October 28, 2012

Fire Circles - Opening the Hearts of Men and Boys

This article is offered by Allan Rudner, a brother in mission, working in Sydney, Australia. It's his personal story about his powerful connection to fire and how he is using it to create new connections between diverse communities of men and boys.

Since boyhood, I have been called to fire. I grew up in South Africa, living half a block from bushland, where I spent many happy hours on my own or with boyhood friends. From time to time, a wildfire would break out and the flames could be seen leaping high into the sky. I remember getting as close to the fire as I could and feeling my heart pounding inside me. I could actually feel the raw wildness and energy of the fire coursing through my veins. In those moments, I was in complete awe and knew I had found my passion!

Now, after working with boys and men in the wilderness for the last twenty years, that passion for fire is back in full force, and its call is powerful. Over the years, my Rites-of-Passage work has always included some relationship to fire. It has always accompanied rituals and ceremonies, signifying the transitions from boyhood to manhood and manhood to Elder. But currently, I’m called to fire circles!

Today, I’m using the timeless and primal notion of The Fire Circle to connect diverse groups of older men with younger men/boys. In these circles, older men take their place as leaders and mentors within the community, and younger men/boys have access to a network of positive male role models. My approach has been carefully crafted to ensure a sense of safety and caring for everyone. Using ritual and ceremony around the sacred fire, men and boys are introduced to respectful and confidential processes for sharing personal stories. The goal is for everyone to have an opportunity to be listened to and to be heard.

After a couple of hours together in a typical fire circle, the group formally closes the space and then retires to an area where food is shared. The impact of the time around the fire is always obvious as the group mingles, talks, laughs and, informally, connects with one another.

From the feedback I've gotten, it is clear The Fire Circle experience is very much appreciated and valued. Here are a just a couple of the (common) comments I get from participants:
"I thought your fire circle was beautifully established and run. It was just the right blend of gentle firm guidance and freedom/space for personal responsibility. I feel that evening living in my body right now. I encountered myself in a new way and with magical universal input. The timing was spot on. It augmented my ability to try to be differently with my son, my brother and father." - RK
"I believe you got the recipe right last evening, around the warmth of the fire and in the spirituality of the Tepee. Twenty-two men, of such varying age and divergent backgrounds, would normally have passed each other by along the path of life with barely a spoken word, perhaps, at best, a nod. By creating a space of safety and oneness of purpose, the differences between all these men were relegated to a position of minor significance. The common desire for personal growth, the sharing and purpose, shone forth in openness and truth. I am enriched for the experience. Thanks." - Ralph
I believe The Fire Circle process is creating a valuable community resource by building more connections between diverse men and strong inter-generational relationships. The Fire Circle creates new roles for older men in our communities, and the youth benefit by being witnessed and accepted as they are by Elder men. In short, it's exciting for me to watch this process building stronger and more cohesive communities.

At the personal level, The Fire Circle is how I find my way to my spiritual home. No sooner do I seat myself around the fire than I feel a flood of peace and alignment, which so often eludes me in the “outside world.” When I see the opened heart of a lad or a man, I feel the energy flowing inside me. When guys "get it," and the tears flow, and their woundedness is shared, my heart melts, and I know I am doing something important. Helping to open men's hearts and seeing them come awake gives me the juice I need to keep going. I believe when a man has an open heart, the world is a better place.

Currently The Fire Circles take place at different venues in and around Sydney, Australia, with a growing interest in hosting them in other areas. If you want to connect with Allan to learn more about his fire circle process, check out his LifeCrating website, or visit The Fire Circle Facebook page. You can also email Allan Rudner directly.

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