The lost camp fire experience

The lost camp fire experience

Back in the days when the sun set below the horizon, the only source of light people had, other than the changing moon phases and the dark sky of starts, was fire. For millions of years, human beings sat around fires, gazing into the flames and coals with the cold and darkness behind their backs. This was possibly where formal meditation had its beginnings.

Fire was a comfort to us as humans, a source of heat, light and protection, something that was potentially dangerous but with care could be controlled. Sitting at a fire gave us relaxation at the end of the day. In the warm, flickering light, we were able to tell stories and talk about the day we had or just sit in silence seeing the reflection of our own mind in the ever-changing flames and the glowing landscapes of a magical fire world. Fire made the dark of night bearable helping us to feel safe and secure. It was calming, reliable, restoring, meditative and crucial for our survival.

This historical necessity has departed from our everyday lives and with it almost all occasion to be still. In our modern day fast paced world, fires seem to be impractical or possibly an occasional luxury to set a certain mood or atmosphere. We have only to flip a switch when the outer darkness begins to consume the light of day. We can light up our world as brightly as we want to and just keep going on with our lives, filling all our waking hours with continuous busyness, with doing something. Life nowadays seems to provide us with very little time for just being, unless we grab it on purpose. We no longer have a fixed time when we have to stop what we are doing because there is not enough light to do it by. We lack that formerly “built-in” time we have every night for shifting gears, for letting go of the day’s activities. We seem to have precious few occasions nowadays for the mind to settle itself in stillness sitting by a fire.

What do we do instead? We watch television at the end of the day, a pale by comparison, electronic fire energy. We submit and expose ourselves to constant bombardment by sounds and images that come from the minds other than our own, that fill our heads with information and trivia, other people’s adventures, excitement and desires. Watching television leaves even less time in the day to experience stillness. It soaks up time, space and silence, a monotonous hypnotism, lulling us into mindless passivity. Newspapers do much the same, although not bad in themselves, we too often conspire to use them to rob ourselves of many precious moments in which we might rather be living more fully.

It has become apparent that we do not have to succumb to the addictive appeals of external absorptions in television entertainment and passionate distraction. We have the ability to develop other habits that can bring us back to the fundamental yearnings within our minds for warmth, stillness and inner peace. When we sit and focus on our breathing, for example, it is very much like sitting at a camp fire. Looking deeply into the breath, we can see at least as much as in glowing coals and flickering flames, reflections of our own dancing mind and certain warmth is also generated. If we are truly not trying to get anywhere but simply allow ourselves to be here in the moment as it is, we can easily embrace an ancient stillness within the domain of our thoughts and feelings, a simpler time that people found in sitting at a fire.

Guides out in the nature still have the opportunity to provide the ancient camp fire experience. Make the most of the time and instil in your clients a sense of inner reflection and stillness when sitting by the fire after your daylight adventure. It is this stillness of self that your clients are really seeking in an African wildlife experience.

(Adapted from Jon kabat-Zinn – Wherever you go there you are)


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