The smell of smoke is carried all around me by the heavy gusts of ocean breezes. Before I see the fire, I feel the heat of the flaming coals that glow with crimson fire. This is no longer just a concept of walking on fire. This is the fire I am to walk on. The thought of walking across the 17 feet of burning embers seems less like a test of will and more like a test of sanity now. Before I can be consumed by any flames, I am consumed by fear.
It’s impossible to walk across 1000 degrees of piping hot coals I tell myself. The bravado and self-confidence are gone, carried off like the great puffs of black smoke. All that is left is doubt and rationalization. What’s the big deal, and what I am trying to prove anyway? The inner struggle begins. The real test won’t be walking across the scalding flames; it will be walking through my fear. That’s really the point, isn’t it? To prove I can do anything if I put my mind to it? Then why is it necessary to put my bare feet through it? Wasn’t enough to shatter the arrow and bend the rod of steel? What more proof is needed?
Before we work our way up to the firewalking, our instructor, Peggy Dylan, hands us a wooden arrow with a steel tip. It’s the real deal type of arrow that I have only seen in an old cowboy western. Then she passes out Sharpie pens. She tells us to write our fears on the arrow. It’s impossible; there is not enough room on the narrow circumference to hold my laundry list of scary thoughts. Fear of failure and success, fear of never finding romantic love and fear of finding it and losing it, fear of the future, fear of not having what I want and fear of losing what I have… Now the fire seems like the more gentle form of consumption. My thoughts are torture.
The arrow is quickly covered in thick, black indelible ink. My fears are out of my head now. I am holding them in my hand. Peggy stands on stage opposite her husband who holds a square piece of wood chest high. She places the arrow at the base of her neck, at the hallow of her throat that is soft and vulnerable. The sharp, metal point of the arrow rests on the block of wood that her husband holds. I shudder at the thought of what is about to happen.
The audience is instructed to raise our energy and I am wondering if energy manifests as sweat and rapid pulse and heart rate. Peggy is leaning into the board in the direction of her husband. She takes a few deep breaths and thrusts herself at him! The arrow breaks in half and she is unscathed.
The sweat of my hands loosens my grip on the arrow. The slender cylinder is hard and, although I just witnessed the woman break it, I am skeptical. Peggy instructs us to come onto the stage and break our arrow of fears. I scan the room for exit doors.
One by one, I watch as people place the end of the arrow on the supple hallow of their throats. Men, women and children imitate the instructor, breaking the arrows. It’s my turn and I am determined. If they can do it, so can I. With all the positive, fear-obliterating energy I can muster, I throw the weight of my body into the arrow. It does not break. It shatters into tiny splinters of wood. It practically explodes. My fears are indiscernible among the wooden carnage. I am not hurt. I am stunned.
Next, we are handed a six-foot long piece of steel that I am told is rebar. Normally, it is the steel used to reinforce concrete. For our purposes, it is the steel that is used to prove a point. Instead of the arrow, the husband and wife team place the ends of the rebar at the hallow of their throats. They breathe and flap their arms slowly like a mighty eagle about to take flight. The duo begins to walk toward each other until the steel is bent in the shape of a U. The goal is to walk close enough so they can hug, and they are on stage embracing with the bent steel smashed between them. Come on…
It’s my turn and I choke literally and figuratively as I try to walk to my partner for a hug. The steel bar pushes at my throat making me gag. It can’t be done, except people all around me are hugging each other with bent bars between them. My thoughts change and then so does the outcome. Soon I am hugging a total stranger, laughing at the mind and rebar-bending magic.
The fire is different though. It’s far scarier and my mind starts racing with objections. Third degree burns! Painful skin grafts, long rehabilitation and embarrassing explanations.
Walk through your fears. Mind over matter. If they can do it, so can I.
Seventeen feet of eternal flames stands before me. I walk, focusing on the end and I feel nothing but adrenaline rushing through my body. I am amazed and then, for a split second, I think this is impossible and I feel the intense heat on my foot.
Now I know there is no trick to this. It is fire and it really burns. I must walk over the coals again because now real fear exits.
There are two more times that I walk over the glowing red coals. There is no explanation and even though I have done this, I am still somewhat unbelieving.
Peggy stands nearby and I approach her with my astonishment.
“How is it possible to walk on fire?” She answers quickly, “Because you believed you could.”
The small container of ashes from the fire still sits on my desk. It’s a reminder that when my mind begins to create limiting and crippling thoughts, I know how to conquer them.
After all, I am a firewalker. All we have to do is believe, do and then walk right over fear to reach any goal.