I first watched ‘firewalking’ in 1962 on a black and white television during one of David Attenborough’s early wildlife documentaries when he visited a remote tribe who used it as a right of passage into adult life.
How could anyone walk on red hot coals without burning the soles off their feet? To a twelve year old this was quite extraordinary and I have to say left a question in my mind which has never gone away.
50 years on I now know the answer, because I’ve done it and it’s all thanks to business networking and a chance meeting with Tracey Miller and her partner George Swift who run a motivation and coaching business called Bigger, Brighter, Bolder.
I suppose we all have a ‘bucket list’ and meeting up with Tracey has given me the chance to cross something off mine and experience a couple of the most exhilarating moments of my life.
When she told me that George was a qualified Firewalking instructor I needed to know more and that’s why I ended up sitting in a room with seven other ‘mad fools’ at the Regency Park Hotel in Thatcham in a seminar that would culminate in walking across red hot coals.
As we sat and listened and self analysed our reasons for being there and what we wanted to get out of the experience, George took us through an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows of our lives and how these influence self esteem and confidence building.
After about 2 hours we all went outside to see the fire being lit and begin to understand the magnitude of what was going to happen.
Back inside we were all mentally prepared for the firewalk but George had another challenge for us before the big one, each one of us would break an archer’s arrow simply by placing the point in the soft part of your throat with the other end wedged against a block of wood and walking onto it. Testing how strong the shaft of this arrow was by placing it between two hands and pushing was quite alarming especially when I realised the metal point would be in the most vulnerable part of my neck.
It seemed strange putting on protective goggles to save my eyes from damage when I was about to stab myself in the throat but in fact we all successfully met the challenge without injury.
With time now ticking and the fire outside reaching its hottest point the time had arrived to face the great challenge.
A mound of red hot embers greeted us and James, one of George’s fellow instructors, began to prepare the fire bed by shovelling these onto the turf. Still glowing red, a laser directed thermometer checked the temperature and gave a reading of 1300 degrees Celsius.
The moment had now arrived and carefully following our instructions, one by one we walked confidently over the coals, about 4 steps, into the supporting arms of George and having any pieces of ash rinsed of with a hose.
What did it feel like, my memory was not of heat but of the sort of crunch you get walking on deep snow, yet I had walked over red hot coals which by now were around 800 degrees and still had skin on my feet and no blisters.
Knowing I may not get the opportunity again, I walked a second time and in fact when fresh coals from the fire were added to bring the temperature back up I walked a third time and myself a sneaky look down at my feet on the red glowing coals, to see what I was doing.
This was a truly momentous challenge and the empowerment I achieved with that first step onto the coals cannot be adequately described in words.
How could I have expected when six years ago my good friend Nigel Morgan of Morgan PR introduced me to the power of business networking for my commercial photography business it would have led me to achieve something so personally amazing.
With special thanks to Tracey, George and James who made this happen.