The Gift of the Burning Bowl

Happy New Year! We at One World hope your holiday was peaceful and happy.

Last Sunday we celebrated our Burning Bowl service, a wonderful ritual of release, surrender and renewal. Many faith traditions include the image of a journey– the Buddha leaves his home and family and travels the roads for six years seeking, and finding, enlightenment. Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus, who through his life and message teaches us the power of our own connection with the divine. The Israelites wander in the desert for 40 years as they travel from slavery in exile to a new home.  And like the most enlightened in the world’s faith traditions, each of us is on a journey of growth, understanding, learning and unlearning.

As we travel, we acquire new possessions, new ideas, and we lay aside those ideas and judgments we no longer need. The Buddha taught that the boat is needed to cross the river, but it becomes a burden if you then carry it on your back as you continue on dry land.

Through the years we have developed attitudes, judgments, beliefs, assumptions that perhaps served us at one point but no longer do. Yet we continue to carry them, often not even conscious of the burdens they add. We don’t realize how light we will be, how spacious our worlds will become, when we lay them down, when we make room for new understanding waiting to unfold.

The Burning Bowl ceremony is a time for us to consciously identify those attitudes, judgments, fears, resentments or false beliefs that we carry needlessly, and to lay them down, to release them. The fire in the bowl is a symbol of transformation. As the phoenix rises reborn from the ashes, so we are given new life, new vision, as we surrender our old understanding to make room for new wisdom and new experience.

Even though this choice exists for us every day, New Year traditionally represents the opportunity to begin fresh and new, and so our Burning Bowl is held in this season. As the year turns, we feel drawn to assess where we’ve been and look closely at where we are headed, and how we wish to make the journey. The ritual of the Burning Bowl helps us consider these questions with intention and clarity.

Many of us feel the need to heal through releasing old patterns, but that may not be easy.  How many people make New Year’s resolutions to get more sleep, eat better, exercise more, or make other life changes? Are these commitments easy to keep? Not really. One commonly cited statistic tells us that only 8% of New Year’s resolutions are kept, and the rest fall by the wayside pretty early in the year.

Releasing old beliefs and judgments can be significantly more difficult, especially because we often are not even aware we are carrying these burdens. We know when we don’t exercise, or when our waistlines are expanding. However, do we always know when we are limiting ourselves by judgments or beliefs we have carried for years, perhaps unconsciously? I don’t think we do.

This is the power of this ritual – giving us time and opportunity to listen to the small voice within with clarity and intention. What are we carrying that no longer serves us? As we sit in meditation, we can discern and identify what fears, beliefs, judgments or assumptions we carry that we may wish to release.

So we sit, listen, and then consciously and clearly release what no longer helps us on our journey. We lighten ourselves, making room for growth, change, and new understandings. What a wonderful way to turn into the New Year!


Author: Rev. Melanie Eyre, Interfaith Minister

Spiritual Leader of One World Spiritual Center

Founder of North Fulton Interfaith Alliance

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