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Bare Feet, Burning Coals, Finding Courage!

Long, long ago on a cold snowy night

I was oblivious to the blizzard around me, or that I am standing barefoot in it. Hell, I was oblivious to the hundred some people standing around me chanting over and over “my mind and body will do whatever it takes to protect itself.”

As I face the coals before me, I see the embers flying in the wind disappearing in the snow and darkness. It is surreal. The heat is intense and as I look at the path before me I see flames leaping up from deep within the bed of coals.

The flames have a hypnotic quality dancing over the coals daring me to step forward, warning me to stay away. Over the drone of my own chanting I hear an uncomfortable voice. “What if my pants catch on fire? This is gonna burn!”

I am not the first.

At least 25 people have gone before me. I can see the elation in their faces basking in yellow hot glow of the inferno 3 inches from my feet. Clearly it's worked for others hasn't it? Or are those screams of joy really writhing pain?

I look around. . .no they are happy faces. Even the people crying are crying with joy at the trans-formative event that has just taken place in their life.

There are good reasons why others were successful.

I imagine reaching into a hot oven to put a finger on a cake to see if it springs back. The air is 350 or more degrees but my hand does not burn. Yet, if I grab the rack with my bear hands, the burn will be instantaneous and painful.

Looking back at the coals, clearly they were much more like the air in the oven than the rack. A thick bed of light fluffy ashes blanketing the burning coals. Very hot ashes to be sure, but light and fluffy. Not a lot of heat density I tell myself. Like the oven air, a poor conductor of heat.

But what about the flames and the coals beneath the ash?

Am prepared for this?

For several hours Tony Robbins has woven a spell of metaphors, success stories, and high motivation. He regaled us with stories of the mind overcoming the body. He spoke often of people and cultures for whom fire walking is a right of passage.

Looking at the coals, I think of the Salem witch trials . . . better I focus on Tony.

The real preparation was seeing him go first and watching several of his staff walk and “test” the fire before we mere mortals were given a chance.

The first person they took across was in a wheelchair. With his permission and willing enthusiasm, they lifted him out of the chair and carried him across, dragging his feet in the coals.

Waiting at the end of the pit was a team of people whose sole responsibility was to douse the feet with water to insure no lingering embers remained to burn his feet.

We all held our breath as he broke out in a mixture of laughter and tears at having walked on fire. Definitely a Kumbaya moment. How do you refuse after a moment like that.

It's now or never, the crowd is getting restless.

Some where deep in my mind, I start to believe everything I have heard and seen. I can hear my own voice now. “My mind and body will do whatever it takes to protect itself.”

I look down and see I have stepped onto the coals. Yikes, I am not supposed to look down. Focus on the sky, chant loudly. “My mind and body will do whatever it takes to protect itself.”

  • Don't run, I might fall.

  • Don't rush, but don't stop.

  • Keep moving at a steady pace.

  • Breath!

What's wrong with my feet?

My feet don't feel right. Something is terribly wrong, my feet feel wet. I knew this was a bad idea! Oh wait, I am done. They are pouring water on my feet and gently drying them off.

That's it? The walk that looked like it was a mile long is over in about 6 seconds.

"God I feel invincible. What was I scared of? My mind and body really will do whatever it takes to protect itself."

No harm no foul.

I carefully check my feet and ankles. Not a burn nor blister. They are a little red, but I am standing in snow for God's sakes.

The only damage I feel is a sense of loss for the fearful person I used to be. Goodbye but not good riddance. My caution and timidness have served me well and brought me to this point. But now, the door is open to new adventures.

As I walk away from a fire that could easily forge steel I feel the intense heat at my back. But more than that, I feel the a fire in my heart.

I feel a burning desire to push the limits of my potential.

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