Burning the old to make way for the new | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Burning the old to make way for the new

Jennie Tezak
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily TribuneNancy Hussmann, right, embraces Hillary Bittman during the Unity's at the Lake's burning bowl ceremony held at the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center on Sunday morning.
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Unity at the Lake member Ila Barry became a little teary as she dropped a burning paper into a bowl, then hugged spiritual leader Hillary Bittman during the church’s annual burning bowl ceremony.

“It is a cleansing and opening experience,” Barry said about the ceremony. “It allows for better things to come into our lives. It brings tears to my eyes to realize I have a lot to let go of. It opens things up for the good stuff.”

The burning bowl ceremony started 10 years ago. At the end of each year at the service, church members compile a list of everything from the past year that they wish to rid themselves of, then dip the lists into a candle, burning the edges slightly. The lists then are dropped into a bowl with other papers, which quickly turn to ashes.

At least 70 church members sat with furrowed brows, contemplating what to write on their lists as music played.

“It’s basically up to us to release anything that doesn’t serve us any longer,” Unity Chaplain Janice Eastburn said before the ceremony. “We can get rid of pains, fears, any energy blocking us from our highest good.”

Eastburn said that the new year should begin fresh and open for new opportunities.

“That’s what I get out of the service,” she said.

Bittman said the ceremony is important in church members’ lives.

“It’s good to just stop and take a moment to remember why we’re on this planet,” she said. “Every moment is holy. It helps us be our spiritual selves. We keep the intention to be a loving presence and remember the truth of us.”

Bittman’s husband, Dr. Stew Bittman, led the service. He spoke about “closing the year in celebration of you and each other.”

Stew Bittman also told church members to “release everything that no longer serves us and to come into the new year clean.”

After the bowl burning, Bittman asked the members to write a letter from God to themselves, writing everything God wished for them in the new year. Members put the letters into envelopes, which were collected and will be mailed back to them at a later time.

Church members sang along to music from church band One Voice and listened to Stew Bittman talk about how humans are the one species that refuses to let go of the past and move on.

“Life is all about letting go and learning to let go,” he said.

After submitting her burning letter, Unity member Tricia Amthauer sang along to the music. She said she loves the burning bowl ceremony.

“Why make a new year’s resolution?” Amthauer said. “It helps me to remember that it’s OK to let things go. I don’t do well with resolutions.”

Member James Crawford said the ceremony is healing for him.

“I think it’s the best spiritual cleansing and healing,” Crawford said. “You release the old and make room for the new. You can go forward and day by day, minute by minute, do the love of God.”


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