gathering around the fire at Create & Connect retreat

In the near future, I’ll spend my evenings gathered around a campfire with my three daughters and husband. We’re heading out on a road trip that involves a few days of camping before we reach our final destination.

At the end of the day, when we’ve wandered enough, seen enough, eaten enough, shopped enough, and driven enough, we’ll light a fire, pour our drinks, gather what we need to make s’mores, and we’ll make ourselves comfortable. Once there, we’ll re-tell the stories of the funny or embarrassing moments of the trip so far, we’ll talk about other trips and other campfires, and someone will probably throw something into the fire just to see how long it takes to burn. We’ll speak in code, using the words and phrases that have worked their way into our vernacular over our years together and can only be understood by members of the tribe. We’ll tease each other, but never to the point of causing pain. We may even argue a little, but before we go to bed we’ll have worked our way back to peace.

I’ve been longing for just this kind of time with my family. It will be so very good.

Though we all still live in the same house, it’s not often that we gather with intention anymore. Both of the older daughters have part-time jobs, and there are sporting events, swimming lessons, social gatherings, etc., which means we’re rarely all in the same room at the same time. And when we are in the same room, there are far too often electronic devices in front of some (if not all) of our faces.

That’s what I love about family trips – the intentionality of it. The slowing down of it. The getting away of it. I don’t need a fancy resort – I just need a campfire.

When we get away from the distractions of everyday life, we sit together, we eat together, we listen with less distraction – we are present for each other.

There’s a bigger lesson in this – a lesson that applies to almost all the work that I do.

We have to be intentional about this work of connection.  We can’t expect it to happen simply by accident.

We have to find time when we pause from the daily distractions in order to dive deeper into our own soul work.

We have to be intentional about sitting in circle with people so that we can look into their eyes and listen with focus and kindness.

We have to guard carefully our time for spiritual practice in order to connect with the sacred within us.

We have to walk into the woods now and then or at least sit with a tree in order to understand the earth and let it impact us in a deeper way.

In my circle hosting work, we are intentional about using specific practices and principles to help give the conversation a strong container in which to flourish. Sometimes people question that, wondering why we need the centre, why it specifically has to be a circle we gather in, and what use the talking piece serves. Though I try to explain it to them, most people don’t get in until they are actually in a circle and they experience the shift in the conversation to a deeper, more intentional place.

In the same way, mandala work helps us be intentional of entering deeper soul work. And labyrinth walking helps us connect with the sacred whisperings we don’t hear otherwise.

These things matter. They are not meaningless gestures we engage in just because. They shift our energy, they quiet the distractions, and they help us focus on that which we seek.

Just like the campfire after a long day of driving and sightseeing gives my family a chance to bond, laugh, and grow our repertoire of favourite family phrases, circles, labyrinths, mandalas, journaling, and other practices help us step away and focus with intention and purpose.

Deeper connection comes with greater intention.

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