Fire pujas are a wonderful way to remove obstacles and to invoke blessings. In the tradition I study in, Tibetan Buddhism, we use fire pujas at the end of retreat to consecrate our hard work, to burn any obstacles we encountered, and to offer up the smoke as a blessing for what’s to come. Fire pujas are a wonderful marker anytime something is coming to an end — whether it is a new year, a birthday, the end of a relationship or job, etc. They can also be used at the beginning of a journey, milestone, or celebration. On our Mind Oasis hiking treks in Nepal, monks will bless our journey with a fire puja. You can join the Mind Oasis community on January 1st for a fire puja ceremony — learn more here.
If you think of 2020 as a bit of a forced retreat (staying home, getting introspective, encountering obstacles and working with and through them), even if you haven’t invoked a fire puja in the past, this coming new year is a wonderful time to do so.
There is something both symbolic and freeing about burning up the obstacles and the things you are ready to let go of, while offering up the smoke as a blessing and manifestation. Even more powerful is if you can invoke the idea, “may others who faced this issue/obstacle be freed from its grip as well.” Dedicating the freedom from the obstacles you face in your life to that very same freedom for others whether you like them, don’t know them, or dislike others is an exceptionally potent practice. Wishing all beings the ability to manifest their dreams in 2020, too is formidable practice.
You can invoke as much or as little ritual into your fire puja as you would like. Since we are all individuals with different propensities, different people might enjoy different aspects of a puja. Minimally you will need:
Small strips of paper to write on
A fire safe container (like a cast iron skillet or fire safe bowl)
A candle or other source of flame
Alternatively, you might have a small fire in a fireplace or firepit, but using a container and a cancel allows you set up a small altar if you like
A few symbolic items (maybe a picture of a teacher or a friend you lean on for advice), crystals, flowers, meaningful stones or other natural objects can be lovely — this article by Nick Polizzi has a nice explanation of different crystals and their energetic properties
A little incense, sage, or palo santo to clear the air
Find a private and quiet fire safe spot to set up – a desk or kitchen table can work well. The fire container just needs to be big enough to capture any wayward ash from the paper. You can avoid disaster by making your strips of paper small. If you have a lot to say, be sure to journal about that while putting the essence on the strip of paper to be burned.
Add your sacred objects — perhaps making the time to allow the space to feel pleasant. Burn a little incense and think of the smoke as clearing any obstacles to your dreams and manifestations coming true. Perhaps playing some meaningful music as you set up your space. If you enjoy cut flowers you might put a small vase there as well. You’re trying to get a sense that something extraordinary is about to happen.
When you’re all set up, then take a few minutes to connect with your breath mindfully (if you don’t know how to do this, you can get a crash course in 10 minutes with our free How to Meditate course). Allow yourself to feel sensations in your body, the sensation of air on your skin, and the ground beneath your feet.
Then make an inquiry as to what you are ready to let go of or to give up that was an obstacle in 2020 and/or the past. Write these words or phrases on your slip of paper. Take a few cleansing breaths and then when you’re ready, begin to burn them one by one focusing on whatever that particular obstacle was. Watch it transform from flame to smoke and take a moment to wish all sentient beings be free from that obstacle as a blessing from the smoke. You might take a moment to sit with the feeling of being done with the tough stuff.
Next, again connect with your breath and allow your attention to drop from your thinking mind to your heart space and ask yourself what your heart most longs for in 2021. You might repeat the inquiry several times and investigate the layers of answers that arise. Place these on the same small strips of paper (you might also want to add to a journal page so you remember!). This time as you watch the words and phrases burn, see the smoke as a blessing and manifestation of your dreams coming true.
Take a few moments to reflect on the process. Maybe burn another stick of incense for good measure, using a traditional dedication to end the process — or a prayer that resonates for you:
May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness.
May they be free of suffering and the cause of suffering.
May they never be apart from joy and its causes.
May they remain in boundless equanimity and freedom.
This New Year’s Day, you can join Allison Joy Phillips, Natalie Hain, Maria Novak, and Elizabete Gomes plus a bunch of other Mind Oasis community members for a fire puja online! Doing a fire puja is a potent practice, doing it in a community setting makes it more potent and fun.
Learn more about Let it Burn: A Very MO New Year’s Day Celebration. There will be intention setting, yoga asana, mantra, plus a fire puja ceremony and a powerful community guided manifestation for 2021.
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