By Jerry Mooney
I’ve always been a little bit of a thrill seeker. I’ve skydived, kayaked class V whitewater, skied double black diamond slopes and all of these activities have profoundly awakened me to life. None of them, however, had as dramatic of an effect on me as walking on fire.
Unlike the other activities, I didn’t expect I would ever walk on fire. It sounded stupid, pointless and like a freak show. However, that all changed when I met a shaman named Wytomi at a sweat lodge and he planted a seed in my mind.
It started when I was exploring a path of self care and gratitude to improve my life balance, when I met Wytomi. He put us all through various rituals and it was mystical and interesting, but not cathartic. That day I was talking to the shaman and he brought up the power of fire walking. Just his mention of the activity made my spine crawl. It scared me. Merely talking about fire walking caused a panic inside of me that was so unfamiliar that I was baffled.
After that day I reflected on the shaman’s recommendation that I fire walk and how profoundly it upset me. Because simply talking about it created such deep anxiety, I decided I had to examine why. One conclusion I came to was where I put my faith. When I kayaked or skied, I put faith in my skills. When I skydived, I put faith in the equipment, i.e. the parachute and the harness. But I had no idea where I would put faith in walking on burning coals. My faith said, this will hurt and may injure me badly. Ultimately I determined that if something scared me this badly, it was something I simply had to do. I didn’t want to become a prisoner to my fears.
My new found courage still lacked faith, but I convinced myself that I had to do this. My decision may have been convenient, because there were no known opportunities available to do so. Whew. A few months passed, however, and then I learned that the author of Warrior Goddess Training, HeatherAsh Amara was coming to town to host a clinic that culminated in a fire walk.
What a pickle. My courage in a vacuum was suddenly confronted with a very real opportunity to overcome my terror. I decided not to think and I enrolled immediately. Then I had to wait for the actual event. I paid $200 and bragged to my friends and family that I was going to do it, so backing out became increasingly difficult.
Once the time arrived for the event, my inner panic had somewhat disappeared. It seemed like the simple decision to do it was mentally critical. After I made the decision, a calm took over, but I wondered if that calm would continue once it was time to actually toe the burning line.
When the seminar began, I expected a whole lot of safety clinics and perhaps some emergency medical training. Nope. None of that. What we learned seemed unrelated at first. What was surprising was how we began to learn about how the brain worked. We delved into neurocouseling and neuroplasticity. She explained how we wired our brains by our experiences and those become beliefs. The earlier we believe something, the more entrenched the belief becomes and the more it influences our other beliefs. This is because the brain works through association. Certain things like meditation are powerful tools in dissociating neural nets that are based on faulty beliefs, but wired over long periods of time. The problem with meditation is that it is a long, demanding process, which makes people often unwilling to fully utilize it. But when we experience something that shatters a foundational belief, our whole belief structures crumble. This happened to me.
My girlfriend and I both took the class. Then it was time to walk. There was tremendous build up to actually stepping into the pit. We played drums and burned sage.
Then we were invited to walk. I expected those who had done it before to go first. Nope. But a force inside of me pulled me towards the hot coals. A 17 year old kid was next to me. As if we were pulled by an invisible hand, we stepped into the smoldering cinders.
At first I assumed we had to go fast. Nope. We went through it some hurry the first time, but then circled around with enthusiasm. I walked into the middle, stopped, reached down and pressed my hands against the burning ground. It was as if I had transcended heat. t was impossible to be rigid with my beliefs after I walked, because one of our first beliefs, established at such an early age it can predate language, is that fire burns. And when you walk on fire that belief evaporates. When a core belief, like fire burns, goes up in smoke, we begin to question everything that we believe. I suspect this can be troubling for many people, but I was invigorated for me. Suddenly any limiting belief I had was no longer imprisoning me. I felt like my mind broke open and suddenly things I wouldn’t consider before became viable.
When we were finished and went home we were high. Most of the high was adrenaline, similar to when I skydived. But there was this amazement about what was possible that dominated our conversations and our minds. Now walking on normal grounds seems easier and I’m careful what beliefs I allow in. Stepping into a pit of burning coals will do that.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license
Jerry Mooney is co-founder and managing editor of Zenruption and the author of History Yoghurt and the Moon. He studied at the University of Munich and Lewis and Clark College where he received his BA in International Affairs and West European Studies. He has recently taught Language and Communications at a small, private college and owned various businesses, including an investment company that made him a millionaire before the age of 40. Jerry is committed to zenrupting the forces that block social, political and economic justice. He can also be found on Twitter@JerryMooney