I did my first fire walk in 2006 with Gordon Cooper (www.firewalkinstructor.com ) and it was at that time a life-changing event for me. This year I decided it is time for my own yogis to experience the magic of a fire walk and I arranged and a walk for them on Saturday 1 September – welcoming spring in South Africa with fire!
Walking over hot coals have very little to do with any mantras or prolonged preparation through meditation or any other mystical nonsense people may dish up. It is pure science – you are 65-70% water and as long as you stay cooler than the fire, you can’t burn as was explained and illustrated by Gordon who placed a plastic bottle of water on hot coals and the plastic neither melted nor burned as long as there was water in the bottle. Personally I prefer this realistic approach which Gordon Cooper advocates as I feel that the hype created around chanting mantras for hours or doing meditations detract from the real truth about walking over hot coals and that is we all can overcome our inner fears and do it!
The walk started with a fire dance by Christa, one of my yoginis. Her fire dance put us all in the right mood and created such a special atmosphere that was loaded with spiritual energy. Her dance was followed by a 45 minute talk by Gordon in which he explained many aspects of the walk, the history, why it was done and why we still do it. He also gave us insight into ourselves and what actually prevents most of us to walk over hot coals and I would like to share three aspects here which I think has much value on and off the yoga mat for most of us.
Our Boundaries limit us
When you introduce a fish to its tank it will swim around in the tank for a few hours starting from the outer limit working its way to the middle until it eventually has established the boundaries of its tank. A very interesting point is illustrated in the story of the piranha. In an experiment, a piranha was placed in a large tank and fed from the same corner for a few weeks. Then it was separated from its food by a glass divider. After several hours of ramming its head against the glass, try to get to its food, the piranha learnt that it was futile effort and started to swim around and around in its tank establishing the new boundaries of its tank. The glass wall was then removed and although the piranha had free access to its food, the boundaries it has established and created for itself eventually led to its death through hunger.
The moral of this story? We humans are similarly subject to limiting beliefs and most are self-imposed and created. Especially during childhood when most of us are genuinely physically, mentally and emotionally incompetent to know otherwise, we look to adults for emulation and guidance. When limitations are imposed, we tend to view it as a permanent part of our identity, not realising that limitations can be overcome. We become like the piranha, clinging to outdated beliefs and boundaries and in the process we deprive ourselves from growth and development on all levels of our being.
I my yoga classes I see it so many times, many aspirant yogis will tell me during their first class that they will never be able to do a headstand. I usually just smile and say: “well, let’s talk about that in a year from now again.” Through committed training and hours of talks with me over a course of their foundation year, most are surprised if I told them you are ready now for that headstand and are even more elated and surprised when they do it and come out of it.
The boundaries that limit us are self-created and can be broken!
Changing your Perspective
Standing at the foot of a mountain and looking up, the mountain always looks larger, more imposing and much more challenging to climb. And most of us have this view of the mountain and have lost any hope of climbing that mountain even before we have started. From the bottom looking up, the mountain always looks much more dangerous and insurmountable, which causes us to rather look down at our feet and when this happen we lose hope and we surrender to our negative feelings of depression and hopelessness.
We all reincarnated with the correct backpack to climb our many mountains in this life – it is only our attitude and our own perspective that will prevent us from standing on top of our mountain looking down and actually realise it was an ant hill all the time!
We are our greatest enemy! Our inner fears that we nurture and harbour and which we sometimes use as a shield as we belief it protects us from the harsh reality out there, keeps us in a state of fear. Don’t get me wrong, we need a healthy dose of fear to protect us from all sorts of everyday dangers such as a hot pot or a dangerous crossing. Those fears are reasonable and necessary to navigate life successfully.
However, when we create fears and start to use them as an excuse why we cannot achieve something in life or why we cannot do this or that, then we need to look at these fears and see them for what they are – excuses not realising our soul purpose!
One of my mantras in class is that most of have a few good reasons and too many excuses why we cannot of will not do something, we hide behind those feeble little excuses and offer them as reason, misleading ourselves and creating a false sense of righteousness. If we carefully examine our excuses we will see that most of them are actually self-created to keep us in a place of fear. It is fears that prevent us from reaching our full potential.
When you stand in front of that strip of hot coals and you realise now you have to take the first step and when you take that step and you realise I am not burning, it then that all your fears are stripped of any reality and basis in your life and the moment you step of the coals on the other side – victory over fear. One of the central teachings of yoga is to become fearless and the fire walk demonstrated this in a very practical way.
So, if you have the opportunity next time to do a fire walk, grab it, do it and see how your yoga finds a real practical application and how you start to live your yoga after that walk!