In May 2009 I completed the practitioner’s training in the Green Path Firewalking School located at Aerious Education Center in beautiful and remote Deadwood, OR. I feel like it was one of the most transformative experiences of my life! Firewalking is about renewal and empowerment. It is a tool to literally burn away your past programming. You are consciously naming your intentions for walking by going through a process of brainstorming specific ideas and qualities you want to bring into your life, and similarly, those that you want to discard. Then, you defy the common programming and science that says, “Fire burns” or “Fire hurts” or “This will create pain” and walk, dance, or cartwheel across the prepared glowing, red-hot coals. And usually, Voila!, happy feet, heightened energy, greater confidence, and ecstasy ensue. Keep in mind that firewalking is serious business that calls for conscious preparation.
Mark and Marygold McNutt, the creators and caretakers of the off-grid Aerious Yewwood Retreat, founders and teachers of the Green Path School, did an excellent job providing a safe space with an in-depth curriculum for their students to dive deep into themselves to facilitate growth and understanding. The first day was originally planned to represent the element of air, though it turned out to be more of a cleansing day of water, because it poured rain non-stop, soaking the land and forest, which then created safety by the lack of fire danger to the forest. We spent the day inside their two-story hand-built cob hexagon house, getting to know each other, energizing our Ki with body movement exercises, and learning about wood, fire, and the three selves in accordance with Shamanic teachings, in this case these are Hawaiian terms: Unihipili, Uhane, and Aumakua 송파스웨디시.
I am not going to spend a lot of time in this post describing much about these three selves, though they were an integral part of how the course was organized. Three out of the five nights of the course were scheduled for firewalks, and each one was to be in line with one of the three selves. After our cleansing day of rain, we awakened to clear skies and sunshine! Apparently a raging fire and walk can still take place in the rain, but honestly, we were all very excited for the ease of our task that the clear spring weather was providing.
A Sunny Day At Aerious!
The day after the rains was the first day we would walk and represented the fire element day as well as continuing our exploration with the Uhane, our yellow, mental self. Somehow, going into this course, a part of me believed there must be some gimmick to fire walking. I did not truly think I would actually be walking across hot coals in my bare feet and remain unburned! So, when the actual day came when I knew the walk was that night and moving closer to my present reality, I wondered if I would actually do it. I felt pretty noncommittal. I decided I did not want to equate any sort of self worth with me walking or not, because if I did not end up walking, I wanted to remain secure in my self-esteem. I was feeling fear and apprehension and decided to be in the moment as much as possible throughout the day instead of being fearful about the impending blaze.
Choppin’ Action! (though perhaps not the best form?)
We spent some of the day being in the group and discussing the characteristics of the Uhane self and thinking about our intentions for that night. Then, we all had our hand at chopping wood. I have had this fear of chopping wood most of my life from my vivid imagination thinking I would slip and end up with an ax in my leg. That day I beat that fear and found a new, rewarding, empowering activity in wood splitting! The very wood that would burn and be the fuel for my transformation; very powerful to me.
Mark has decades of experience as forest firefighter, and he and Mary both instructed us well in the building of the fire in the late afternoon. We were also taught about how to monitor the fire and have the surrounding area clear, to keep fire danger to a minimal.
A Group Effort!
Ideally, the fire burns down around dusk and is ready for the walk when it is just getting dark, a time known as the ‘witching hour’. I was surprised at how much wood (about 2/3 of a cord) was used and how huge the fire was to be. This first one was a bit slow to really start up, but once it was going, we all circled around it, dancing and chanting, putting our intention into it and connecting with the unique fire spirit of this particular pyre.
A delicious, healthy dinner was provide as the fire burned down, and we met up with our dinner “dates”. My date was Shannon – the point is to be with someone we do not know well to share our intention for our walk and be heard by someone. We had a lovely meal sharing together. My intention was to bridge the gap between my emotional, Unihipili self with my mental self that has usually had a more prominent voice in my life, the Uhane. I had also drawn a tarot card for the walk and got the Ace of Cups which is about overflowing love, emotional clarity, deep love of the self, and giving and receiving. All things I am wanting more of in life.
After dinner I went out to the fire and drummed a bit and watched it continue to burn down. At that point I was pretty resigned that I was probably not going to walk, because it was so hot and scary! Everyone began to gather around it as the coals were looking ready. We all had a hand in raking the glittering embers and arranging them in a rectangle facing west, so all of us could again put our individual intention and energy into this fire. Some folks began chanting a bit and Mark, another group member Carl, and I continued to drum. I witnessed a few people walk across and it was amazing! I have the chills again writing about it now. My inner voice was still thinking that I was not going to walk though. But then an interesting phenomena occurred. Some more people walked across and I continued drumming. Then all of the sudden, without thinking, I put down my drum and began dancing. I danced around the fire and then at the spot where the walk begins. It was like the fire spirit had called and my body responded, not my mind. Then, in a moment, I was walking across the fire! The drum beats really accentuated the power I felt. When I was across, my body was filled with pulsating energy moving up and down my whole body. I jumped up in down, shouting in exuberance because of my accomplishment and awe from all of the energy I was feeling. (again, chills of energy as I write this.)