Sky Lanterns and Fires: Practices for Wishes, Healing and Release
Our divine souls when illuminated
with purity and grace, fly high
as sky lanterns in the dark skies
the flame never going out
– by Yasmeen Khan
I have written previously about my interest in the use of ritual as a way to enhance awareness of, and bring intention to, the mundane and profound experiences and passages in human life.
Melissa shared with me the idea of using paper lanterns, or sky lanterns, as part of a ritual to release “old stuff”- things we want to get rid of but keep hanging on to for some reason- longings that no longer serve us, habits that have proven to be harmful, or memories that cause pain and suffering. I thought the idea was really beautiful, so we set a date and I ordered the lanterns.
In my haste to “rid myself” of some things with which I was struggling, I had gone ahead and tried my own practice of release before we met. I had some writing I had done in The Connection Experiment workshop “Cut Out,” which was all about exploring how, why and what needs cut out of our lives. I decided to burn these writings along with some tokens and pieces of paper that represented bad habits which I wanted to release.
When we got together that evening, instead of just “releasing” the lanterns, we decided to send off a series of three sky lanterns representing our wishes for the future, our representation of the present, and finally, our honoring and then letting go of the past.
We started by drawing and writing on the lantern representing our wishes and hopes for the future. Before we released the first lanterns, we shared what we had drawn and written with one another and talked about why we decided on those things, often asking each other questions about what we had created. I ended up adding phrases Mel said in our conversation to my lantern because her sentiments captured what I wanted to represent in my pictures so well.
After we shared our lanterns, we sent them off into the air by lighting them with a candle Mel had gotten from her parents after they came back from Fatima, Portugal. It has particular significance in the Catholic tradition for healing unrest in one’s heart when lit.
When we lit the wick, the tissue-paper bag begin to fill with warm air, and there was a moment when I got to hold the floating balloon in my hand before releasing it to the sky.
We released Mel’s future lantern first and the send off was nothing short of magical for both of us. It’s ascent into the night began as a large pillow of glowing light. We traced the lantern until it was as small as a star might look from the ground. As we watched her wishes fade to a speck next to the moon and then slowly flash its final flames as it drifted down to the earth and out of sight, we both jumped up and down with child-like excitement.
She looked at me and said, “You will not believe what it feels like to see your wishes drifting off into the sky.”
After our first release, we also sent off lanterns representing our present and past through a similar process: first drawing and writing on the lanterns, then discussing what we had created and why before releasing them into the air together.
It was a beautiful night. Interestingly, I had unknowingly ordered lanterns that the packaging described as “wish lanterns” and the future lanterns were in fact the most fun to create and probably the most meaningful for both of us. There is something very powerful about setting intentions for the future and imagining the possibilities, particularly in the company of someone else. I think the beauty of the lanterns added to that effect.
As for the fiery ritual of release I engaged in on my own, I have to say, some of those bad habits are still lingering around… I guess intention and practice still have to be followed through with action- not the easiest of tasks at times.
What wishes do you have for your future? How could you create a concrete representation of these wishes that could help you to conceptualize and explore this vision?
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