Fire Walk

Franc calls me and says, ‘there is a guy teaching people how to walk across hot coals, and it only takes one night to learn to do it’.  It was 1985 and the idea that I would be walking on hot coals seemed impossibly fascinating.  Yet fifteen years earlier on the enchanted island I witnessed Balinese trance dancers walk on hot coals, a mystifying event so far beyond belief that a new lob of what’s possible formed in me. The nerve to think I could walk over burning coals.  But that paled to the audacity of the man outlandish enough to usher a group of unwitting curiosity seekers over a 12 foot bed of burning hot coals; and to do so without any of us ending up in an emergency room burn unit.

What I remember is that in preparation our instructor, Tony Robbins led us through a series of processes, most of which, as I recall, ended in rolling around on the ground in uncontrollable laughter.  Then Tony explained that while learning how to walk over hot coals, he burned himself so severely that he spent three months in the hospital with 3rd degree burns on the bottom of his feet.  At this point in the evening, the untethered fun of tempting fate ominously changed.  A gasping fear rose in me, as I scoured the horizon of logic for an oasis of rationality.  “Are we really going to do this”? ‘Oh, I get it, we aren’t reaalllly going to walk on hot coals, this whole evening is designed to bring us to a place mentally where we will muster enough courage (and stupidity) to be willing to walk over a bed of hot coals’.  Of course we aren’t “really” going to walk over burning hot coals, are we”?  But this theory was extinguished at the end of the evening when anyone who wanted to proceed went outside where a 4 foot high bon fire now turned to red coals was spread in a 12 foot long pit of glowing red hot burning embers, 8 inches deep.

I put myself in the trance state I had just learned, and fire walked.

FEAR comes up all the time –

that little man behind the curtain of doubt and foreboding, telling me go back, be safe, or be consumed by any number of wizard-of-oz-ly dooms. Attack of the flying monkeys of chaos, the raw spike of nerve, and adrenaline induced threats hurled by the wicked witch of my own self-doubt, squeezing the life force out, forbidding me to proceed.   

It seems that whenever I endeavor to take on a newfangled challenge I am confronted by fear.  Fear is the gatekeeper, the troll guarding the boundary between the known and the unknown, the doable and the perception of impossibility; a lighthouse forewarning peril, while searching for safe passage. Fear is the burning coals between me and what I want to accomplish.  Do I turn back, or do I fire walk over my trepidation?

With all the real and imagined fears in the world, it sounds a bit melodramatic, after all, I was simply holding a huge, otherworldly piece of raw fire orange opal, entertaining a barrage of doubts questioning whether I was up to the task of carving the raw opal into an expression of beauty.  Sweat was pouring off my head at the thought of owning it and the challenges it would commit me to.

It was 2007, and Carlos a Brazilian miner placed the 7600 carat chunk of orange Brazilian fire opal in my hands. A reaction of emotional chemistry, half excitement half anxiety, coursed through my hands as I held this ‘burning coal’, a challenge that would artistically call me out.  I would have to reinvent my skills to do a reverse intaglio carving (carving from the back of the opal). What if I failed?

To fire walk I put myself in an altered state of mind – beyond doubt, so convincing to my physicality that the burning coals I was stepping on did not char my flesh.  The fire walk took 3 hours of mental preparation and about 15 seconds of walking.

It took me 8 years to find my way with this opal.

In the timeless hours of carving there were long lapses where I couldn’t find myself in the art. I would work on it, make the obvious cuts with my diamond grinding tools, carving out fractures and incongruous shapes, and then put it back on the shelf.  Months later, I forced myself to pick it up, look at it under the bright lights of expectation, only to experience the motivation killing depression of my indecision, and either put it back on the shelf, or force myself to carve further into it in hopes that a vision would emerge.  Would I whittle the valuable orange gem down from limitless possibility to a heap of dust, or find my way to a finished magnificent sculpture?  Eventually, I transcended my mind, surrendered and submerged into primal creativity, and rode the steed of spirit into the orange light until an apparition appeared.

In a dance of determination and resolve, the Fire Dancer emerged, and she was set free.

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