Walking on Fire


By now, most people are familiar with what is commonly called, “firewalking.”

As a refresher, it is an ancient technique where people walk barefoot across a long bed of hot, glowing coals. The temperature of these coals is usually in the 1,600 degree Fahrenheit range.

Nobody knows for sure where the practice started. However, it has been found in native cultures in places such as Africa, Bali, China, India and even America.

More recently, a number of prominent self-help teachers have offered this experience to their students.

In 1979, I attended one of these workshops. After many years of qigong training, I thought that it would be easy. I thought I would enter a deep meditative state and then walk across the coals.

However, the person running this particular workshop took a different approach. He played loud, motivational music. He encouraged us to get all pumped up. And he gave rousing, motivational talks about facing our fears.

I’m sure all of that was good for most attendees. But I wasn’t interested in approaching it that way. As a result, my attention was split between the “rah rah” version being used in the workshop and my own internal desire for quiet focus.

I ended up doing neither.

So when I walked across the coals I was in an non-focused, more-or-less ordinary state of mind. This, if you can’t guess, is exactly how NOT to walk across a bed of burning coals.

I ended up with first, second and third degree burns on the bottoms of my feet. I’ll just say that I don’t recommend it.

I left the workshop early and went back to my hotel room. As luck would have it, there was a bathtub in the room. I put ice in the tub and sat there with my feet in ice cold water.

The pain of the burns continued. So I started practicing self-hypnosis, sending healing and comfort to the burned areas. After about 4 hours, there was no more pain. I went to bed.

In the morning, there was no pain in my feet. None. I walked normally. The people I’d come with to the event were surprised. Frankly, so was I.

It was a good experience from the standpoint of how the body can heal very quickly. But I knew I would need to attempt walking the coals again.

In 2002 I had the chance. I attended a leadership training course that had a surprise firewalk on the second evening of the class. It was never announced ahead of time for this particular class.

Once it became clear that’s what we’d be doing, I got very serious about my mental preparation. There was no way I wanted to repeat my first experience.

I became ultra focused during the pre-walk preparations. When the time came to walk across the coals, we had partners. The partner would stand at the far end of the bed of coals as an anchor point.

When my turn came I was more focused than I’d ever been before. I stood at the start of the walk and looked at my partner. My focus was so strong that I literally was unaware of anything else.

At that point I set out across the coals. It was like there was a tractor beam coming out of my forehead pulling me towards my partner. I later called it “the pull of intent.”

For the entire crossing of the 25 foot bed of coals, that intent was the only thing I was aware of. There was no heat, no sound, no people around. I had no awareness of having a body. Pure intent was everything.

The result? No burns. Not even a spot of residual warmth. I might as well have been walking across a dewy field of grass.

The take away is that having a clear intent is very powerful. It can literally change how the physical world behaves. And it can transform your life.

More about this next time…

All the best for your health and happiness,

Dr. Bruce Eichelberger

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