listen for and allow the feelings of others? And how might this affect our experience of being in community? Read on to learn how members of the Sacred Fire Community explore these questions as they seek to “get real,” in relationships with self and with others.

In March 2017, 23 women and men gathered near Queenscliff, Australia for Moving with Emotions, a two-day immersion training to explore tools for authentic expression and relationship building. Sponsored by the international Sacred Fire Community organization, the group experience proved powerful and transformative. Gratitude, deeper acceptance of self and others, and an increased capacity to stay grounded in the face of conflict were some of the benefits reported by participants. A ripple of inspiration–about putting new insights and exploration tools to work at home and in the community–ran through the group. An enthusiastic invitation to take advantage of future trainings was also expressed by many.

The importance of emotion as the language of life is well known by those attending Sacred Fire community fires and Lifeways programs. (This issue of Around The Fire, for instance, features the second in a series of conversations with Prema Sheerin in which she introduces the reader to happiness, one of five primal emotions, the others being anger, sympathy, grief and fear.) Sacred Fire Community Firekeepers, in cooperation with senior facilitators from the Process Work Institute, have been exploring how to raise group awareness about the emotions that are present in any given moment, and how to hold safe space so that these can be allowed healthy expression. This can be a scary proposition because modern society sends messages quite the opposite, lessons that even the youngest are expected to learn as soon as possible. “Don’t be a scaredy-cat!” “Big boys don’t cry.” “Don’t laugh so loud.” “If you are mad, get even.” As a result, fear has become the bully in the schoolyard of life, infecting our capacity to show our feelings “on our sleeves”, so to speak.

Moving with Emotions trainings are now opening up to include all interested community members. The experience in Australia showed how powerful it can be when as many community members as possible deepen their understanding of how to access and express authentic feelings. The very capable senior Process Work facilitator, Emetchi, put it like this: “One of the things I really appreciate about the Sacred Fire Community is that they take the messy middle ground of us human beings, learning to live and play and love and work with a whole spectrum of human emotions.” She continues, “Conflict is a part of human nature. If we have an attitude that is in conflict with conflict, we are creating an ongoing problem and that is not sustainable.” So the group explored fresh ways of relating to conflict, thereby creating deeper relationship and understanding.

For participant Murray M., this deeper relationship and understanding was first with and of himself. He could feel a bubble of protection envelop him even before his arrival at the program site. “I’d come off a 24 hour shift, but the 900 kilometer drive seemed like just six kilometers.” Murray was not only able to release deep-seated feelings which had haunted him since the death of his wife nine years earlier; he also realized that as a dyslexic, unable to perform academically, he had been ridiculed in school and had never been encouraged to honor his emotional intelligence. During Moving with Emotions, he came to appreciate that through honest expression of emotions, participants were able to free the same up for others. The effect can be permanent. Two months after the training, Murray finds himself released from “60 years of baggage”, on a brand new journey of connecting “really well” with the people in his life.

Others spoke of similar breakthroughs. Bruce Sherriff, Sacred Fire Community Firekeeper and host of the event, noted a powerful heart-opening for himself. “The people who came were very committed from the get-go, which created a great environment for the work together. I connected with my humanity through this group of people struggling with their own humanity. I also had a trial by fire, you might say, at an open community fire held the first evening. Many who showed up were not in the training, but were from my community. I can see now that it was a divine set-up, and that everyone was playing a role toward my learning, but it was the most intense thing I have every experienced. By working through this the next day, with Emetchi’s able assistance and the support of my fellow attendees, I now feel much more empowered to stand in what it is to be a Firekeeper. I feel better prepared to handle what is coming my way and to help keep the container safe for everyone. I can now see the benefit of being in a place of observing and not judging or wanting to change what is, instead simply allowing it.”

Firekeeper Phil Roberts (Perth, Australia) sums his experience up this way, “Personally when I do these workshops and this work it helps me have greater acceptance and compassion for my own diversity and different aspects of myself. As I do that, I have greater acceptance for diversity in others, for their emotions and where they are inside themselves. I come away feeling a lot better within myself and really enthused about my work as Firekeeper as well.” Firekeeper Reyna Menadue (Alice Springs, Australia) became aware of a subtle yet previously unrecognized personal expectation that when community fires come to a close, it would feel best if all issues raised had reached resolution.  “I now aim for a different presence, for a deeper holding of what arises, so I can be comfortable when at the end of the evening there is still something ‘up in the air’ or ‘to be continued.’ Life, after all, is a ‘process’, always moving toward the next wave of expression.”

Finally, from the perspective of Sacred Fire Community member, Jen M. (Queenscliff, Australia): “It’s been a really incredible process coming into heart together, to deepen the process of dancing with our emotions. There is a lot of warmth that is generated when we get into true relationship with ourselves and also with each other. To have authentic relationship is really key to my relationship with Fire and to the community that gathers around Fire, and so I am really grateful that we have had this training available to us. I can’t wait to do some more work with the Sacred Fire Community.”

Would you like to know about upcoming Moving with Emotions trainings? Send a message to firekeeping@nullsacredfirecommunity.org.

Special thanks to Sean Birchall for all his excellent work shooting and editing this beautiful video! See more of his work on YouTube.