Back in the early 1980's in the little, old, picturesque town of Nevada City, California, I saw a bulletin board with a poster. The poster read that there was a firewalking workshop in a couple of days in Sacramento, where I lived. It was to be held in the evening for 4 hours and cost $40. I thought to myself, "That was a reasonable price to go watch some 'nuts' cook their feet." I had no desire or intention to walk on hot burning coals, but I wanted to see someone else do it.
On the appointed evening I drove, with a friend, to the workshop address on a tree-lined street in Sacramento. We parked, walked to the house, and entered the living room open door where about 15 people were sitting on all the furniture available plus floor space. The gathering had already started and the leader, Tolly Burkan, was talking to the group but pointed us to a table where my friend, Chester, and I signed the attendance sheet and dropped our $40 in a glass jar.
Some of the people sitting on the floor and leaning against a wall moved over and made space for us to sit beside them. By then Tolly was playing a guitar and singing a little ditty as I tried to become inconspicuous. I wanted to be only an observer and watch what was going to happen. I was a little disappointed as I looked around the room to see only average looking people, mostly men. I wondered if these were the "firewalking nuts".
After another short folk song, Tolly talked again to the group in a soft, friendly voice saying things like this:
"You create your own reality."
"You get in life what you create in your mind."
"If you think you are going to be burned you will burn."
"If you know you are only energy, and the fire is only energy, you can both co-exist and you won't be burned."
Tolly spoke of well-known physics laws about fire and energy that I understood. He blended these truths with other possibilities like "maybe anyone could walk on fire and not be burned". He also used non-physics terms like 'empowerment', 'healing', 'chakras', 'karma', 'neuropeptides' and 'endorphins'. In this "new age" firewalking setting the terms he used blended together and made sense to me. The possibility of firewalking began to seem plausible even for me.
Tolly kept his "lectures" short and separated them with his guitar and singing folksy ditties. It was all very relaxing, and I felt friendly, safe, and more open to the possibility of firewalking -- if others did it first. Time passed quickly as Tolly entertained us and repeatedly gave his mini-lectures on how we create our daily reality filled with fear and failures that we created in our mind.
After about an hour in the warm, crowded room, I was feeling tired and sleepy but Tolly really caught my attention with this statement: "You can make the coals feel like cool wet moss, if you want."
I thought, "Bullshit! They are HOT!" Then he said, "Or you can make them feel like hot sand on the beach."
I remembered one time when I was young and walked on really hot sand. I didn't burn my feet then but the sand was really hot and I had to keep moving to endure it. I imagined walking on those hot coals as if they were just as hot as that hot sand was. I knew I could endure that same heat again and survive with no burns. At that moment, with my memory of the hot sand experience and Tolly's words about creating your own reality, I switched from a workshop observer to a firewalker! I knew I was nothing but an energy field of atoms just like the coals and the fire. I knew I could walk on hot sand, and I knew I could make the coals feel like that same hot sand. I knew I could do firewalking! I KNEW IT AND I FELT IT AT MY DEEPEST LEVELS!
Tolly continued telling stories of past firewalker's experiences, lecturing, and singing his ditties. As I sat listening to Tolly I mentally prepared ways to protect myself during the fire walk. I knew I was going to do it! I imagined that my feet and lower legs were protected by an energy field around them. The field felt much like the mukluks (Arctic cold weather boots) I wore on a dog sled trip in Greenland in 1968 when the temperature was -30 F. I could still remember the feel of the 3 pairs of thick wool socks and the quarter-inch thick felt lining inside the mukluks. Sitting there in the friendly, safe, warm crowded room I imagined that my feet were again protected against the severest temperatures - cold or hot - by my "energy field" that I created in my mind. Just as Tolly had said, "We create our own reality", so it was up to me to create a reality that would totally protect my bare feet through the 1000+ degree coals. I knew absolutely that I could do it!
After more mini-lectures, stories, and ditties Tolly said, "The coals should be ready by now, and you should know if you are ready to walk on them." And he added, "No one can go to the bathroom now. That is just a way that you delay facing your fears in life." I felt like I was ready to burst my bladder until he said that, and suddenly the feeling went away. I thought that was interesting!
Everyone was excited as we went out to a large backyard where a pickup truck load of wood had burned down to a huge pile of very hot glowing coals. They glowed bright enough to see everyone clearly without any other lighting. Tolly said the coals' temperature had been tested many times and ranged between 1000 and 1200 F. degrees. I recalled that the aluminum engine head in my Mercedes was poured into the casting at 1130 F. degrees!
Tolly directed us to join hands near the bed of coals as he raked them out into a path approximately 3 meters (about 15 feet) long, 1 meter (about 3 feet) wide and 7 - 10 cm (3 - 4 inches) deep. I could feel the intense heat from the coals on my face and the coolness of the night air on my back. Someone started a chant, and we all joined in as we held hands and watched Tolly smooth out the long bed of brightly glowing coals. I don't remember the chant now, but it was something about being safe and protected. Whatever it was, it helped to make me feel even more calm, safe, and a part of this friendly supportive group with a common goal. Tolly's personal charm and humility had brought this group of strangers together in a group energy that made me feel exceptionally empowered and confident!
Without any fanfare, Tolly put the rake down and walked briskly toward the end of the coal path, then right onto the bright red coals. With arms held out to the sides, he kept on walking the full length of the coal bed with no change in pace. Much to my surprise my friend Chester did the same thing confidently and proudly followed Tolly. I thought, "Hey, I want to do that now" and was a bit disappointed because the eager firewalkers had already started lining up. As my turn came there was no hesitation and no fear, for I knew I could do it.
As I walked off the cool ground on to the glowing coals, I felt the coals' temperature to be exactly the same as I had remembered the hot sand. However, I was surprised to feel the very different texture of the coals compared to the hot sand. The glowing hot coals were very light and crunchy. My feet actually sank down below the surface and kicked them around a bit, so I had to place my feet somewhat carefully to avoid scattering the coals. At about the third step in my proud and exhilarating firewalk I realized that because my feet were sinking down into the coals, there was a possibility that I might step on a sharp rock on the ground below the coals. Thereafter each step was more cautious to avoid any possibility of a rock puncture. I amusingly look back on that quick sequence of thoughts in my conscious mind as being some sort of a diversion. In any case, I was glad my unconscious mind had everything under control.
All too soon I reached the end of the glowing coals and stepped off onto the cool ground and turned around to watch the next person following me. I felt totally exhilarated and proud of having accomplished the impossible! I stepped to the side at the end to allow the next firewalker to exit as I looked down at my feet. Somewhat surprised I saw a hot coal still glowing between my big toe and the next. I flipped it off and thought, "Looks like a diamond sparkling". My feet were ash-covered but had no discomfort whatsoever from the bright red glowing hot coals. My feet felt like I had just walked on hot sand. Later I closely looked at my feet in good light and found no sign of blisters or burned flesh on the bottom or the top of my feet, even though the coals had covered my feet where the tender skin is on top. And here is something that is unexplained, and every scientist will say it couldn't happen: The few hairs on my toes, and down around my ankles, had no signs of heat damage! Everything was normal looking!
Those few minutes after my fire walk were profound and life changing. My old fears and beliefs were shattered and replaced by new models of who and what I am. That moment was so powerful that my conscious mind did not think in words. Instead, I saw images, as if in a dream, forming along with my view of the firewalkers. At the same time, I was looking at the people starting their firewalk I saw in the same place a huge stone wall. It was high and thick and represented all my fears that stopped me from doing things in life. As each stepped onto the coals, I saw the rocks in the wall fall away. I thought about how stepping from the cool earth on to the hot coals was like walking into a different dimension. In this new dimension, the old rules of physics crumbled like the wall. In place of the old fears and rules I now had new rules that I could use to do the impossible. I felt more empowered than ever before in my life!
If you want to do more research on the subject of fire walking, just Google it. You may even want to go watch the "nuts" walk on the burning coals sometime - or do it yourself!(Jump to Nav Menu)
© Copyright 2000, revised 2013 by Lawrence Rodrigues, M.S., Director: EastWest Institute for Self-Understanding.
All rights reserved worldwide.