What I learned from walking on fire

One writer reflects on how walking on fire helped to create emotional space and a sense of shifting energy…

There is a moment, just before you step onto hot coals, in which the whole world seems to hold its breath. The guiding arm in front of you falls away, and there is nothing stopping you. The path ahead is clear. And although it’s just a small step, it feels impossible. This is everything I learned from walking on fire.

The heat from the coals is intense. 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit. You feel it searing your skin, your legs, your trembling hands. You can hear it burning: a crackling hum that stretches into the night. The only light is from the coals. You look down at the glowing red embers and, all around, pressing close, are people holding their breath too; wondering – like you – if this step is truly one you can take.

And then, ahead of you, through the flickering sparks from the fire, stands a man. Chris. He is looking at you, and only you. His whole gaze seems to come from across the fire and onto your face, white and humbled by the night. This alone is impossible to stand. If you have lived your life trying to be invisible – trying not to count, and trying not to take up too much space – to have all the energy and focus of this moment directed just at you feels entirely alien.

But, you are totally, absolutely there. There is no escaping it. This is a moment for you. You raise you hands to your hips, echoing the ‘warrior woman’ stance you practised earlier in the day, in an exercise that you were sure wouldn’t make a difference to your ability to walk on fire. And yet, as you stand, a powerful silhouette staring straight ahead, you feel the possibility rush through you.

‘Are you ready?’ he shouts from across the coals. Eyes up, looking right back at him, meeting his gaze. ‘Yes,’ you shout, in a guttural cry that comes from the very bottom of your soul.

‘What is your name?’ he asks. Closing your eyes for a moment, you reach inside for the strength to shout your chosen warrior name. ‘Wild woman,’ you yell into the night, into the crowd, into the fire, into a past in which you told yourself that you didn’t count, that you didn’t deserve all the things you hoped for. Your voice is like nothing you’ve heard before: strong, loud, cracking with emotion, pinched with pain, wobbly with courage.

‘Walk,’ he commands. And there is nothing between you and the fire now. You step out, never taking your eyes off this person in front of you. Underfoot, the coals are like boiling rubble. It is a powerful feeling, but you are more powerful. With each step, the fire intensifies, but so does your strength.

And here, in this moment, I understand what firewalking can do. There’s no magic, no technique, no voodoo. It is about finding your way through the fear of what’s ahead, and stepping forward with intention. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

‘You will still face crises in your life,’ explained Chris earlier. ‘And the fire is like a mini life crisis. Your fear of it will show up in your body like a crisis. And we will take that fear, that feeling, and we will deal with it. We will walk on the fire anyway. We will show our bodies and minds that there is another way to face adversity.’

Six, maybe seven paces, and you’re across the fire. Chris grabs you in a powerful hold, his hands clasping the tops of your arms, you jumping from foot to foot to kick off stray embers.

‘Yes,’ he says quietly. ‘Yes.’ And you are dancing away from the fire – a smile writ large across your face, tears swirling in your eyes. You are bursting with possibility now, power surging through you, strength fizzing in your fingertips, courage coursing through your veins. Giddy with knowledge. Warrior. Firewalker. Woman.

If there is a big secret to walking on fire, it’s this: there is no secret. If you walk quickly enough, with intention and focus, if you don’t wobble, you don’t get burned. If you focus on that warm, generous face on the other side of the coals, if you just step forward and keep going, you can walk on hot coals and come away unscathed. You realise that the worst thing was the fear, not the walk. Because the biggest thing to fear in life is fear itself.

Later that night, you will find the only mark left from the fire, a crescent-shaped fire kiss, curled on the sole of your left foot. But otherwise, your feet are unscathed. You are not burnt. You are not in pain. You have been walking on fire. You are simply alive, truly present and right here.

Next: Rekindling our relationship with wonder

Find out more: Firewalk Experience

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