I spent a lot of time (too much?) winding down at the end of the day with mindless video games. Right now, my go-to is Blockudoku, but I’ve also played online Scrabble, Euchre (a card game) and plain ol’ Sudoku. Sometimes, I go old style and play solitaire with a deck of cards.
Other folks I know wind down with mindless TV. My husband, for example, likes to fall asleep watching old Westerns.
I wondered the other day what people did to wind down before we had TVs and tablets, and I concluded cavemen and cowboys (and everyone in the eras in between) probably watched the campfire to relax. One could argue this pastime is more productive than playing a card game.
I put fire to work for me recently when I welcomed 2022 with a bonfire in which I incinerated all the kinds of psychic junk: bad karma, bad vibes and bad memories. My friend Amy cheered me on. She provided the cute little notebook and green pen with which I wrote the names of toxic people in my life, my unhelpful self-talk and my bad attitudes. I ripped the pages out of the notebook, crumpled up the paper, tossed the yuck into the fire and watched it burn. This was very satisfying.
Campfires are endlessly fascinating, constantly changing while putting off a comforting glow and cozy heat. Who can resist poking at the dying embers? Plus, a good campfire can be used to prepare food (s’mores and hotdogs qualify as comfort food; I enjoyed s’mores and popcorn on New Year’s Eve).
Winter is a great time for a fire, be it a bonfire or a blaze in the fireplace or even a scented candle. I invite you to ritualize the experience by turning off the TV, putting down the games and leaving your phone in the other room. Simply gaze at the flames. If you can’t do a real fire, try You Tube; search “fire meditation” or “yule log fireplace” to find hours of options. Get even more comfy by putting on your slippers and throwing a soft blanket on your lap.
Once you’ve built or located your fire, simple sit and stare. Put everything out of your mind except the flames. Meditation is a useful prayer, and a good fire gives meditation a point. Do this meditation for 5 minutes or 20 minutes, whatever you can manage. Set a time if that helps you actually do it. You can pick up your worries, your to-do list, your nagging nuisances when you’re done; they’ll be waiting for you if you think ruminating on your troubles helps. News flash: worrying don’t help fix problems, it only serves to stoke your anxiety; consider metaphorically burning your troubles in that fire, and you’ll come away from it lighter and more relaxed.
In this cold season, I’m wishing you inner peace.
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