My Journey Into the Fire

By Michelle Whittaker

Firewalking on hot coals. Is it possible?  I was wondering that exact same thing 22 years ago, when a group of friends hired a firewalking instructor from Seattle to come to Bellingham.  This was the fourth time they gathered for a day and evening of firewalking. I’m not sure why agreed this time to partake in the festivities.  I thought they were all crazy, but apparently it was just the kind of crazy that I was looking for.

The day began early by preparing the fire.  As I looked at the huge pile of firewood I thought to myself, holy @#%! , this is going to be a real fire!  No turning back now.  We worked as a team carrying the wood and building the fire.  This was the beginning of a long day of trust building to prepare us for our journey across the hot coals.

There were many exercises we did to prepare.  We started with breaking a brick in half our hand.  Well, some of us did.  The friend that I had brought with me tried until her hand was bloody and sore, but was unable to break the brick.  I was able to break the brick and this was a great example of mind over matter, but I wasn’t convinced of my ability to do the firewalking yet.

For the next exercise we climbed up onto a platform and fell backwards into everyone’s arms.  This exercise was a little easier for everyone than breaking the brick, but it still was a great exercise in pushing through the fear, trusting and letting go.

We did a journey through the woods, blindfolded and holding onto a single rope.  We were supposed to walk in silence but I couldn’t stop myself from laughing and being disruptive. The fire was raging away and I couldn’t put away the thought when is this going to happen.  I wasn’t at the time making the connection that everything that we were doing was in preparation for the firewalking.  All the exercises were meant to strengthen the belief in myself and that there is a power greater than myself.

Lastly we had to bend rebars.  Those steal things used to reinforce concrete.  I am guessing they were ½ inch in diameter and 15-20 feet long.  That’s how I remember it anyway. J  We got into pairs and placed the end of the rebar above the collar bone in the middle in that soft part.   We started walking towards each other and right when it felt like it was going to puncture through my throat with the pressure, I took another step and it bent.  We walked faster until we met and the rebar was bent in a u shape and we were able to hug.

After that I was ready for anything.  Even firewalking, that feeling passed quickly as we raked the red hot coals into a rectangle about 20-30 feet long. Looking at the fire I was scared, exhilarated and confused at the same time.   The instructor told us not to think about it being hot.  Just standing there you could feel the immense heat coming from the burning coals. I watched in amazement as each person in front of me did it.  When it was my turn, I stood in front of what seemed like an endless amount of coals.  Sparks were flying all around.  I took my shoes and socks off and decided to believe.  As I walked across the coals it did not feel hot, it felt like soft sandy rocks.  As each person before me walked across the coals, they said a word out loud.  As I did the same, the word that came to me was unity and I felt it to my core.  I made it to the other side and stepped onto the grass. I was so relieved and surprised I had done it.

It was a highlight in my life and what I learned is that when I am most afraid if I face the fear, believe in myself and let go of my small thinking, I can do anything.