When I drove my VW campervan up to the wild camping spot at the edge of the Scottish loch, there was already a stone circle laid out on the little beach waiting for me to build a fire.
Even the land seemed to know why I had come. Why I had left my two boys and husband back at our house and driven out here on my own.
I was here to light my own fire.
I parked the campervan on the grassy bank near the water and then sat for awhile. It was a little jarring, this emersion into silence and being alone compared to my habitually busy life with my two young boys, the realities of running my own business, and the never-ending list of household chores.
It took awhile before I felt ready to step onto the small stoney beach, arrange the small logs, and coax a fire to life. As I watched the flames roar up with a sudden gust of wind, I thought about all the women I have watched light sacred fires. Fires lit for the winter solstice. Fires to celebrate the Celtic festivals Beltane and Samhain. Fires that heated large stones for a sweat lodge. Fires for so many gatherings over the years.
This fire of mine seemed so small and simple in comparison. I had no ceremony planned. I didn’t really know what I was doing or what I expected to happen.
And yet something in me knew—it was time to light my own fire. To hold space for myself.
Despite all my years of teaching meditation and yoga, I realised there was still some part of me that believed others were more qualified, more deserving, and more able to stand in the position of the wise woman. Holder of the sacred ceremony. The lighter of the fire.
I felt so simple. Just me, Sarah. A girl who grew up in a very sensible, down-to-earth family with Eastern European heritage and American Midwestern roots. No one around me ever took themselves that seriously. And I have always valued “being relatable” over “being special” or standing out.
So for many years, it felt like my place was on the sidelines, at the edges of the ceremony. I let other “wiser” women light the fires and tend them while I listened to their realisations.
Maybe that’s the process we all must go through—sitting at the edges, watching and learning, until we are ready to accept the truth. That all this wisdom and power we have witnessed in others lie deep within us as well.
That there is no wiser person with a wrinkled face and knowing eyes.
We are the wise one we have been looking for.
There comes a point when we need to light our own fire, sit in a quiet place, and learn to listen to the sacred voice within ourselves.
Here’s the thing though: when someone else is lighting the fire and leading the ceremony, it all feels special. When it’s just you scrabbling with the matches and poking the sticks around and worrying that the fire is going to die out and it’s going to be a disaster because you don’t have any more kindling…it all feels ordinary. Like nothing special at all is happening. Like you must be doing something wrong.
Once I finally got the fire going, I sat down on a ragged blue towel and looked out over the water, wondering if I should do something else. Something with words or gestures that might make it seem more special. But I didn’t know what those things might be, so instead I tried to trust the fire. Maybe if I waited for awhile, something “more” would happen.
I could feel my mind reaching out. The narrator voice in my head trying to make profound statements about the way a bird flew past or the look of the light reflecting off the water. None of it touched me.
I think what I wanted was to feel different. But I didn’t. The fire burned next to me. I added more logs, and I felt the same. Not sacred or special. Just me.
And then I remembered my meditation training. I remembered that while we use our minds to understand everything, thoughts can be the greatest block to the experience of presence. So I let my mind relax into the spaciousness around me. I stopped looking for the profound message. I let go of that feeling of reaching out and trying to “find it,” and instead I just sat and let the moment be what it was. Simple. Just me.
Insight. Sight that comes from within. Understanding that arises when we create space inside of us.
What I began to understand as I sat there over many hours is this: insight comes to us.
We don’t get anywhere when we are always reaching out with our thoughts trying to grasp at it. In fact, that feeling of reaching out, the search outside ourselves, is the very thing that blocks the experience of our own inner knowing.
It is only when we are patient and allow our swirling thoughts to calm down, when we allow time where not a lot is happening, then we create a space for something new to arise. It becomes quiet enough inside us to finally hear our wise self speak.
What I learned that night by the fire is this: it’s not the fire that is sacred. It’s the act of lighting it. The realisation that it can be you.
You have the authority to light the sacred fire of your life.
You are the wise one you’ve been waiting for.
The one who can guide you to the place you need to go.
You are the medicine woman, the holder of your own sacred space, the weaver of dreams, and the conduit of the great mystery.
The great journey of our life is simply finding the courage to light our own fire and learning how to meet the wise one inside ourselves.