Bill Sutton

Nov 192017

We’ve redesigned our newsletter, Around The Fire, which will now arrive in your inbox twice a month. Simpler, sweeter and we hope ever juicier! We’ve listened to your feedback, and have designed something easier to digest.

Each edition will showcase just one feature article along with bite-sized news snippets and announcements (“Hot News”), community happenings (“Flashes”) and a list of upcoming events (“Sparks”). All these are designed to be scanned with no commitment to read more.

So now you can open your email and digest Around the Fire in one sitting!

In the new Around the Fire web site, you can explore current features, news announcements, article series, and archives, and find out about upcoming events.

You can view our first email edition here »

Jun 152017

Dear Friends:

Here in Georgia, with the plants all lush and green, there is already the hint of summer as the sun burns hotly in the afternoon. At night you can see the dancing sparks of the lightning bugs against the vague shadows of the forest, and the whip-poor-will calls insistently outside our bedroom window as we attempt to sleep. Everything is alive and warming up to the “blooming, buzzing confusion” that will be summer!

As we approach summer solstice, it is a good time to reflect on how our community is helping Fire extend out into the world. Many of you feel this gift directly as you attend monthly community fires. There have been other notable signs of this more welcome type of global warming, including events that took place earlier in the year. One important program happened “down under,” near Melbourne, Australia, in March 2017. Australian Firekeepers and community members attended a two-day Moving with Emotions workshop, hosted by the Sacred Fire Community in collaboration with the Process Work Institute. This powerful work has already been offered in the US and UK; it provides participants with important tools to foster authentic emotional expression and to move with conflict in a new way. Nearly two-dozen people attended and we captured some very moving video interviews with some of the participants that we hope to share with you soon.  In the meanwhile, I invite you to check out the article “The Fire Effect: Moving with Emotions” in this issue of Around the Fire.

In January, we offered our first Lifecycle Living program at the New Freedom, PA hearth and this was followed by a second program in Kernersville, NC in March. Lifecycle Living is a day-and-a-half event that gives participants a sense of something fundamental to traditional cultures yet so sadly lacking in our modern world; those gathered explored what it is like to have a full circle of ritual and community support for the natural stages of human life, from birth to death. This is the vision that inspires all our Lifeways programs, and the people who attended our first two Lifecycle Living explorations were deeply appreciative of the experience. Most importantly, community members are now beginning to explore how to support each other in living according to the natural rhythm of Life. In the coming months and years, we will bring this exciting program to more hearths around the world.

There is much more that could be spoken about. In 2017 we have also already offered a training for Keepers of Women’s Fires, two Fire Speaks Grandfather audiences in the US as well as an Ukilái Men’s Gathering outside of Moab, UT. In early June, we offered our first two events in Ireland! Our new Firekeeper Carolyn Mitchell was the local host for a Firekeeper Retreat in County Galway. This was followed by Las Tine an Chroí (“Light Up Your Heart” in Gaelic,) or what we usually refer to as a Fire Speaks Grandfather audience. Attendees came from the United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada, Mexico, and the US. We are thrilled to have begun offering fires and other programs on the Emerald Isle—a place that has long been known for its mystery and strong ancestral presence.  By the time you read this we will also have hosted a Fire Speaks Grandfather Fire in Toronto, Canada with another coming up in Olympia, WA in August. Also in August, there will be an Ukalai Women’s Retreat in Tepoztlán, Mexico. The upshot is that Fire is sparking in new places as well as in more established communities. Lifecycle Living is giving people a deeper appreciation for what it means to live a life of heart and connection.

We hope you will continue to join us around the fire—whether at a local community fire, or at some of the events described here. Your presence and your support are important for us to continue bringing more warmth to the world. Beyond the fire, in the everyday world that gets highlighted in the news and other media, people are mired in dramatic levels of fear, anger, and confusion. It is a very good time to offer something different: a chance to experience wisdom, balance, and the common human heart that has been with us for eons. Come join us. Bring some friends. Let’s enjoy the season of Fire together!

Lawrence I. Messerman
Executive Director

Jun 152017

By Ana Cortes, Sacred Fire Tepoztlán

On March 4, 2017, Grandfather Fire granted an audience to the Sacred Fire Tepoztlán community, in honor of the Tibetan New Year. He has been doing so for the last 15 years since there have been deep ties between this community and the local Shambhala Buddhist community.

According to the Tibetan Buddhist calendar, each year resonates with one of 60 different energies based on the combination of one of five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) and one of twelve animals. 2017 brings forward the combined energy of fire and bird, or rooster.

Grandfather Fire began by explaining that when the energy of fire combines with that of the rooster it is called Firebird, or Heaven Bird. He said sometimes this is mistaken as the Phoenix, a bird that rises from ashes, like a resurrection from something that is dead and inert. The Firebird, on the other hand, takes on endeavors that are alive but have not yet been fulfilled, and dreams or projects that one has strong feelings for but which have not yet been achieved. These lie dormant, but are not dead. Such dreams may have run into blocks or been slow in their manifestation as a result of old patterns of thinking and of limiting perceptions of how things should be done.

Firebird takes what has been asleep or which has not come forward with the passion that is possible, and infuses great energy to achieve what has not been achieved before. During a Firebird year, new possibilities are available, and the spirit of the year provides much. In order to do that, Fire removes the blocks, the attachments and the ways in which things are held as though there is no chance of movement. It can do so with great force. It is not a destruction meant to end something, but to transform something, which is what fire does. Through the expression of fire, the Firebird sweeps through and transforms and also makes new things possible that were never even considered before.

An example was given of a house containing many objects and material things to which someone has a lot of attachment. If Fire comes along and takes away the house and all the objects, it forces a person to start over again. Fire removes the attachments that keep a person from moving forward and it produces an opportunity for a new relationship with things. This in turn rejuvenates that person, and allows him or her to move out of a place of comfort, out of a state of being asleep or resigned. Important self- inquiry can follow: “What do I want? How do I want to reconstruct my life? What is really important to me? What do I want to do now that I’m free of attachments?”

This year will have situations like that occurring, but the losses will not be arbitrary. The spirit of the year sees what is sleeping and what a person really wants to achieve but has not yet pursued in a determined way.

There is important advice about how to deal with challenges. Instead of responding to these with fear and withdrawal, as something to protect oneself against, one can use the qualities of the rooster–passion and self-confidence–to view challenges as opportunities for great learning and growth. Since fire is an element of the heart, it provides connection and guidance. As passion rises up, it expresses through the heart; the heart works to create guidance; and the energy then moves toward discipline and focus. So when heart expression is achieved, it brings a sense of self-confidence in the face of great challenges.

The rooster year has to do with being organized, disciplined and hard working so that as passion rises up (the fire aspect of the year,) it activates a sense of how to move skillfully in the world, pushing for change in a focused and good way.

When the Firebird year is masculine, it tends to favor selfish endeavors, which can lead to arrogance and a focus on self-fulfillment. But the spirit of 2017 is feminine, so the flavor is more for community and for family, particularly in the spiritual realm, because a spiritual achievement is not sought for personal gain. It’s for capacity for the community, family, friends and society.

Grandfather Fire recommended that elders live their elder years with great passion and focus. Passion is available at any stage of one’s life, so rather than living out of physical and health limitations, one can choose passion combined with focus and discipline. Limitations are very illusory. Awakening passion and bringing that forward is very available in this Firebird year, even if the awakening can feel challenging.

Ana Cortes is a Sacred Fire Community Firekeeper in Tepoztlán, Mexico, where she lives with her two cats Monster & Miel (honey in Spanish). She thinks of her home as paradise, since she is surrounded by spiritual mountain beings, a lively community and ecstatic customers drinking mojitos and listening to drums at her bar every weekend.

Jun 152017

A conversation with Prema Sheerin, Sacred Fire Asheville

Today’s media and cultural norms have positioned happiness as a state to achieve permanently, rather than to recognize it as one of five elemental emotions destined to arise and then subside naturally. Happiness is only part of the human experience; no less important is the balanced expression of anger, sympathy, fear and grief. In this second article (part of a series of five,) we turn once again to Prema Sheerin, healer and emotional wisdom coach. Here she shares some important insights about happiness–about what it is, and what it isn’t.

ATF: Thank you for spending time with us again, Prema. You have some important things to share with our readers about happiness. Where shall we start?

Prema: First, let’s clarify what we mean by “elemental emotion.” There are five of these: happiness, sympathy, grief, fear and anger. Each of these is an elemental energy–like fire, water, earth, etc.–that provides a message about our environment and a movement, a response to life circumstances. None are meant to be a final destination.

It is only through our thoughts and beliefs that we seek to either suppress or cling to these natural and ever-moving states of being. We often do this unconsciously, which leads to a restricted way of experiencing life. Without realizing it, we may be maneuvering to either avoid or amplify certain emotions. This is like building up a dam, or creating a flood, in the river of our being. It limits our ability to listen and to respond effectively to the situations and opportunities that life presents.

ATF: Today we are focusing on the elemental emotion “happiness.” How can being in a state of happiness not be desirable? You know, like Pharrell Williams’ popular song “Happy,” it seems like a really nice hand clapping, toe-tapping state to be in.

Prema: There are a few things to be considered about this. First, it is important to distinguish between happiness, an elemental emotion, and Joy, which I will call a meta-emotion. The meta-emotions are the very nature of being and awareness itself. Joy, Love, Bliss, and Peace are all meta-emotions. You can think of the meta-emotions as the ocean of emotion that is the very nature of existence. The elemental emotions are like the waves, arising and subsiding within that all-encompassing ocean of awareness. From this perspective, Joy (or Peace or Love) is present in the midst of all life experiences, no matter what elemental emotion is arising in any given moment.

Of course we love the feeling of happiness and, in its balanced expression, it arises in response to the experience of connection. This might be connection to our heart, to others, to the living world, to the Divine. We also experience happiness when we are aligned with our heart-connected values and when we feel as though we are offering our particular gifts in the world. Laughter, celebration, dancing, reaching for connection to others and to community–these are the signatures of this emotional expression. Happiness moves us to foster more connection. It can also bring forward the passion to express our gifts and the courage to take advantage of life’s opportunities. When we are happy, we feel connected to our gifts, our capacities and our confidence to offer them.

And yet happiness, like all the elemental emotions, is meant to arise and fall away in response to life’s circumstances. The more we try to manipulate ourselves into feeling happy, or cling to it’s fleeting presence, the harder it is to access Joy. In today’s Western culture we have designated happiness as a destination at which we are supposed to arrive and stay. We are inundated with media and advertising which tell us that if we buy a particular thing or achieve a special status, then we will attain and maintain happiness. This is a false promise. If we believe that happiness is a state to achieve permanently, we create a great deal of anxiety, frustration and disappointment for ourselves. We find ourselves grasping for, and attempting to hold on to, something that is, by its very nature, ephemeral.

In this climate we tend to feel as though we are failing if we are not happy. We pretend to be happy while suppressing other authentic emotions. Some of us develop an addiction to substances or activities such as alcohol, drugs, shopping, eating or sex in an attempt to fuel a permanent state of happiness. But there is the inevitable crash when the artificial ‘high’ wears off.

Happiness is associated with summer, a time of expansion and much activity. But we can’t function at that pace all the time. Just as we have to let go of summer when autumn arrives, so too we are meant to enjoy the fullness of happiness while it is with us, and then allow it to make way for the next feeling when the time comes.

ATF: So you are telling us about why we should not cling to happiness. There are some people who feel so blue that they can’t muster the energy to reach out to others. They don’t believe they will ever experience happiness again. Can you give examples of how you have worked with clients who were dealing with depression or chronic unhappiness?

Prema: Sure. One person who comes to mind had been depressed for quite some time. All he wanted was to be happy but he felt removed from his own life. It became apparent that a big part of the problem was that he was stuffing all his other emotions. We worked to help him understand and experience the balanced expression of these other feelings. Once he allowed his anger, grief and fear to be acknowledged and expressed safely and authentically, his depression began to lift. Over the period of a couple of months he was able to re-engage with his family and show up at work in a completely different way.

I had another client, Lauren, who was very unhappy and completely fixated on all the miserable and terrible events happening in the world and in our country. Lauren felt that she didn’t deserve to feel any happiness when there is so much suffering in the world. We worked on a perspective shift and she began to see that by allowing herself to experience and enjoy the simple pleasures of her life, by opening to her connection to others and to her values, she would actually be serving the world. Happiness is associated with the element fire. Fire has the capacity to bring light and warmth to the world, and to propagate itself. For Lauren it was important to understand that by allowing her happiness, she could share it with her friends, her students, her animals, and the people she came in contact with.

ATF: So in both cases you mentioned, there was a suppression of elemental emotion: of grief, fear and anger on the one hand, or of happiness itself on the other.

Prema: Yes. And there is an irony here. We can actually suppress happiness in an attempt to hold onto it and out of fear that it will go away. When we experience a moment of happiness we often find our mind getting busy trying to figure out how we got here and how we can stay here or get here again. In this way our mind takes us into the past or the future and out of the moment of pure happiness. (Editor’s note: See the first article in our series, Dancing with Fear, for how the elemental emotion fear has been amplified in our society, distorting all the other naturally arising energies.)

It’s also great to remember how helpful it is for other people when we express the full range of emotions that we are feeling. It gives them permission to do the same. This then allows access to Joy, which is present through ALL of life’s experiences, whether sorrowful or celebratory, challenging or enjoyable.

In my experience the most important thing is to bring compassion and kindness to whatever emotion we are feeling, no matter what it is. When an emotion is felt, acknowledged and expressed, then it moves, and we feel more vibrant and alive.

ATF: Prema, thank you so much for your insights about happiness. We look forward to catching up with you again for our September 2017 issue of Around The Fire, when we will look at another elemental emotion, sympathy.

Prema Sheerin is a healer, life coach and teacher, and is the developer of several Sacred Fire Community Lifeways programs, including “The Peaceful Dying Project.” Prema has been initiated as a marakame (shaman) in the indigenous Huichol tradition of Mexico and also spent 20 years studying and teaching yoga and meditation within the Siddha Yoga tradition. Prema offers Emotional Wisdom teleclasses as well as one-on-one coaching and healing sessions.

Find out more about Prema’s personal offerings.

Find out more about Lifeways programs.

Jun 152017

Toombeappah Sooparter Kahan Kaib — “Sky Mountain House” — The Grand Mesa

By Deanna Jenné, Sacred Fire Mesa

Every day the sun rises and the sun sets. The sky presses down upon us as we live out life on earth. Once a year, we human people gather to remember how life got to be this way. We don’t remember this as humans. We remember as the first peoples: the animals and plants, the rivers and wind and rain, as Father Sky and Father Sun.

In the spring, the Grand Junction/Mesa Community (Colorado, USA) re-enacts the creation story of the Grand Mesa, whose ancient name Toombeappah Sooparter Kahan Kaib means “Sky-Mountain House.” The Grand Mesa is the largest flat top mountain in the world and rises 11,000 feet above the ocean and about 7,000 feet above the Colorado River and canyons. Weather is in constant motion above its flat top, and each winter snow piles up at least to twenty feet toward the promise of spring waters. Grandfather Fire gave the sacred narrative of how Toombeappah Sooparer Kahan Kaib came into being to the Mesa Life Project group during a special audience in 2009. Every year human people from this community don fur and feathers, as well as garments of rain, clouds, rivers, wind, and sun, in order to transform into first peoples for the re-enactment.

Deer and River

The story had been forgotten and the first humans no longer live here to remember it. In the old stories of the Ute (the Native American people who most recently lived here before colonizers came,) the human peoples were scattered across the land by coyote, a trickster at best. Creator had given coyote a bag of humans along with careful instructions to disperse The People (the Ute) in a particular manner. Of course, it didn’t happen quite that way. Today, the Utes have been moved from the Grand Mesa, and this mountain has been sitting here for a hundred or more years waiting to be reawakened by humans. Through the telling of this story, the majestic being Toombeappah Sooparter Kahan Kaib is honored. As with every indigenous creation story, this tale has teachings and lessons, and gives the human mind a reason to be grateful. It helps us to remember how the gods move to make room for all of life here.


The bear climbs to the top of the Mesa to bring the prayers of humans to the gods. There is a promise in this story that once this place is reawakened it will again be a place for people to seek vision, wisdom and knowledge. You are welcome to come here and dance with us, to create a life on the foothills of Toombeappah Sooparter Kahan Kaib.

After the dance, I opened a book of poetry by Joy Harjo. This poem speaks eloquently to our experience as humans living in a dream world, disconnected from Life:

A Postcolonial Tale

Every day is a reenactment of the creation story. We emerge from dense unspeakable material, through the shimmering power of dreaming stuff.

This is the first world, and the last.

Once we abandoned ourselves for television, the box that separates the dreamer from the dreaming. It was as if we were stolen, put into a bag carried on the back of a white man who pretends to own the earth and sky. In the sack were all the people of the world. We fought until there was a hole in the bag.

When we fell we were not aware of falling. We were driving to work, or to the mall. The children were in school learning subtraction with guns.

We found ourselves somewhere near the diminishing point of civilization, not far from the trickster’s bag of tricks. Everything was as we imagined it. The earth and stars, every creature and leaf imagined with us.


When we fell we were not aware of falling. We were driving to work, or to the mall. The children were in school learning subtraction with guns.

The imagining needs praise as does any living thing.

We are evidence of this praise.

And when we laugh, we’re indestructible.

No story or song will translate the full impact of falling,

Or the inverse power of rising up.

Of rising up.

Our children put down their guns when we did to imagine with us.

We imagined the shining link between the heart and the sun.

We imagined tables of food for everyone.

We imagined the songs.

The imagination conversely illumines us, speaks with us, sings with us, drums with us, loves us.

Joy Harjo
How We Became Human (2002)


Deanna Jenné is a Firekeeper in the Sacred Fire Community. She is also initiated as a marakame (shamanic healer) in the tradition of the Huichol People of Western Mexico, as well as a Weather Worker in the tradition of the Nahua People, also of Mexico.

Deanna is also a founding member of the Mesa Life Project, a community of those who seek a way of life rooted in ancestral tradition and in balance with Nature. Find out about upcoming events at the Mesa Life Project.


Jun 152017

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

Christine Staub is a Sacred Fire Community Firekeeper in Greensboro, NC, USA. She has been fascinated by the topic of authentic emotional expression since reading Arnold Mindell’s Sitting in the Fire. Christine is grateful of the way that Fire serves as her teacher and healer in the classroom of Life, and loves nothing more than to gather with heart-centered folks who feel the same way.

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

Jun 152017

By Andy Jukes, Sacred Fire Shropshire

Sacred Fire Community Men’s Gatherings (Ukilái) are held once or twice a year, generally in a majestic, rugged and relatively remote setting. In this post, community member Andy Jukes writes about his experience at the March 2016 Ukilái held in Scotland. We hope Andy’s heartfelt share will inspire others to join future Men’s Retreats, as well as Men’s Fires when available in their region. Both offer critical support as part of Lifecycle Living–the natural, community-supported human journey from infancy to elderhood.

“There are no Scottish women. All the women you will see in Scotland have been imported. There are no indigenous Scottish women left. That is why Scottish men wear kilts — to remind them of the time when they had their own women. The trouble was the unique way in which the Scottish woman reproduced — you’ve heard of the scotch egg ….”

Why I chose to introduce myself to the American members of our party with such a ridiculous flight of fancy is a mystery. We were only twenty minutes into our journey together. We were traveling north out of Glasgow along the banks of Loch Lomond, which are indeed most “bonny,” heading for a little village on the shore of Loch Rannoch, which is very bonny too.

Loch Rannoch with Mt Schiehallion (“the Center of Scotland”) in the background

The four British members of the group had been on the road since early morning. We picked up the American threesome shortly after lunch. The afternoon sun was dipping in a clear blue sky and we were not going to reach our destination until early evening. So we had a few hours in which to start to get to know each other. Something compelled me to make a deadpan mistruth my first contribution to the group dynamic. I guess that I wanted to introduce an element of humour. After all, here we were, six men and a Sacred Fire Community elder and shaman crammed together in a minibus on our way to Ukilái, a gathering for men. I, for one, had no real idea what we were letting ourselves in for, but expectations were high. It could easily all prove be a bit intense. Being a man, I felt a need to lighten the mood so I offered my joke.

I need not have worried. The days that followed, guided by don David Wiley, our attending elder, were both intense and full of jokes and laughter. Light and heavy, all at the same time. I should have known as much. I am not unfamiliar with the Sacred Fire Community. I attend a local fire in Church Stretton, Shopshire, England when I can. I’ve been to healing camps and Grandfather Fires. I have begun the process of training to be a Firekeeper and am starting to get a handle on how Fire works. I know that Fire loves a good joke. And that Fire can be pretty intense too. I can’t give away a lot of what we did as it is part of the privacy that we agree to for the work. The agenda changes to fit the needs of particular group anyway. I can share the following elements that were central to my personal experience.

First and foremost, the group. We were a disparate bunch of individuals. Our ages ranged from the early thirties to seventy years old. We came from a range of socio-economic backgrounds and had hugely varying life experiences. We had been Buddhists, Taoists, Pagans, fathers, sons, geeks, foodies, druggies, thieves, businessmen, carpenters, teachers…I could go on and on. About all we had in common was that we were all men. And we were not always sure what that meant either. But I can honestly say that I have not enjoyed spending time with a group so much for a long time. It was a joy to be in the company of these fellows for five days although I am not normally much of a man’s man. I tend to prefer the company of women. Most of my life my closest friends have been female. So it was a surprise to me to feel so comfortable in an exclusively male environment. This was because there was a willingness to be honest and open and to admit weakness. There was an absence of male bravado. It was so refreshing to be able to be free to be broken, to admit to mistakes, to let go of pretending to be perfect. And to feel supported in doing so. This is greatly different from the more usual male competitiveness and pressure to prove oneself that seems to prevail in our societies. Thank you, Ukilái group.

Secondly, the environment we were in was selected particularly for our work together. Loch Rannoch and the surrounding hills are stunningly beautiful. Each day began with a 7 am hike around the loch. In silence. Just walking. For an hour. I loved that hour. In sunlight, mist and snow. We had a variety of weather–all perfect for what we needed. And though we spent an equal amount of time indoors, that early morning hike meant that we were always very conscious of the natural world. The noisy cock pheasant that lived in the grounds of the ex-schoolhouse that was our base made sure that we did not forget he was there. Deer regularly joined us on our walks outside. And overseeing it all was the fairy mountain, Schiehallion, a mighty cone of rock on whose flanks we sat in silent contemplation, whipped by icy winds, dumbstruck by the majesty of the place. Thank you, mountain.

We also did a lot of stuff that I wasn’t expecting. Okay, there was the normal request to set aside mobile phones for the duration. A media fast: I was used to that. Expected it. I didn’t expect that David would at times introduce movie media to illustrate issues, and that we therefore spent an evening watching a Brad Pitt movie. Another night we watched the best movie about a man in a car that I have ever seen. A third night featured a Tom Cruise sci-fi blockbuster. Turns out that Grandfather is a film buff. Who’d have guessed? And who’d have guessed that those films are still playing through my mind every day and that I am still drawing lessons from them? Thank you, Brad & Tom.

We also cooked, listened to music, lit fires, devised ways to make coffee without a coffee machine, went for walks, talked and listened. We did an awful lot of stuff. The days were very full. There was a lot of activity.

What we did not do was a lot of reflection or soul searching. There was an absence of navel gazing. We just got on and did stuff. Very male. Very effective. Just do stuff and leave time for the lessons to sink in. Don’t give too much time for the mind to get hold of things and start dissecting and doubting. Just do stuff and let the heart do the learning.

I was very aware that it takes an awful lot of skill to lead a course like that. 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.

But of course, despite our best efforts, mind has a way of sneaking in, grabbing hold of a situation and tearing it apart with doubts. I recall a moment during our final morning hike when my mind got a hold: “What if this is all just bullshit? What if David is just a con man? What if you have just wasted a lot of time and money that you can ill afford? How have you been taken in by all this? Are you out of your mind?”

And then the cool breeze off the loch on my face, the warm sun on my back, the chatter of the birds in my ears and the green of the lichen hanging in the trees allowed me to get out of my mind and to feel the truth in my heart: these few days had been amazing. They had changed everything. And will continue to do so. They are priceless. If you have an opportunity to attend an Ukilái Men’s Gathering, I urge you to do so. I hope to see you there!

Andy Jukes is a Firekeeper in Training, and served as master of ceremonies at the UK Grandfather Fire in 2016. He lives in the beautiful countryside of Shropshire, a county which lies on the border between England and Wales and where little is what it first appears to be. He teaches t’ai chi and walks his dog.

Mar 192017

I feel deeply honored to be asked to serve as Executive Director of the Sacred Fire Community organization and I am delighted to address you all for the first time in this role here in the Around the Fire newsletter. I have met many of you at community fires, reunions, and other Sacred Fire events. I have yet to cross paths with others of you, but I hope to do so as I settle into this work.

One of the paradoxes of the community (and we’re told that the gods love paradoxes!) is that as we sit around the fire together, we discover how extremely valuable it is to meet face-to-face and express from the heart. Seeing one another, bearing witness to our stories and the emotions that they carry, we begin to discover that ancient grounding of our common humanity. We feel our deep connections to one another in a way that is increasingly rare in our modern, frenetic way of life.

The paradox comes in because we must still rely on cell phones, computers, and all manner of modern technologies to live our daily lives and even to do the work of sustaining an organization—even one grounded in the ancient wisdom of the heart—that seeks to draw people together from around the world. We find inspiration in a way of being that is thousands of years old, and yet we communicate about it in digital formats like this. It is indeed a very interesting time!

Since the Brexit vote in the U.K. and the Presidential election in the U.S., it seems like the current era is even more “interesting.” Whatever stance you might have taken in these political contests, it’s clear that we are in unprecedented territory. Both elections have engendered strong feelings: anger, fear and sadness in some, joy and elation in others—all are part of the mix.

The Sacred Fire Community is not a political organization, and we are not interested in political prescriptions. As political and economic polarization becomes increasingly apparent in the U.K., the U.S., and beyond, we see an important opportunity for the work of heart. Indeed, we believe that without “heart work,” such polarization will not dissipate. More than ever, we need to meet face to face and express not so much our political ideology as our feelings about our lives, our communities, the country, and the world at large. If we can find a way to do so–even with those we may disagree with politically—we will naturally find that we share the same basic concerns. This is the beginning of deep healing for us individually and collectively.

In short, it is a challenging and sometimes unsettling era. And it is also a promising and exciting time that presents an opportunity for us to rediscover and feel supported by a very old way of being. Some call this our essential nature. Coming together around the fire and in other such settings, we connect with something far more powerful and enduring than any ideology. We find our common human heart. This is our work. We hope you will continue to join with us in making the wisdom, courage, and joy of heart more available in the world.

Best Wishes,


Mar 192017

From inspiration through initiation

Newly initiated Firekeeper John Walden’s backyard

What draws women and men to become Firekeepers within the Sacred Fire Community? What on earth have they signed up for, and what does the role demand?

In December 2016, eight new Firekeepers were initiated into this lifetime commitment. They join 70 Firekeepers already tending fires in seven countries around the world. Even as every Firekeeper’s journey is unique (we’ve shared many of their stories in previous issues), Around The Fire thought it time to share more broadly about the discovery and preparation process that is required of those stepping up to this form of community service.

Whether the inspiration to become a Firekeeper is heard by a long-time Sacred Fire Community member or an individual who has just heard about it in an online post (like this one!), the first step is to have a conversation with the Firekeeper Training Coordinator. That role is currently held by Buffy Aakaash, whose own hearth is in Seattle, Washington (USA). Buffy is extremely passionate about the work of Firekeeping and wants to help people understand the importance of the role. “In our Western culture, the phrase ‘lifetime commitment’ often goes right over people’s heads. Sometimes those who approach me have never even been to one of our community fires so that is where we begin, so people begin to have a sense of what they would be signing up for.”

The next steps involve a three-tiered approach to prepare an individual to fulfill the role of Firekeeper. The first is the review of a document that outlines the guidelines and requirements – both physical and mental – for the job. For instance, there has to be a dedicated space for the fire pit, one that the Firekeeper has complete control of. There is a commitment to hold no less than one community fire per month, and also to attend continuing education regularly. Most importantly, the Firekeeper candidate needs to appreciate that she or he will become an anchor for the growing hamlet, and there needs to be a commitment to stay in a location and be of service to that community of people.

Secondly, the candidate fills out an application that includes important self-inquiry questions. This can prove invaluable to the candidate, either helping to reinforce the call to Firekeeping, or to guide him or her to a different, equally valuable life path. Finally, once the application has been reviewed and approved by the Firekeeper Training Coordinator and the Fire Chief, a sponsorship process with an initiated Firekeeper begins. This continues for as long as necessary until the Firekeeper candidate is fully prepared for initiation, which means there is a considerable commitment by the sponsoring Firekeeper as well. It is common for “learning experiences” to arise during these sponsorship community fires, and the post-Fire debriefing discussion between candidate and sponsor often end up being rich and mutually beneficial. To learn and grow in skillfulness, to facilitate fluid expression of emotions while maintaining a safe container is, after all, a never-ending part of every Firekeeper’s work.

Buffy continues: “One of the biggest challenges for Firekeeper candidates is understanding the importance of the subtleties in this work, and then to trust that they have been called to it and that Fire is there to support and guide them in a lifelong learning. So trust is big. Both in terms of coming up with the time and finances required to get trained and initiated, as well as in holding the role itself. It is especially important that we train Firekeepers to ride the waves, to stay focused during the highs and lows, to understand that community can be messy, and to trust in what we call ‘the fire effect’. If one stays committed and engaged, there is a level of connection and intimacy that only the spiritual aspect of Fire can provide. It doesn’t mean that everything is beautiful all the time, but there exists an unprecedented degree of learning, for both the Firekeepers and their communities, as well as ever-deepening connection and appreciation.”

Autumn Peterson and John Walden, Tepoztlán, Mexico

Newly-initiated Firekeeper John Walden has been associated with the Sacred Fire Community for a very long time. He had previously considered stepping up to be a Firekeeper, but was wisely counseled that the timing wasn’t right. In fact, life threw him several personal, growth-promoting challenges before he and his young family were truly settled in their home in Grand Junction, Colorado. “It was when I finished cleaning up the backyard – an apparently mundane suburban backyard – that everything gelled. I had hosted a Harvest Festival and people told me how inviting the Land there felt. There was a need for a new Firekeeper in my community, but it was really the Land, and my evolving relationship to it, that ultimately beckoned me to this path. I was able to listen because I have come to recognize that the Spirit that is alive in me is also alive in what others might see as an inanimate object, as merely a resource, or in this case, as ‘just a backyard.’”

Autumn Peterson, also initiated in December 2016, lives in a very small and rural community on a mountain in Southern Utah. Her family settled there in the 1800s. “There is a degree of ‘us and them’ politics between the new ‘move-ins’ and the old time Mormon settlers”, Autumn relates. She wants to be a bridge between the groups and to contribute toward building a sustainable, supportive community. Autumn grew up with an intimate relationship with fire, as her childhood home was heated with wood and there always seemed to be people gathered around the outdoor fire pit. “The fact is, I have so many things going on in my life right now that I didn’t feel like I had any extra bandwidth for hosting fires, but every time we make the offerings (to consecrate the fire), I can feel the Fire taking over and beautiful things happen. Probably the biggest gift has been when people from my community that I never thought would show up do in fact come to a fire and contribute in such beautiful ways. I feel so touched and supported in this work.”

Colin Lenhart, first Sacred Fire Youth Firekeeper

Also part of the December 2016 cohort, Colin Lenhart was initiated as the first Sacred Fire Community Youth Firekeeper. At age 28, he has made the same lifetime commitment as other Firekeepers have, but without having to commit to a place just yet. Colin did not become aware of the Sacred Fire Community until his early 20s but felt an immediate sense of joy and connection when around Fire. He was moved to share this experience with his peers, and when he asked about how to do that, he was directed to start holding Young Adult fires with the assistance of an initiated Firekeeper. Colin started doing this in Asheville, NC and now continues to offer monthly Youth Fires in Seattle, Washington (USA). “The trickiest thing is to reach my friends and other young adults without sounding preachy or woo-woo, to share my enthusiasm without being attached to how many show up. The Firekeeper training and initiation, which took place in Tepoztlan, Mexico was so very special. I didn’t really know what to expect. It was like opening a door without seeing what is on the other side, and putting my trust in that, because it is scary at my age to make this kind of a life commitment. Now, though, I really want to support other young adults who may feel called to provide this kind of community service.”

The path to initiation for a Firekeeper is just one leg of a lifetime journey of personal growth and service to the world. The calling can be challenging at times, and so the support offered by the community and fellow Firekeepers is critical. Nevertheless, the newly initiated Firekeepers have joined a family of peers who can vouch for the rich rewards this path brings.

Mar 192017

Bringing forth the gifts of a life aligned with Nature

The Sacred Fire Community helps people rediscover a deeper relationship with each other and the living natural world.  Under the steadfast care and direction of Lifeways Director Sherry Boatright and other Lifeways presenters, community members are being provided with life-encompassing wisdom programs that help support each soul’s journey as human.  Life Cycle Living is now being rediscovered as a framework to understand more deeply how Nature supports us and, if we learn to align with its rhythms, can produce a powerful boost for living a full life.

On a crisp, sunny, late Winter day, a circle of men and women gathered together in Greensboro, NC (USA) to explore Life Cycle Living, a model for the human journey from birth to death.  Facilitated by Sherry Boatright and Larry Messerman, the 1-1/2 day discovery process allowed those present to share yearnings, revelations, questions and concerns toward achieving fulfillment in each stage of life, with the good of community and culture as the ultimate goal. What are the different stages of a human life?  What is the work of each stage?  What is the gift? And what does it feel like when a group of humans – a family, a village, a People – helps to create the container within which each individual is supported through the many seasons of his or her life?

What does it feel like when a group of humans – a family, a village, a People – helps to create the container within which each individual is supported through the many seasons of his or her life?

The Life Cycle Living model describes predictable stages of a human life, each building on those that come before.  Not so long ago, people were supported by the traditions, ceremonies and rituals of their community in order to successfully navigate life.  It was recognized that the successful completion of any given phase of a human life would provide the foundation for the next, and that a community was enriched when each man, woman and child could learn, grow and manifest the gifts inherent in each.  For instance, the toddler offers his innocent joy and the young child her wonder at the natural world.  In the presence of children, adults can remember these same capacities even as they move into the more “serious” work that is part of later stages in life.  Ultimately, the accomplished elder embodies gifts of wholeness and grace for the benefit of community as well as of the world.  It is not surprising that in many indigenous cultures, one of the most important tasks was to create a strong connection between the youngest and the oldest members of the community.  This was seen as vital to creating a strong container for all other human endeavors.

In Greensboro, the exploratory dive went deep quickly, fostered in part by long-standing relationships forged by over a decade of monthly community fires. Yet even those participants brand new to the circle spoke of a sense of recognition, of wanting to be a part of the important work of bringing this ancient wisdom forward into the modern context of the world.  The group began by sharing their concerns about the current crises faced by humanity and the lifestyles that separate us from the rhythms of Nature and inhibit us from the intimacy humans once had with the natural world.  Participants agreed that it requires disciplined, conscious acts – such as periodic unplugging from electronics and fasting from fear-mongering media – in order to return to a richer, heart-centered way of living. Was it possible, the group mused, to maintain some of the welcome amenities of a modern way of life, while still achieving a healthy, balanced relationship between human and other-than-human life on Earth?

Several present offered that the world would first need to heal the loss of self-respect which has led people to give away their power and to lose their sense of responsibility and care for the other, including for Life itself.  In this task, they could easily recognize the importance of nurturing healthy relationships and common values.  Larry, who is Executive Director of the Sacred Fire Community noted: “While it is true that community can be messy and does not always seem efficient, that is where heart manifests and ultimately how what is truly important gets done.” Others echoed this by affirming that traditions of service to others is what allows people to thrive, their individual life stories weaving into each other, creating a rich tapestry of experience.

Traditions of service to others are what allow people to thrive, their individual life stories weaving into each other, creating a rich tapestry of experience.

When the question was presented as to how the local Sacred Fire Community could adopt and promote Life Cycle Living, a long and creative list of possibilities was quickly generated, several of which were actionable and are now already scheduled to come into fruition. Women’s and Men’s Fires are being added and an offer of support toward holding Youth Fires is being made to a young adult.  Additional offerings by the Sacred Fire Community, including a program on the Core Basis of Prayer, will be hosted in Greensboro.  There has also been a call to explore, as a community, some basic skills in respectful confrontation and courageous conversations.  A frequent theme was the need to find ways in which the gifts of the elders could be honored as well as to promote the relevance of community and the concepts of Life Cycle Living to teenagers and young adults.

By the end of the program, the common theme running through was gratitude: for the humility and service modeled by the presenters, for all who had participated, and for the inspiration provided by the Life Cycle Living framework.  And so the group set forth, after long goodbye hugs, freshly inspired about what it means to live a rich and full human life, and by reaffirming the importance of community in making that journey a successful one.

Life Cycle Living is being introduced to Sacred Fire Community hamlets in many international locations.  All those interested in building lives of meaning and purpose are welcome to come explore this and other Lifeways programs.

Upcoming Programs

No events are scheduled at this time.

Mar 192017

Women hold within themselves a special way to connect to each other and the living world, which supports a deep, natural wisdom. They have an inherent ability to create, bringing forth new life and serving and holding their families and communities. The uncertainty of rapidly changing times, however, can disconnect women from their unique strength and orientation, leaving them unsure about best ways to move.

In response to the challenges of these times, Ukalai, one of the Lifeways events offered through the Sacred Fire Community, provides an opportunity for women to connect and renew while also growing the skills needed to meet the challenges women face in holding the gift of the feminine. Facilitated by Sherry Boatright—a senior quiatlzques of the Nahua tradition and a therapist with a deep passion and extensive experience in women’s work—the October 2016 Ukalai was held at Loblolly, a Sacred Fire retreat center near Atlanta, Georgia. Previously the land has welcomed many community activities, including Firekeeper trainings, Grandfather Fires, leadership meetings and ritual. With generosity, Mother Earth opened herself again to receive the women who gathered.

While it has been natural for millennia for women of all ages to gather together in their villages, this practice has been lost due to a lack of recognition of the deep value it holds for women as well as for society. Therefore, on this warm autumn day those who arrived were excited about the opportunity to spend time with each other. When asked, several women said they came looking to get in touch and understand themselves as “feminine” or the “divine feminine”. As one attendee said, “I wanted to develop myself as a female in the world and figure out what that means”. Another admitted, “Sharing with women is not something I am accustomed to doing. That was actually one of my biggest fears going into this time together.” A native Mexican spoke of having experienced the qualities of courage and strength while in the presence of Grandfather Fire. Remembering that, she specifically wanted to sit with a circle of women to help her address the challenge of living in the United States during these turbulent, political times.

The essence of the feminine was explored through a variety of experiences and processes. Perceptions began to move and the group began to gel as one heart expression.

As the women’s work began, each participant came with individual views and life challenges. Some were younger, some older, some were mothers and others not. The essence of the feminine was explored through a variety of experiences and processes. Perceptions began to move and the group began to gel as one heart expression. Trust for deep sharing began to arrive. Before coming, many of the women thought they would be shy but found that through the work of a skilled facilitator they quickly shared openly and intimately. They also discovered that while they might be at different phases in life, each held a deep connection to the others through this innate quality of being “woman.” One participant explained it this way: “Before I came, I felt distress in every role I have – as wife, as mother, in my work in the community. I was always wishing I could do better. I left feeling free and more forgiving and accepting about what I am trying to do. I treasure that.” Another participant shared, “I longed to attend Ukalai. When the women came together, we slowed down to the pace of nature and became better listeners for one another and to the heart’s wisdom that resides within us. We honored the feminine aspect of our lives and the contribution we make in the world. We began to restore a sense of meaning and the purpose that it serves. This is vital if we are to live courageously and with integrity in a world that is ever-changing and demanding more from us.”

There were many pleasant surprises. Spirit was invoked, prayers were made, and ceremony held. And the land responded. A participant offered, “The part that was totally unexpected for me was on the last day of the retreat we had some alone time and I managed to get down to the creek for the first time. It felt perfect, just sitting there. And then it was like dominos, one insight after another, all these things I had been working on, came to me.”

I value having a place for women to go when they need to be heard and supported by other women.

When the time for parting arrived, there was a feeling of enthusiasm and fresh resolve. “As I left on the airplane that day, I was flying physically but also spiritually. I would do that again.” Thoughts also moved to what would come next. “What I really want is to be more connected to an immediate circle where I live. And yes, I do think it is very, very important that women get together in this way on a regular basis.” Another attendee chimed in: “Having retreated and reaffirmed to bring more balance to our lives, we left this sacred space of women with a deeper sense of who we are and with a larger circle of friendship. We grew more aware of our potential to contribute to life with gratitude and joy.” And still another responded, “I value having a place for women to go when they need to be heard and supported by other women. It seems less common these days that one has ‘girlfriends’ readily available in their lives. I believe special work between women is essential, not as a one-time fix, but as an ongoing ‘shot in the arm’ of honest and respectful witnessing of our lives for one another.”

In response to the need, Sherry and Annie King, the Director of Firekeeping for the Sacred Fire Community, are supporting the opportunity for women to gather locally by offering training for those women interested in facilitating Women’s Fires. The goal is for hearths to offer such Women’s Fires regularly. These will provide local support for women, yet will be different than the longer, deeper immersion afforded by Ukalai. It is therefore encouraged that Ukalai be experienced annually if possible so that attendees may drink deeply from the well of Divine Feminine and then return to the world, quenched and revived, ready to move as Woman.

Do you hear the call to gather with women? An Ukalai women’s gathering will be held this summer in Tepoztlán, Mexico. If you would like to get word about upcoming Ukalai women’s retreats, send an email to If you would like to know where Women’s Fires are being hosted, contact

Mar 192017

by Erin Everett

Each spring and fall, people from different parts of the world who are on the quiapaquiz and quiatlzques medicine path make traditional offerings at a sacred mountain in Mexico under the guidance of their temachtian, don David Wiley.

How do we listen and respond to extreme weather? Ancient, living ceremonies come to our aid.

The Sacred Fire Community helps people rediscover a deeper relationship with each other and the living natural world. Right now, in many areas, the weather is speaking — bringing out-of-season temperatures, droughts and floods. What can humans do to listen well and respond in a good way to these expressions of nature? This is the first of a series of posts by the Sacred Fire Community about weather ceremonies taking place in different parts of the world.

Times are changing for talking about the weather…and quickly. “Nice day, isn’t it?” — no longer a friendly conversation-starter — can lead to quite a different discussion. “Yes, but it’s seventy-five degrees in early February. Something’s wrong!” Talking about the weather just isn’t the easy, comfortable discussion that it was even a decade ago.

So, what’s going on? We humans scratch our heads, mulling over a choice of science versus not-science, while reports of extreme weather make headlines every day.

Don David Wiley is the temachtian (group elder and leader) of a group of people who have been called to work with weather in the Nahua spiritual tradition. The Nahuas are a large Mexican ethnic group whose villages honor and whose medicine people pass on the medicine tradition that don David embodies in his life and work. Even though the Spanish conquest and colonization violently changed some of the surface expressions of this ancient lineage, it remains a living, unbroken tradition to this day.

The people on don David’s path “who cultivate relationship with the Weather Beings for the benefit of the people of the village” are known as quiapaquiz, if they are men. The women are called quiatlzques. I asked don David about his tradition and its relevance to the weather events and changes that many of us are noticing all around us.

He told me that the Weather Beings – Rain, Clouds, Sun, Lightning, Wind, Snow, Sky – are “intelligent, aware Divine expressions. The Weather Beings are infinitely wiser than we are. We’re in relationship with them, whether we acknowledge it or not. Boil it down, and you realize that, without their generosity — without rain — we would have no food and water, and we wouldn’t last long.” In the old, ancestral ways, the human beings would “relate to the Weather and give thanks. Our ancestors knew this was a very practical way to live their lives.”

Because people in most places no longer honor the Weather Beings, “their being ignored has created a situation… They’re not interested in cooperating, helping us, until we show we’re willing to honor what has been lost. And, as they have throughout history, they can prove very generous.” In subsequent posts in this series, we’ll share stories about their generosity.

When asked how to give the Weather the honor it deserves and establish good relationship once more, don David said, “This is an exciting time when people, even westerners from the modern non-indigenous cultures, are being called to be a part of medicine traditions. Elders in many traditions recognize this. They are opening the medicine and recognizing the calling in people. So, many people are becoming a part of these specialized, living traditional ceremonies that bring them into good relationship with the sacred land and the Weather Beings. This is happening in different parts of the world.”

Don David knows first-hand about this phenomenon. His teacher, renowned and respected traditional Nahua quiapaquiz don Lucio Campos, initiated many people from modern western origins into the Nahua tradition. When he died, he passed his altar on to don David to carry the medicine path forward. Both don Lucio and don David have recognized the calling to this Mexican-based tradition in many who are not ethnic Nahuas and who weren’t born anywhere near the tradition’s homeland in the volcanic area south of Mexico City.

“People who have a soul calling to this outside the ethnic expression are now being asked by the Weather Beings to continue and grow these timeless relationships.”

I asked about this phenomenon. “It is in this tradition as it is with others today. Working with the devotion to Nature – in this case, the Weather Beings – had or has a very particular expression and calling within traditions. Many of the traditions have been decimated or lost, or, in rare cases, they have managed to survive colonialism, like our Nahua tradition has.” But, whatever changes happen, the ancient agreements and relationships between humans and Nature “are not destroyed. People who have a soul calling to this outside the ethnic expression are now being asked by the Weather Beings to continue and grow these timeless relationships.”

Out of his and others’ work with Fire and the living Nahua spiritual tradition of working with weather through healing and ceremonial work, ceremonies honoring the land and the weather in other parts of the world are being re-ignited. “We’re being asked to continue these traditions and relationships beyond the original people who were given these traditions.”

Ceremonies honoring the land and the weather in other parts of the world are being re-ignited.

He went on to say that non-ethnic-born people being called to traditions and ceremonies is not work that’s being conceived of or initiated by human beings. It is a phenomenon, not an isolated case. He explained that, in his experience, this work is being brought forth by the divine forces of Nature.

The results of these often multi-day weather ceremonies being performed in different locations again has, indeed, been phenomenal, with stories of decades-long droughts broken and other generosity from the Weather Beings. In the next Around the Fire, we’ll present an in-depth article about one of these ceremonies that has brought crucial water to cities, towns and communities in the American Southeast. (Sign up for our mailing list so you won’t miss it.)

Don David also attends Fires of the Sacred Fire Community and brings his help in many other ways as a community leader. So, how does this work with weather and his medicine path relate to our community? He feels that, as a holder of tradition, the Sacred Fire Community gives him a place where he can “be understood, do my work, and have context because I am part of the community.”

He noted that he is a part of the Sacred Fire Community not because of his spiritual lineage, but because the community offers Fires and programs that help modern people discover and live essential ways of being human that our culture has forgotten. “It incorporates people on my path, on other paths, and people who don’t have a path. It’s not all about having a medicine path; it’s about being around the Fire in a place to really connect with each other and with Nature in a good way. That view of life held by the community supports me in my medicine work. And like it does for the others who attend the Fires, the community also supports me in my life.”

Erin Everett has been a quiatlzques for almost fifteen years. She is honored to be a student to don David Wiley and previously to don Lucio Campos during his time on this earth. When she’s not relating with clouds, sun and rain, she’s spending time around the fire with old friends and new, and spreading the word about the work of Fire and Heart that’s emerging everywhere during these changing times.

For more information on this post, the Nahua path, or the various weather ceremonies covered in this series of posts, please contact the quiatlzques group chief at

Learn more about the Nahua quiatlzques tradition here.

For more about don David Wiley, visit his website.

Mar 192017

How are you doing? During big shakeups, some of us find that we’re trying to get control of ourselves. Do you ever find yourself getting compulsive when you’re feeling big emotions?

With the shakeup and response around the U.S. political scene (or, if you’re in another country, the various shake-ups around politics where you are), are you…

  • Watching the news or checking social media every hour or two…or even more often?
  • Feeling like there’s something you should be doing…so you get busy, and then afterward worry that you haven’t accomplished anything lasting or helpful?
  • Avoiding spending time with friends because you’re feeling frantic/angry/sad, and you don’t want to slow down, open up and be with them?
  • Intellectualizing, and engaging in heated, conflictive conversations where all of you are stuck in ideas, theories, pros and cons, or to-do lists?
  • Trying to hide that you’re having feelings?

In times of great change in our lives, especially when those changes are being felt by vast numbers of people, life can feel like a ride on a tidal wave. Are you, like me, asking how you can stop and feel your emotions? More importantly, why should you? And, what is it like to explore your deeper emotions with others?

What is it like to explore your deeper emotions with others?

For one thing, it’s entirely appropriate to feel intense emotions when times of great transition occur. Western culture trains us to become experts at avoiding our feelings, trying to set them aside so we can “get things done.”

But, what happens when we do things while we’re filled with blocked anger, fear, grief, or even when we’re trying to contain too much passion and enthusiasm? For one thing, blocked-up emotions can put up a wall against our ability to hear others and the gentle voice of the living world around us.

The living world speaks in the often subtle voice of feelings. Beyond specific emotions – defined arenas of feeling that have particular traits – Nature and the world move us in inexplicable ways. You are compelled to get out of the house and go see a friend. You feel an urge to apply for a certain job, take a different way home from work, cry or yell, or make a choice that just feels right, even though it’s contrary to any well-considered rationale. The mood of the living, aware world makes itself known when you step into the sunlight, stir up dust, feel the breeze move you…and when you let yourself flow with what you’re feeling.

Blocked-up emotions can put up a wall against your ability to hear others and the gentle voice of the living world around you.

Both you and I and our human brothers and sisters live in a sea of feeling. I find that the feelings that surround me are reverberating within. Events and interactions that affect me can point me in a direction where I need to look. Do you find that, too?

When I feel threatened, I can shut down and defend, but those walls can shield me from the opportunities around me. What would happen to you and me if we opened up and listened to each other’s feelings, even those “others” who we’ve painted as our enemies? I have a lot to learn about this, but I’m becoming increasingly aware of the importance of bridging gaps and listening first, feeling first. Then, I discover that I can respond from a deep understanding and empathy with the other.

Fire is a great facilitator of connection, emotional expression and compassion. When I light a fire and sit around it with other people, when I am open to listening to the pain and fear behind the anger that people feel on all sides, then I begin – and they begin – to see that we are all human beings, connected to each other and a common set of basic values. After that great clearing of the air, the right plans and solutions can emerge, and we can all work on them together.

Erin Everett is an initiated quiatlzques, “a person who works to establish relationship with the weather to benefit her village,” in the tradition of the Nahua people of south-central Mexico. She also works with the Sacred Fire Community. Both roles enable her to spend her time exploring and sharing ways we as modern people can discover ancient tools and perspectives to help us relate in a good way with each other, our community and our living world. Erin lives in the mountains of North Carolina, USA.

Mar 192017

A Trio of Poems
By Andrew Weatherly

Love Is Round 1
for Sherry Morgan

Love is round
like river burned stones
who were broken up and out from earth
where we’d been ignited and fused as magma
cooled in the womb in close company
till birthed by breaking through fertile soil
jagged craggy cleft
sharpening hardening in sun and ice
breathing bitter acid rain

And a foot punts us over the bank
or the land drops us off her edge
bouncing jouncing with cracks and smacks
with our whole tribe together combing
the river’s hair as she polishes our edges
and we smooth each others’ dents
rounding into love

Love Is Round 2
for Grandfather

Love is round
like our heart’s shape
pumping passion out one side
to breathe in joy and life that is air
beating back around
circling out through arteries
bringing burning oxygen rolling
into fingers to caress our beloveds
into guts to digest the world
and fortify our resolve
sweeping burnt debris back
from capillaries through dark veins
raking in what is used
to renew to resolve to return
thrust up and back through our hearts
gushing red love
around and around
circling through our bodies
rounding our hearts

Love Is Round 3
for Hafiz

Oh you who would serve
be a wave rolling in ocean
expressing her will as water
caresses air and kisses the shore

You who would know the divine
know first Love
as you feed your heart ambrosia
as you sip pure nectar for your soul
as you offer your beloved golden honey
as your lips whisper a prayer for the Other
shadowing your footsteps
as you lead with bright eyes and gentle fingers
softening your heart
giving receiving Love
of the divine the earth the sea

Andrew Weatherly is a member of the Asheville, NC (USA) Sacred Fire Community.  He hears inspiration from dying trees, Hawaiian shirts, fires, and other poets. He is blessed to live in the hood, teach adults to read, dance in the streets, and occasionally slip off to pilgrimages to sacred mountains. A full collection of poetry by Andrew Weatherly can be obtained by contacting him at Proceeds help support Andy’s commitments to Weatherwork.  

Sherry Morgan, Sacred Fire Community member from Vancouver, British Columbia, shares how this Love is Round set of poems came to be.

One day in the fall of 2015, the words “Love is Round” arrived in my prayers. What beautiful and curious words they were! Sitting with them I came to understand that they explain the experience people receive through my work, as I help deepen their awareness of connection with the many aspects of the living world. “Love is Round” perfectly explains the design of the universe and also of humans, and provides a wonderful context for my work. (See It was suggested that I ask Andrew Weatherly to write a poem for Love is Round. Through his incredible capacity to access poetry, he wrote not one but three such poems! I am happy to share them with you here.

Round Love,


Mar 192017

Initiation Ritual to be held in Summer 2017

Are you a young woman aged 16 – 25 looking for elders to help you step into womanhood?
Lifeways Initiation into Womanhood can help! This year’s Initiation Ritual is July 30 – August 6. Contact the Women’s Initiation Council to request an application or to explore what this would mean for you. The deadline for applications is April 15.

Are you a woman or man who wants to support our youth in becoming effective adults?
The Lifeways Initiation Council is currently building a team of women and men to support this year’s initiation. Please contact us now to talk about the possibilities!

Dec 182016

by Bill Sutton, Executive Director of the Sacred Fire Community organization

For some in our community, the latter portion of the year is a time of spiritual work. Those called to traditional path work have just returned from their annual journeys for pilgrimage, ceremony and instruction. In the Northern Hemisphere many have led harvest festivals for their communities. And many of you may have just attended an annual solstice Fire. It is a really rich time of the year.

The recent US elections caused quite a stir for many of us. In a Grandfather Fire held just 2 days after the elections, Grandfather brought forth some invaluable counsel for how to view and move with these changes in a good way. Sacred Fire Community founder and chairman, don David Wiley, compiled a summary of His words, which we sent to the community through our aging Yahoo list-serve a few weeks ago. Read the letter from don David with Grandfather’s comments here.

2016 Firekeeper Training Attendees
Front (L-R): Mai Duong, Serene daRae, Amanda Kerner, Ana Cortés, Simon Huxley, Carolyn Claire Mitchell, Colin Lenhart
Middle: Autumn Peterson, Bruce Sherriff, John Walden, Erica Cohen, Sherry Boatright
Standing: Jaime Velez, Buffy Aakaash, David Wiley

In early December, eight new Firekeepers were initiated at the 2017 Firekeeper Training. These Firekeepers now return to serve their communities by holding the sacred place for all to connect and receive the blessings of Fire. The initiates are:

Serene daRae (Berkeley, California)
Simon Huxley (Acton, Wrexham, Wales)
Amanda Kerner (Santa Monica, California)
Colin Lenhart (Seattle, Washington)
Carolyn Claire Mitchell (Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland)
Autumn Peterson (Boulder, Utah)
Bruce Sherriff (Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia)
John Walden (Grand Junction, Colorado)

Also attending the training were Mai Duong (Toronto, Ontario), Sherry Boatright (Carrollton, Georgia) and Tepoztlán firekeepers Ana Cortés, Erica Cohen and Jaime Velez. Please join me in sending a warm welcome and gratitude to these individuals who have been called to devote their lives in service to their communities.

Your local firekeeper participates in nominating and electing a representative that sits on the international Firekeeper Council. Members of the council serve one- to two-year terms, and help bring feedback and issues to the attention of the community organization so that we are able to better support all firekeepers and the hamlets they serve. Our Fire Chief Annie King is on the council, as well as five firekeepers representing the five major regions of the Sacred Fire Community. Current members include…

Ana Cortés, Mexico
Mai Duong, Canada
Angela Ocone, United States
Phil Roberts, Australia
Lucy Wells, United Kingdom

As we speak, some members are finishing their terms of serving on the council and others will be joining in January. Please join me in thanking the members of the council, and particularly Angela Ocone and Lucy Wells, who will be stepping down from their council roles, for their service to their firekeepers, communities, and the work Grandfather has inspired us to undertake in bringing the gifts of Fire to the world.

sacred-fire-community-mesa-life-projectThe Mesa Life Project has made great progress in preparing for their first residential building, which they hope to complete in 2017. Adding to their consultorio, they’ve built a new road (you no longer need an SUV to get there!), an outdoor kitchen, and outdoor shower/bathroom facilities. Find out more on their newly relaunched website.

Finally — A generous donor has challenged us to raise $10,000 by the end of this year. If we achieve this goal, they will match it, dollar for dollar. With $20,000.00, we will be able to rebuild our website and identity around our new logo, create tools that will provide better support for our firekeepers and hamlets, roll out our new Life Cycle Living event and programs, and publish the first chapters of our firekeeper manual, which provides needed teachings for all firekeepers. Please help us out today!

Coming up

We’re busily preparing for a grand variety of events and programs in 2017. Mark your calendars!

Grandfather Fires

Others are being requested. To find up-to-date information or to register, visit the Grandfather Fire event page.

Ukilái Men’s Retreats

Ukilái is an annual opportunity for men to regroup, renew, and connect with the essence of the masculine. Two Ukiláis are scheduled for 2017:

Visit the Ukilái page for more information and registration.

Moving with Emotions

Presented in concert with members of the Global Process Institute, this public program is an adaptation of a critical part of firekeeper training, related to working with the flow of emotions that compose our existence:

  • April 1-3, Queenscliff, Australia

For more information, please contact Tim Simon.

For Firekeepers and holders of Men’s and Women’s Fires

  • Women’s Fire Facilitation Training
    March 10-13 in Asheville, NC
  • Dancing with Emotions / Moving with Emotions
    April 1-3 in Queenscliff, Australia
  • Firekeeper Retreat
    June 6-9 in Galway, Ireland
  • Dancing with Emotions
    July 7-11 in Carrollton, Georgia
  • Annual Firekeeper Retreat
    July 11-14 in Carrollton, Georgia

More information will be forthcoming through the usual Firekeeper channels.

Voices of Wisdom

Voices of Wisdom is an offering of the Sacred Fire Foundation in collaboration with the Sacred Fire Community. Held over a weekend at a local Fire hamlet, Voices of Wisdom provides an opportunity for community members to learn from and spend time with elders from a variety of traditions in an intimate setting (around a Fire, of course!). We are working with the Sacred Fire Foundation to schedule four Voices of Wisdom events in 2017. Locations and dates TBD. Look to the next Around the Fire and intermediate Hot News broadcasts for more information as it becomes available.

Dec 182016

In past issues of Around the Fire, we have introduced you to several Sacred Fire Community Firekeepers from around the world. There are now over 70 Firekeepers on 5 continents associated with our organization. For this edition, we wanted to explore the work of Firekeepers in more detail, so we turned to don David Wiley, a tsaurririkame (senior shaman and community leader) in the tradition of the Huichol people of the Sierra Madres of Mexico and chairman of the Sacred Fire Community. The initiation training and continuing education for Sacred Fire Community Firekeepers is under his care. Moreover, don David is recognized by elders of his own and many other indigenous spiritual traditions as having a unique relationship with Fire, serving as a physical conduit (known as a “spirit-speaking person”) to directly transmit much needed divine guidance during this time of great need in the world.


don David Wiley

ATF: Don David, thank you so much for agreeing to help our readers better understand the work of Sacred Fire Community Firekeepers. What can you tell us about the particular invitation that Firekeepers offer to their respective communities?

Don David: I am happy to tell you about that. First, we need to talk about what I often call “the Fire effect.” Humans have an incredibly long relationship with Fire, which is told about in many very ancient sacred stories from around the world and goes back at least 800,000 years. These tales talk about how people gathered around fire not just for utilitarian reasons – warmth, light and cooking food – but also to benefit from an unseen and mysterious spiritual effect, something not necessarily recognized by mainstream anthropological research. We can say that Fire promotes the energy of Heart, which is our connective capacity with ourselves, with each other and with the other-than-human other. This is a very powerful form of emotional intelligence that can help us address our problems in a way that is much more creative than mind-driven or technological solutions. Real solutions are found when we tap into our connection to each other and the natural world around us.

As human beings we are designed to be inter-dependent – it is in our soul, in our language, the way we operate. There is something about spending time together around Fire – gathering with others in a particular, intentional way around a consecrated fire – that serves as an antidote for the growing disconnection and extreme polarization present in today’s industrialized societies.

ATF: There certainly seems to be a lot of conflict and polarization coming to a head all over the world – political tension, wars and refugee crises, battles over the environment – to name just a few. Many people are afraid or angry or filled with grief. So how do Sacred Fire Community Firekeepers move with that?

Don David: Well, Firekeepers have a fundamental and important role in the community whenever something arises that needs to be worked out. Whether the issue shows up as one individual’s problem, as an interpersonal conflict, or as a fear-inducing dramatic change at the national or global level, the way toward resolution will always involve the same path, the one of common heart.

When we can drop beneath the narratives of the mind, we are able to remember that we share common values, even if they are clothed in different stories. For instance, the religious fundamentalist, the new-age spiritual seeker, and the practitioner of an ancestral earth-based tradition, each in his or her own way, is trying to touch something immutable, some quality of permanence that has to do with how the world was brought forth and how it works. If, however, these three were to get caught in arguments about their various approaches of touching and honoring this Mystery, arguing the right and the wrong of held positions, then the shared value of the sacred would be forgotten.

Firekeepers, then, extend an invitation for people to come together around Fire. As people share in discussion, the Firekeepers practice listening for the underlying emotions that are being expressed. That is because emotions are the language of the heart. We can speak of five major flavors of emotion. Each brings a gift when allowed to rise and fall in a natural way. Happiness: connection and celebration. Anger: the setting of boundaries. Grief: letting go of something that has been valued. Fear: protection from potential loss. Sympathy: reaching out to support another.

Through their training – it requires a lot training and continuing education – Firekeepers are developing a capacity to understand what effect the Fire is having in the space when people are gathered around it. Therefore the Firekeeper becomes a type of facilitator, sometimes a very quiet one who is just watching and distinguishing how the heart is opened up just by being in the presence of Fire. In other instances, the right kind of support is needed to build a sense of safety so that people can feel reassured enough to be curious, to explore different perspectives, to discover and release mental blocks, finally freeing the expression of the root emotion. Some emotions, you could say, are joy-producing and some are more strong, whether you want to refer to them as “negative” or not. Remember, in their balanced expression, all emotions have a gift for us, and expressing them freely as they arise is the most natural thing to do.

ATF: Is it enough, then, for the focus to be on how people are feeling, or is that to be balanced with speaking about what is being experienced?

Don David: Well, that is an important point there. What often is happening, yes, we are communicating with each other through language. When the mind communicates, let’s say, giving an explanation or telling a story, there are also often underlying concerns that are held but not seen by the mind. Those concerns are shared at the fire and, of course, shared through language. So, sometimes you hear a story or explanation or narrative of something going on in a person’s life, and the others present are paying attention to the explanation, but the Firekeeper is listening for the movement of emotions that are both encapsulated within or moving underneath the explanation. Sometimes stories that are shared are an attempt to convey the emotions themselves, what is being felt, as a way to connect to them. But when the mind is in an explanation mode, it often does not see that it is having a modification effect on naturally flowing emotions, emotions that would actually be healthy and appropriate for the situation that the person finds him- or herself in. So the Firekeeper is there listening and feeling for where the emotions are moving, and where there seems to be a block. Then, if there is what we call a facilitation movement needed, the Firekeeper – observing the spiritual chemistry at play – may make a small intervention to keep things moving in the right direction. In this way, as emotions are experienced and expressed, something moves inside the person, and through this release, healing occurs. And others present find themselves touched by the experience and connect to this place of shared common humanity in a way that can never happen through mental discussion.

ATF: Do you have any advice for people who are feeling hooked by the concerns of the mind, whether reacting to the closely held opposing view of someone else in the community, or feeling impotent about the challenging things happening in the world?

Don David: Of course, what I would say is, the most important work to be done is to begin to distinguish and feel the presence of heart as a very important and particular phenomena. Then one can also access courage, strength, and a capacity to move with an enormous variety of situations and not be beaten down by them. In this way, people can discover that it is not about looking primarily for some kind of intellectual solution, but rather for some type of solution based on how you relate to the world in a more balanced and capable way. And so the prescription is, the more time we spend with sacred Fire and with community, the greater will be our capacity to recognize, move into and maintain the presence of heart. That is the best antidote for fear, and is also the best way to help make a difference in the world. The way we move with what is present in front of us, in this moment now, has far-reaching impact. And so this is the invitation that Sacred Fire Community Firekeepers are making: to bring balance and healing back into the world, one sacred fire at a time.

ATF: Don David, thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to speak with us today.

Don David: It was my pleasure.

Readers can read more about don David Wiley’s background on his website. We also point to Don David’s recent open letter to the community, which is included in this issue of Around the Fire.

Please explore this website for more information about the Sacred Fire Community or to find the community fire nearest to you.

Find your Fire.

Why Fire now?

Dec 182016

An interview with Prema Sheerin.

Fear has been given a bad rap. In fact, our biggest fear is fear itself. And yet this elemental emotion is one of five (along with sympathy, grief, anger and happiness) that are a natural part of the human experience. In Chinese medicine, fear is associated with the season of winter. As we are entering into winter (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), Around The Fire asked Prema Sheerin, healer and emotional wisdom coach, to give us some insight about how to move effectively with fear.

ATF: Prema, can fear really be good for us to feel?

Prema: Yes it is. We tend to look at fear as a negative experience, but actually it is a really important elemental messenger for us. The balanced expression of fear shows us that we are in some kind of an immediate danger and that we need to either flee or freeze to protect ourselves. Where the problem starts is when there is an imbalanced expression of fear. This is what happens when our mind either amplifies the experience of fear by dwelling on all the uncertainties of our future – on fears about what we are going to lose or what we can’t control – or the mind can actually generate fear, with its own predictions or fantasies about impending doom. So a vast majority of fear, worry, and anxiety that we experience is mind-amplified fear, not the balanced expression of fear.

ATF: What causes this imbalanced expression of fear? Why do we experience it?

Prema: Well, basically that comes down to one of two things. The first is our fear of loss. We humans with our cognitive minds are hard-wired to avoid loss. It’s a survival mechanism for us. We use our cognitive mind to separate and assess and categorize. We then take experiences from the past and project them into the future. All of this is an important survival strategy for us to either create gain in order to avoid loss, or to avoid loss in order to survive. We are inherently afraid of the experience of loss, whether it is loss of material wealth, loss of our capacities, or the scariest loss of all: the loss of human connection. We humans are social beings. We are absolutely wired to be in relationship with each other. We get our needs met more effectively in connection with each other than when we are on our own. So one of the greatest fears for us is the loss of connection, the loss of our tribe.

The second reason for this imbalance is our fear of fear itself. We are afraid of our fear, particularly mind-amplified fear, because it is very uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel good when our imagination amplifies our fear but there is nothing real out there to respond to. So we think about what we are afraid of, and we keep thinking about it and about how we can control the environment. The more we do that, the less control we experience and the more fear we feel. This becomes a vicious cycle of anxiety and worry.

ATF: Wow, what can someone do about all that anxiety and worry and downright fear? I think there is a lot of that going around right now with so much uncertainty in different parts of the world. It doesn’t even matter which “side” one is on when it comes to conflicting views or political leanings.

Prema: We don’t need to address the balanced fear. It is there for a reason.

We DO need to address, acknowledge and attend to the imbalanced fear.

We live in a culture that has given enormous precedence to the importance of the mind. The cognitive mind performs the function of separating, dividing, and categorizing, and so the enormous emphasis on this part of ourselves that creates separation makes us inherently more afraid. We are creating the very separation that we most fear. This is a real paradox for us in modern culture.

It is really important, then, to know how to attend to the fear itself. And when I say, “attend to the fear,” what I am pointing to is the way we are afraid of the fear and try to ignore it instead of taking care of it. One of the skills we need to develop is to focus on the experience of fear itself rather than trying to manage and control the object of our fear. So we can say to ourselves: “What am I feeling right now? Oh, I am feeling fear. Where do I feel it in my body? In my belly, my heart…” Then, rather than thinking, “How can I control the situation out there so I can control the fear in here?” we can instead offer our love, our compassion, our acceptance to that experience of fear. We can soothe ourselves, acknowledge the fact that we are experiencing fear and that it is ok to be afraid.

When we offer love and compassion to our fear, it connects us to our Heart. One of the fundamental laws of Life is that when we are given a scary circumstance to face, we are also given the courage to face it. Where do we find our courage? We find it in the Heart. So when we connect with the love and compassion that is present in the awareness of our Heart, we also gain access to the courage that is there to face the fear. This is one of the most effective ways to manage mind-amplified fear. What I notice is that when I work with people in this way, it is amazing how it can short-circuit the process of the downward spiral of avoiding fear and thinking about it instead, which then generates more fear, which we then try to avoid and distract ourselves from. So this process allows us to look back at the circumstance that we were afraid of and see it from a completely different Heart perspective, where it feels manageable, where we are connected to the inner resources that will allow us to manage the circumstances that life has offered.

ATF: “Offering love and compassion to fear.” I am guessing that would sound counter-intuitive to many readers.

Prema: Yes, but I really want to emphasize it. So often, you will get the message that it is important to acknowledge your fear, to face it. And of course, that is better than suppressing your fear, which is another way that fear gets out of balance. But emotion will always find expression and, if we don’t acknowledge it, that emotional energy will drive the mind like the wind that turns the wheel of a windmill around and around. Yet, in my experience, the thing that absolutely makes the difference, that connects people to their Heart and gives them access to their courage, is to offer love and compassion to their fear. It is a way to connect to the authentic experience of the present moment, and this gives rise to intelligence far beyond that of the cognitive mind. Balanced emotion gives rise to wisdom and effective action because it arises and subsides in the Divine presence and movement of Heart Awareness, connected to all.

There is one more antidote to fear, if you will. It is to come sit around Fire, because Fire is the element of connection, of Heart and it absolutely addresses that fundamental fear of being separated from our tribe that we all carry. So to come and sit together around the Fire is one of the greatest ways to assuage our fear.

ATF: Prema, thank you so much for giving us these important insights about the nature of fear in both its balanced and imbalanced expressions. We look forward to speaking to you again in the future in order to explore some of the other elemental emotions.

Prema: You are most welcome, and I look forward to sharing more in the future.

Prema Sheerin is a healer, life coach and teacher, and is the developer of several Sacred Fire Community Lifeways programs, including The Death and Dying Project. Prema has been initiated as a marakame (shaman) in the indigenous Huichol tradition of Mexico and also spent twenty years studying and teaching yoga and meditation within the Siddha Yoga tradition. Prema offers Emotional Wisdom teleclasses as well as one-on-one coaching and healing sessions. You can find out more about her personal offerings at For more information on Lifeways, visit the Lifeways section of this website.


Dec 182016

by Deanna Jenné

Women initiates from 2015

Inspired by the recent presidential election and the need for women to have a voice, Deanna Jenné — Senior Council Leader for the Sacred Fire Community Young Women’s Initiation Council — appeals to women to connect to their deeper, intuitive voice: “This voice comes from the heart, from our deep connection to the Divine Feminine. We connect to that depth, first, through initiation.”

Throughout history, women have spoken out to have their voices heard. I’m thinking of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, which began in 1848 when the first women’s rights convention was held. Women were jailed for speaking out for women’s suffrage at the turn of the 20th century. Suffrage at that time meant the right to vote — a beginning for women to have a voice. By 1918, the 19th Amendment for Female Suffrage and the Right to Vote was granted to women, thanks to so many women who fought for our rights as human beings

In the 1970’s, along with many women, I held offices in the National Organization of Women, demanding equality of men and women, women’s rights in the workplace, pro-choice for our bodies, and many more issues. Last month, almost 100 years after we claimed the right to vote, a woman won the popular vote for President of the United States.

A new revolution is happening. Women are being called to stand in their deeper knowing and intuitive nature, to stand collectively for the Divine Feminine as well as the sacred and interconnected nature of all life. Women are being called to end the isolation of modern culture and to build lives of meaning and purpose.

The first step for a young woman to participate in this revolution is to go through the ancient and timeless ritual of Initiation. This rite is a natural act that all cultures throughout the world have offered their youth to open the doorway to meaning and purpose. For women, it is a step into a deep relationship with the Divine Feminine force that is there for them at this pivotal time in their lives. Sacred Fire Community Lifeways offers Sacred Emergence, our Initiation into Womanhood, as a first step young women can take to participate in this “revolution of heart,” to claim the inner Feminine Nature that will give strength, endurance and courage to the voice of the feminine.

For more information, to receive an application for Initiation into Womanhood 2017, or to apply to serve on volunteer staff, visit the Sacred Emergence page or contact

2015 Initiation Staff


Dec 182016

by Brian Collins


Preparing the milpa (corn field) for planting our prosperity corn

Grandfather Fire has planted vital seeds within the soil of our human lives.  Watered through iyari, or selfless service, these seeds have born the fruit of heart connection and community.  So too the milpas, or fields of corn, which stand at Casa Xiuhtecuhtli in Tepoztlán, Mexico, were once again filled with fruit-bearing stalks, thanks to the efforts of representatives from the three Sacred Fire organizations, as well as the Huichol marakate, the Nahua graniceros (weather workers) and the local Tepoztlán community.

Despite the rich volcanic soil in which corn has been grown for millennia, resources both material and human are required for it to thrive.  When the cry for sustenance is great in the world, nutrients can become depleted.  Similarly, individuals dedicated to providing for the spiritual hunger of their communities need support and resources to continue their work in a good way.

In response to that need, Grandfather Fire gave the instruction to “plant prosperity.” As we have reported before, the Prosperity Ritual is a ceremonial planting, tending, harvesting and sharing of corn. The people of the Americas relate that the gods gave them corn to feed the needs of their communities. Corn is abundance. The corn used in the ritual is heirloom seed passed down from the ancestors. It is planted with love and prayer, and harvested with gratitude.  Some is eaten, some shared and the rest saved for replanting.

Now in its third cycle, the Prosperity Ritual has been a great learning for all involved, bringing divine lessons and encouraging heart-led solutions.  Having persevered, there is much evidence that prayers are being answered. New donors, talent and unique opportunities are gracing the three sister organizations, and the graniceros, the marakate, and the local Tepoztlán community. Here are some examples:

Bill Sutton, executive director of the Sacred Fire Community organization, reports that the biggest gift over the past few years has been an awakening of shared purpose and mutual support between the Sacred Fire Community organization, the firekeepers, and the community itself. Many things that were obstacles in the past have just fallen away, and people are starting to be really inspired by the larger movement of what we are all doing together in the world. Bill Sutton shares,

Our mission is to bring the experiential gifts of Fire and community to a world in increasing need of guidance and connection. We initiate firekeepers and provide support for local fire hamlets, bring guidance and initiations to help people navigate the cycles of life through Lifeways programs, and work to make this precious opportunity of encountering the Fire’s presence available to more people through Grandfather Fire events. Donations to help support us in this work, evolve our presence, and pay for necessary infrastructure have been growing steadily in the last years.

Since the beginning of the prosperity ritual, the Sacred Fire Community has gained its nonprofit status and the organization’s donation revenue has grown from $5000 to over $100,000 per year. While that might be considered a humble start for the average nonprofit organization, this growth has been huge for us, providing the critical support we need to accomplish the many projects Grandfather has envisioned for us.

Along with the monetary growth, many talented volunteers are joining or rejoining us in fulfilling our mission, bringing renewed inspiration and a strong determination to work together with us and help us succeed in the mission Grandfather is laying out for us.”

Sofia Arroyo, executive director of the Sacred Fire Foundation, shares exciting news about the organization’s work to support ancestral indigenous traditions.

The most remarkable things have happened. I came into this job and found we had an invitation to talk to the Ford Foundation. This has led us on a path to cultivate a whole new level of our mission. New team members Neva Morrison and Elyse Portal have taken on the positions of Grant-making Director and Events Director, respectively. Neva was co-Founder and Managing Director of First Peoples Worldwide, an indigenous-led organization providing funding directly to indigenous communities. She brings valuable experience from the grant-making world.  Elyse has worked and studied with many indigenous elders through the years and has a particular interest in bringing the wisdom of the elders to the youth. Another new addition to the team is Mary Fifield, Director of Strategic Partnerships. Mary will bring her experience as Founder and Executive Director of the Amazon Praetorships Foundation to serve as a fundraising and strategic development consultant.

My work is dependent on cultivating relationships and so many important new ones have sprouted. Just this last quarter of the year, as the corn was ripening for harvest, I attended the Ancient Voices Forum in Canada, the Latin America Indigenous Funders Conference (LAIFC) in Peru, as well as the Global Summit on Community Philanthropy in South Africa.  This last trip was made possible through some generous scholarship money. Similar to the Foundation’s flagship events, Ancient Wisdom Rising and Voices of Wisdom, the Ancient Voices Forum seeks to deepen relationships with traditional elders and connects people who share a passion for this work.  The LAIFC in Peru was an opportunity to strengthen relationships with other indigenous funders as well as to increase the visibility of the Sacred Fire Foundation. The Global Summit offered an opportunity to learn about what is happening in community philanthropy worldwide and allowed networking with like-minded organizations from around the globe.

Part of the Foundation’s mission is to fund indigenous community projects that ensure the continuation and revival of traditional knowledge. Donations have been strong, the 2016 fundraising goals have been met, and I definitely feel the Sacred Fire Foundation has been blessed with a flow of abundance. For this I also offer deep gratitude to all of the Foundation’s staff and board, as well as to our many donors.”

Mark Gionfriddo, executive director of the Blue Deer Center, is responsible for the administration, facilities, and staff support of programs that provide transformation and healing for those who visit.  He also reports that the prosperity ritual seems to have blessed the Center in many ways:

We received over $200,000 in donations since August of 2016 and have hosted more new groups this year than any previous year. We are also collaborating with Plant Spirit Medicine faculty to develop the College of Plant Spirit Medicine at Blue Deer. In concert with this, Plant Spirit Medicine Healer Training courses will take place off-site (in the United States) for the first time in 10 years. The first satellite class will be hosted in Charlotte, NC in April.

Eliot Cowan, a tsaurririkame (elder shaman) in the Huichol tradition continues to lead powerful healing camps as well as Plant Spirit Medicine practitioner training courses on the sacred land here. He is just one of many healers and teachers who find the Blue Deer Center the perfect, welcoming setting for their groups.

We have also experienced prosperity through our relationships with the bees here. Our Center Director Kate Barrier and Program Director K’Anna Burton have engaged with a local beekeeper and our bees produced 60 pounds of honey to share this year!”

Casa Xiuhtecuhtli, home of the Huichol ceremonial Tuki and Nahua templo mayor, has recently been purchased and is being paid for by the marakate and graniceros. This is a big bill and has stretched many financially, but the payments are being made, securing a permanent home for the traditional ceremonies performed by the two groups. We are all hoping that continuing the yearly cycles of the Prosperity Ritual will allow the flow of abundance to continue for all of these dedicated people.


Our Lifeways director, Sherry Boatright, and Sacred Fire Community Board Chairman, don David Wiley – both of whom also have roles in the Huichol and/or Nahua lineages related to the community – revel in the abundant harvest!


Perhaps it seems somewhat ironic that these groups, who come from the so-called ‘land of plenty,’ are asking for more. But on deeper inspection, it is utterly apparent that the people involved are pouring everything they have into their work so that our hamlets, communities, regions, and humanity will all benefit. The Huichol people call this selfless action done to benefit future generations iyari. Even the labor of growing the corn as part of the Prosperity Ritual is a form of iyari. May the fields fertilized with such care and love continue to bring vital nourishment to all.

Brian Collins is a career carpenter and apprentice to don David Wiley in the Huichol tradition. He attends fires at the Pennsylvania hamlet of the Sacred Fire Community.

Find your Fire.

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