I went into the event on Friday expecting to walk over hot coals once. If you’d told me ahead of time about everything else I’d do as well, or even everything else it would be suggested I do, I would probably at best have laughed in your face, at worst have run a mile. Even the very fact of walking into something like this on my own, not knowing a sinner who was going to be there, is huge. Huge. Social anxiety used to be such a big issue for me I’d almost be scared to walk around town on my own, wouldn’t even contemplate eating out alone, and was terrified of group gatherings. I’d even get anxious before going to meet friends, and speaking up at a meeting at work brought me out in a cold sweat. But Friday night, I made my best effort at the western theme (I should also mention here that I HATE fancy dress. Always have), and went in to meet the other firewalkers and our mentor for the evening, Howard Hughes of The Path I Choose.

That’s me on the left in red, and my sister, Claire, who along with Hubby came to cheer me on

While we were waiting for the fire to be set, Howard snuck in the first unexpected challenge of the evening. I’m not sure I can explain it in words, so here are a few photos:

You can’t see it very clearly, but there’s an 8mm metal rod between us, pressing against our throats
Howard instructed us to look into each others’ left eye, then when we felt a connection, simply start walking. 
It looks like I’m smiling, I’ve no idea why. I was scared SHITLESS. The pressure on my throat was really strong at this point.
But then, the rod began to give
And suddenly it wasn’t an obstacle any more. 
I cannot begin to describe what an overwhelming experience that was. I was literally at the point of thinking ‘I’m starting to choke, I have to stop’, when the rod started to bend. I’ve never met the girl I did it with before, but my god, that was one of the most heartfelt hugs of my life!! It was an incredible way to start the evening, and made me feel like doing the firewalk wasn’t something to be scared of any more, but something to look forward to. 
Howard talked us through the history of firewalking, and then moved on to talk about the power of the mind,  of decision making, and of being in the moment. His first physical demonstration of this caught us all off guard – he casually took off his shoes, and while talking to us, walked across a not insignificant pile of broken glass. Needless to say there was much wincing at this, and when he invited us to try, he was met with a stunned silence. But, gradually, a few brave souls stepped up, and after seeing about ten people manage it, I decided to give it a go as well. 
I can honestly, hand on heart, say that this didn’t hurt. It felt strange, and the crunching of the glass breaking under my feet was certainly off putting, but I walked away without a scratch. I’m as confused about this as you are!!
Next was my personal favourite of the evening. 

The fire was ready to go, we were all lined up, and then Howard brought in one final preparatory challenge – pick a piece of plywood, and punch through it. Again, if you’d told me about this ahead of time, I would have outright laughed in your face. I’m not strong, I have no martial arts experience whatsoever. The instruction was simple – see the wood as a problem that we no longer wanted to carry, and punch through it. And do you know what? It worked!! First time.

I can’t say it didn’t hurt, but my god did it feel good to do it!

Which led to the final challenge – the firewalk itself. We all lined up, and Howard announced his last surprise – we weren’t just crossing this fire once. Between the 30 or so of us that were doing it, we’d cumulatively cross the fire 108 times. (The significance of the 108 escapes me I’m afraid, but if I find out I’ll let you know. He did tell us why, but I think my sense of hearing stopped functioning when I realised this was going to happen multiple times)

But, we did it. I’m not going to lie, it was HOT (500 degrees apparently) and I certainly wouldn’t have been hanging around. We’d been advised to walk with our feet as flat as possible, and avoid tiptoeing or running as we’d be more likely to get embers caught between our toes (I only needed to hear that warning once). And so, over I went. Four times. I was rattling by the time I finished, absolutely rattling. I just wanted to find Hubby, find my sister, and hold on to them both for dear life. I think relief was possibly the strongest emotion that I felt, but I was also incredibly elated. I never, in a million years, would have thought I was capable of even one of the challenges I took on, never mind the whole lot. 
The adrenalin crash that followed all of the above was swift, and we decided to skip the after party in favour of heading home to dunk my feet in a bucket of cold water. I had two pretty sore spots at that point, and was sure I had come away with burns, albeit exceptionally small ones considering what I’d just done. But, half an hour of a salt water foot bath and a hefty application of aloe vera later, there wasn’t a bother on me. No blistering, no cuts, nothing. 
The whole experience was absolutely phenomenal, I still can’t quite get my head around it. I keep looking at the pictures and finding myself thinking, ‘really?? I really did that??’ Just over a year ago I was so severely depressed I was in hospital for weeks. Less than 6 months ago I was so volatile I couldn’t be trusted to be left alone. And now? Now, just by believing I could do it, I bent a metal rod with my throat, walked across broken glass, punched through a piece of wood and walked across burning embers four times. I’m going to go ahead and call that progress. 
And last, but by no means least, huge, huge, huge thanks to See Change and Howard for giving me this opportunity. I don’t think I can ever quite explain how much it meant to me. Thank you.

This article has 5 Comments

  1. Fiona, you were wonderful and it was so nice to meet you. I had no idea the kind of challenges you faced even getting there. However, you pushed up against and then through your comfort zone and created amazing results for yourself.

    One thing I forgot to mention… a car engine melts at 200C…

    1. I can't quite believe it to be honest, seems surreal. The punching wood part was definitely the most fun – incredible sense of empowerment and achievement came with that. May just have to find an excuse to do it again 🙂

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