I don’t want to dash your hopes for an exciting climax to the post right in the first second, but there is no secret to walking on fire. Fire is hot and it hurts to walk on it. You can basically do it, though, if you feel confident enough to do it.
How did I reach these pearls of wisdom, you might wonder. I am not generally known to push the boundaries in thrillseeking, going from one white water raft to the next bungee. Talk to me about jumping out of a plane or jumping off a bridge and I go queasy and turn pale. But when the opportunity to walk on fire came along, I felt fascinated, and ready to be talked into it pretty easily (the way I was talking other people into it). Particularly since we were going to raise money for what sounded like a very worthy charity, the BAAF – the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, who approached us because we have just moved into the same office building as them).
In the end, Team Habitat was made up of 5 of us, ranging from the ‘Why would I do it? It sounds so easy’ amongst us to the ‘There must be a secret to it’ amongst us. I fell into the latter group, and looked forward to finding out what the secret was. The day drew near, very quickly. Donations were in and still going up. Now all we had to do was get it over with (or pretend we had done it for those sponsors who would never know any different if we chickened out at the last minute).
We arrived early to see the logs burning. This, as we later learned, was an important part of being able to walk on fire. Seeing the fire gives you an ‘intention to walk on fire’ which means you are expecting it, know it will be hot, and your brain prepares accordingly. Apparently seasoned firewalkers will find the fire hotter and be more likely to burn their feet if they are blindfolded before being made to walk in an area and they don’t know where the hot bit is going to be. Strangely, it wasn’t seeing the fire at this point which made me most anxious. With the roaring flames it still seemed very unreal.
We then had an hour’s seminar with world record breaking firewalker Scott Bell. He told us some background about why people walk on burning coals, where they do it around the world, his own record-breaking experiences and (my favourite bit) showed us his feet. Generally normal looking feet, without burns, scalds or disfigurement (well, he showed us one foot. I did check verbally about the other one in case he only walked on one foot in order to trick us, but believed his assurance that both of them looked the same). He also went through some of the concepts about how we can do it, scientific or more spiritual concepts. I must say, I was expecting more on this, and thought he would bring us all to a higher plane by meditation or similar. Instead he basically told us to avoid the practical risks (eg. running in case you fall over backwards and burn your bottom) and to believe in whatever gave us our own confidence. I went for the system whereby it would be over soon enough and I would be able to retire to the pub.
Once we got out to the fire again, it had burned right down to glowing embers. Scott talked to the crowd who had drawn near and part of his act included taking the temperature of the coals. It was about 500 degrees celsius, 5 times hotter than boiling water. The firewalkers were invited inside the cordons and approached the fire and this was when I first properly clicked that my normal bare, untreated feet were about to walk on burning hot coals.
It went in a flash from there. We were about 30 firewalkers in all and, after Scott taking the lead and walking across himself, each one only took about 20 seconds to cross the path. My turn had come! I didn’t do one of the main things recommended by Scott (a big deep breath before stepping out – I don’t think anyone did) and launched out. It felt to me like walking across prickly, spiky, hot hedgehog spines. I reached the wet part at the end of the path. Phew. That was over. Bizarrely enough, 2 out of the 5 of us felt they needed to do it again and walked across 3 times, as did the majority of the group. Personally, I was pleased I had done it once, and once for me was most definitely enough. As a group we had raised a massive total of £1220 for adoption and fostering charity BAAF, and I was happy to know I would never have to do it again.
Far from the elation I had hoped for, I just felt relieved and a bit exhausted from all the anticipation and build up. I managed one pint at the nearest (oddest) pub and then I was on the bus journey home. My feet were a bit sore, a bit blistered, but nothing that lasted longer than a day or two. One colleague was still showing burn marks a week or so later, but if you will walk across a burning path three times I would say you get what you deserve.
Thank you to all our generous sponsors. If you are interested in the charity we raised money for, go to http://www.baaf.org.uk/