That Time I Walked on Fire
This past weekend I was a headline presenter and vendor at an outdoor festival in Lakeland, Florida. One of the many events offered was the opportunity to participate in a firewalk ceremony. I didn’t choose this activity, but the excitement it generated reminded me of a time at a different festival long ago when I did accept the challenge to become a firewalker.
When I was in my mid-thirties, I attended a naturist gathering in upstate New York along with my husband and some friends. One of the activities available over the three-day weekend was a firewalk. To participate was a huge commitment; there was an extra fee, and the workshop would take the better part of two days. I was surprised and a little reluctant when my husband encouraged me to sign up. It turned out he had done a firewalk some years prior and found it transformational. He wanted the same benefit for me.
The first day my fellow firewalkers and I were greeted by our two instructors and a huge pile of firewood. Over the course of that day we meditated, chanted and eye-gazed. We each adopted a log of firewood on which we wrote our goals for transformation. Since the firewalk was part of a naturist festival, our feet were not the only part of our bodies that were bare. I suppose being nude for this workshop might have been another fear factor for some; I was just relieved I didn’t have to worry about my clothing catching fire!
In a solemn ceremony we started the huge bonfire. We each placed our logs on it, watching our written goals be consumed by the flames, knowing that the bonfire, when hot enough, would be raked into the bed of coals on which we would tread, barefoot.
It took two days to prepare ourselves for the fire, and it took those same two days to prepare the fire for us. The bonfire would become a bed of hot coals, six to eight inches deep, more than sixteen feet long, and many feet wide. In fact, it was so wide that a person walking down the center would not be able to step to safety without having to make another footstep on the coals.
While the process of preparing to face the fire was intensely spiritual, our firewalk instructors also explained the scientific principles that would keep us safe when we walked. Firewalking is not a mind-over-matter miracle. The spiritual benefit of firewalking is the opportunity to face one’s fears and do a terrifying thing while connecting with the wild essence of fire.
As the sun set on that second day, while chanting to a steady drumbeat, each of us mustered our courage to begin the longest walk of our lives. The coals glowed red, with little flames licking up between them. At the side of the course was an instructor with his drum, keeping the pace and the chant. At the end of the course was the second instructor with a hose, ready to cool our feet as we stepped from the coals to the grass.
The thing I remember most was the way the heat from the coals hit my face as I stood ready to take my first step. If the fire was uncomfortably hot on my face, how could my poor, bare feet withstand it? More importantly, how could I find the courage to walk forward when every shred of common sense told me to walk the other way?
That first step was the hardest. As I walked, I could feel the heat all around me. It felt incredibly wrong, and oddly right, to be walking across those coals. When each one of my fellow firewalkers made their way across the fire, I felt their fear, and then their pride, just as I felt my own. Although I cannot now remember the names of many of those who walked with me that night, at the time we felt a strong sense of community and fellowship together.
My first traverse across those coals made me feel so strong and powerful that I went back to walk it a second time. I emerged both times without injury.
This festival happened very early in my tarot career. I had worked a few psychic fairs and developed a few clients, but the concept of being a fulltime reader still seemed like a far reach, or even an improbable dream. Within twenty-four months of taking that stroll down coals my business had grown beyond my need to keep another job. To this day I believe firewalking gave me the confidence to follow my dreams and create my own success. If I had the ability to face the heat and fear of sixteen feet of fire and remain unscathed, what couldn’t I accomplish?
There are many ways in life to confront fear and build confidence. Nude firewalking turned out to be my way. I don’t think I will ever need to do it again, but doing it then created the personal transformation that gave me the ability to live the life I truly want.