To Build a Bonfire
December 20th, 2010
Swami Kriyananda has often told us to build a mental bonfire before we go to bed each night and cast into it all desires and attachments that we’ve collected throughout the day. I wanted to practice this but was never able to be consistent with it. I realized the problem was that I was making it a purely mental exercise. To make this practice something that I would stick with, I needed to make it real for me. I needed to experience it and feel it. I was able to come up with something that worked for me. I offered these ideas to a friend recently and he found them beneficial. So I offer them to you in that same spirit of friendship.
So then, how could I experience actually casting off desires and attachments? I feel desires and attachments as burs of energy mostly in the heart area. Again I tried mentally to lift up these little bits of stuck energy to the point between the eyebrows and cast them into the mental bonfire, but I couldn’t quite do it. I lacked the energy to do it simply by focusing there. I needed more energy and more focus. At some point it occurred to me to take a hint from the end of the fire ceremony that we do at Ananda. We use the hands as energy magnets drawing them up the front of the torso to release and uplift any stuck energy, and then from the spiritual eye, cast those blockages ceremoniously into the fire. Often ceremonies are just symbols or aids for what is intended to be a primarily inner process. I thought I’d try letting the outer ceremonial part help me with my inner fire ceremony. I also added the accompanying mantra of “AUM Swaha” which means “I offer myself in to AUM,” coordinating it with the breath.
AUM is the cosmic vibration, God’s infinite presence manifest in creation. Mentally chanting “AUM,” I inhale and draw the hands up the torso, and then I mentally say “swaha” as I exhale and extend my arms forward as if putting those attachments directly into a ceremonial fire. With these tools, I am actually able to feel a movement of energy as I offer myself up to the spiritual eye. As I practice this, I also visualize releasing any desires and attachments from the day that come to mind, and then offer them into the mental fire. I have found this practice to be wonderfully freeing.
I have added several other practices before bed that Swami Kriyananda and/or Paramhansa Yogananda recommended. I will share them here as well.
They recommend that you visualize your day and see that it was God flowing through you in all that you did. They also said to review the day and try to notice ways you could improve. Perhaps you’re just remembering small experiences from the day, but the devotee should be looking to learn from all life. I combined these practices into one, perhaps because I was particularly tired one evening and wanted to get on with the show, but also because I wanted to make it a practice I would stick with over time. I briefly go through the day visualizing that it was Master’s energy flowing through me, releasing any effort and fruit of that effort and giving it to Him. At the same time I am watching for places that I (or “we” since I’m including Master in this process) could improve. In doing this, be sure to do it without judgment on yourself or others. Remember, it is all Him!
Another practice one or both of them have recommended is to visualize infinity. Not an easy task by any means, but it helps to expand our consciousness “beyond limits of the mortal frame, to the farthest reaches of eternity” as Yogananda wrote in his poem Samadhi. Another practice is to convince your mind that it is all a dream. Again, perhaps because I’m an American who loves efficiency, I combine these two practices. I recognize that my body is simply made of energy. I visualize myself as swirling electrons, weightless and free, and full of pure, vibrant energy. I then try to become aware that it is the same energy that is used to make the bed, the walls of my room, the cars on the street and on outwards to all of this inconceivably vast creation of the Divine. I remember that energy is God’s “building block” for this material world. I try to visualize everything, all the way to the farthest galaxy, as part of God’s infinite dream. I recognize that I am simply a part of all that is. I too am a dream of The Creator.
Before I actually fall asleep, I like to end by repeating the simple prayer from the Festival of Light, but I personalize it, so instead of saying “we” as we do in Sunday Service, I say “I”. So then it looks like this:
Lord, I offer up the little light that is within me, into Thy blazing light of Infinity. Grant me the grace to know Thee, and make me every increasingly a pure channel of Thy love to all.
I hope you find this practice as freeing as I do. May we be one in that light someday.
Posts from Peter Kretzmann
- A Birthday Gift
- Finding God in the City
- The Power of Prayer and a Flow of Grace
- To Build a Bonfire
- Can I Really Be a Channel?
- A New-Age Monastery in a Spiritual Community
- That Tiny, Boasting Masquerader
- A Time of Monasticism
- Stories of Yogananda – Healing Light from Lahiri Mahasaya
- Stories of Yogananda – Lahiri’s Blessing
- Stories of Yogananda
- Ananda Portland’s 20th Anniversary
- World Brotherhood
- Choosing Ananda