Pain is mysterious. What should hurt doesn’t always and what should be fine can hurt like heck!
If you walk across fire, you get burned, right? What if I told you that there are ancient civilizations that passed along the secrets to their shamans and warriors so that they could walk on fire and not get burned? What if I told you that there are groups right now who take people with no experience and teach them to do it?
It is true and I have walked across hot coals and not gotten burned. I also walked across it and did get burned, once. (By the way it was not the last time I did it.) The difference between being burned and not being burned was that I was in a self-loathing mindset when I got burned.
For most people it is not a usual experience to have the opportunity to fire walk. But when I was around 26, I lived for a short time in an intentional community outside of Seattle, Washington. One of the activities that happened on a regular basis, weekly while I was there, was fire walking. Every Friday, I think it was, a big pick up truck with firewood would come out and build a big bon fire that they would then spread out the coals for a 3 feet by 10 feet walk way. This was right outside my door so it was pretty hard to miss.
Weeks went by and they kept inviting me and my partner, to try it. I kept saying no because I didn’t think I would know how and it seemed like a silly thing to do. I mean, really, what were they trying to prove. Then one evening for some inexplicable reason I began to feel a pull toward trying it. So I got the courage up to ask how they did it. They were doing experiments with some of the experienced people with electrodes to read their brain waves while walking. They said there was an altered state that they found that showed up as they walked across the fire. I saw many stop in the middle of the walk and stand still or slowly pick their feet up and down, definitely not in a hurry.
I asked for directions thinking that there would be some secret, some way to enter this altered state. My neighbor and firewalker said, ”Go from point A to B and don’t let your mind wander to anything but your destination.” “That’s it!” I said. I was incredulous. This was the big secret? I figured I would try it anyway. I can’t remember if the first time I went across was with my partner or not. I know she also did it and we walked across together holding hands and other times by ourselves.
What I remember was the focus I had and the elation and endorphins that rushed my body when I got to the end of the walk. No burns, no big secret or initiation. Just focus on your destination and not on doubts, fear, or the fire.
The time I did get burned I knew I was in doubt and self-loathing. I believe that was the difference. I walked about a dozen times that summer/fall. It has been an experience I have treasured. I feel pride in facing the fears, knowing that if I can walk across fire, I can do anything.
This mindset of focus has been one of the tools I have used for thriving with my pain. I don’t focus on the pain and I don’t pretend it is not there. I take risks so that when I look back no more of my life is stolen from me by pain. I work to love myself and when self-doubts and loathing come up, I am gentle with myself.
This experience was years before I lived with chronic pain but the lessons help me to thrive now. I look ahead to what is important and stay present in the moment. I make choices to live and love myself and life is good!
How do you move toward taking your life back? Check out the Cycle of Thriving!
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