How to Use a Burning Bowl Ritual to Release the Past

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

This is such a powerful quote and something we should all strive to live by. Too often we spend our time dwelling on the past; overthinking situations that have already passed, wondering what our lives may be like if we’d done things differently, being held back by regrets, or longing for days that have long gone. While reflecting on the past has its place, we need to be careful not to lose our present selves to the past. We need to live in the present moment, right here, right now! There comes a time where we need to let go of the past; where we need to move on from what is holding us back from growing as a person in the present moment. 

When we are held back by the unresolved conflicts of our past, we are limiting the energy we need to be able to focus on accomplishing new goals and setting new intentions. We need to rid ourselves of these energy drains. Performing a burning bowl ceremony is one way that we can do this. This ceremony helps us to release the past; to let go of what no longer serves us to make space for us to invite in what we wish to manifest. 

When we let go of the things that no longer serve us, we need to replace this with a positive attribute, with things that serve us better and that we want to achieve.

What is a burning bowl ritual?

It is a symbolic practice that is performed when someone has the desire and willingness to let go of the things in their life that are holding them back. This may include unhealthy relationships, bad habits, negative thoughts and emotions and regrets. It can be seen as a transformational process; life is a rhythm of letting go and creating new paths for ourselves. On a regular basis, we need to work on releasing destructive thoughts/behaviours, negative emotions/beliefs, unhealthy relationships, and our unwillingness to accept change. This transformative ritual allows us to be filled with new life, to be open to new experiences and to live in the present. This ritual is a much about change as it is about becoming responsible for our own lives, to make better choices and to live a happier life. 

A burning bowl ritual can be carried out on your own or with a group of friends or family. It is important to choose what works best for you. 

Although it is common to think about making changes to our lives during certain occasions such as the start of new year or new month or when a big birthday comes around, it is important to remember that every day is a special occasion. Every day is a new opportunity to be alive and to work on creating the best version of ourselves to create the life we want.

How can this help me release the past?

How do we let go of the past though? How do we release the things that no longer serve us?

You may feel that the past is so ingrained in your current life that it seems overwhelming to even think about releasing and letting go. This ritual is very helpful as it forces us to take a step back, to evaluate our current situation and to identify what is holding us back. This could be anything, negative thoughts, bad relationships, problems at work, family matters, health concerns and much more. The key is to identify what elements of the past you need to address and let go of to move forward. 

Fire helps to rid us of negative energies, it is seen as cleansing and transformational. Performing a burning bowl ritual helps us to close the door on past experiences and to let go of attachments. It is a symbolic practice; one where you get to witness letting go of the past, you get to feel these things leave you and make room for positive energy. 

How to perform the burning ritual

What you will need:

  • A safe space (somewhere outdoors is ideal)
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Matches or a lighter
  • A fireproof bowl/pot

Step 1 – Create a sense of calm

Before performing the burning ritual, it is important to make sure that you are calm and in a good state of mind so that you can think clearly about what you want to let go of. 

Avoid performing this ceremony in the heat of the moment where you may be fuelled by anger or any other negative emotions. This ritual is more effective when performed mindfully, when you are in a peaceful and calm state. 

Meditation and breathing exercises are good ways to get yourself ready for this practice. 

Step 2 – Write it down

Put pen to paper; this is the time to set your intention. Now that you are relaxed, you can decide what it is you want to let go of during this practice.

Write down the things you want to release, anything that you feel no longer serves you can be written down. There are several ways to do this:

  • Write a letter
  • Write a bullet point list
  • Use old letters or photos
  • Write down the words that come to mind

Other than writing down the things you want to release, you could also burn things such as letters or photographs that you feel you no longer need to hold on to. However, again, this should be mindful; only burn things you know will help you release the past and not anything that is of legal value or that may be important to someone else. 

Once you have written down the things you want to release, it can be helpful to make a new list; this time with positive things; things that you want to bring into your life.

Step 3 – Let it burn

Once you have your papers ready and have written down all the things you want to let go of and have made a list of things you want to achieve or manifest, it is time to burn them.

This is a symbolic moment; fire is often seen as being cleansing and as a symbol of transformation. In this moment, you are making the decision to make a change to your life by releasing and letting go of the past.

It is important to acknowledge, that good or bad, everything in life happens for a reason and as you release these notes into the fire, to acknowledge that you have learnt from these experiences, that they have shaped your life up to this point, but that now they have served their purpose it is time to move forward and leave the past experiences behind. 

Place the papers into the fire and sit back and watch them burn. Feel yourself becoming free from these things. Watch the smoke rise; this smoke is symbolic of the past experiences leaving you and floating away. Letting go gives us freedom and opens us up for new experiences. 

Once the burning is done, empty out the ashes from the bowl, let them be taken by the wind and let them be taken from your thoughts.

Step 4 – Out with the old and in with the new

You should feel a sense of closure as the flames slowly get rid of the negative energies, allowing you to move forward and leave behind that which no longer serves you; that which was holding you back. 

The end of the ceremony should be a celebration, you have now successfully closed the door on the things that were holding you back, on things that may have been causing you pain, sadness, or resentment. You are now free of this, you can now move forward and set new intentions. 

It is very helpful to make burning bowl ceremonies part of your life. Perform them at any time you feel you need to release something negative from your life. 

Tamsin Springer

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References :

[0]Ellis-Jones, I. (2005). The Burning Bowl Ceremony.

[1]Arettam, J. (2003). Let It Go: Burn, Bury, Rip, Repeat. Red Wheel/Weiser

[2]Effects, B.(2021). Write It, Recite It, Release It, Light It Script, Burn and Release Book. Independently published.